Ericsson woos young and hip with Net features

In an effort to gain market share in the increasingly important youth segment, which to date has been dominated by rival Nokia, Ericsson has incorporated several Internet-centric features into the new T20 handset, including text-based chat and Swatch Internet time, a global time zone invented by Swiss watch vendor Swatch.

Taking its cue from Japan, where young users often carry their mobile phones hanging around the neck, the T20 model also allows for carrying straps and other accessories to be attached to the handset. Of course, Ericsson also sells a range of accessories, including MP3 and FM radio modules, as well as a portable keyboard for easier text input.

The T20 will ship during November, Ericsson said in a statement. If the T20 becomes a hit in the market during the all-important Christmas shopping season, it may help to shore up Ericsson's battered handset business. Exactly when the new handset will reach markets is not yet clear, but it should be on sale in Taiwan and other markets in Asia before year's end, said a spokeswoman at Ericsson Taiwan.

A dual-band 1.8GHz/900MHz GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) handset, the T20 can be used in wireless networks common throughout most parts of the world, the US and Japan being the major exceptions.

Ericsson could certainly do with a hot-selling handset model. Although ranked as the world's third-largest supplier of mobile phones, the Stockholm-based company expects its handset business to amass a loss of up to $US1 billion in this year's last quarter. Available in different colours, the T20 weighs in at 128g, including a battery that allows for up to 10 hours of talk time, and 200 hours of standby time, Ericsson said.

Featuring version 1.1 WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) browser, the T20 can access Internet-based content written in WML (Wireless Markup Language).

The WAP chat room capabilities are based on start-up Mgage Systems AB's Mobile Chat application that also can be accessed over the Web via fixed-line devices.

Ericsson did not provide any pricing information for the T20. Mobile phone handset prices are often subsidised by service providers keen on signing up customers for longer periods of time.

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