Samsung goes QWERTY for cell phones

Samsung plans to ship two phones with a full QWERTY keyboard later this year, including one model that supports the BlackBerry e-mail service.

Samsung Electronics plans to introduce two cell phones later this year with full QWERTY keyboards, including one model that supports Research In Motion's BlackBerry e-mail technology.

The SGH-D550 is a tri-band GSM/GPRS (Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service) handset with a 1.3-megapixel digital camera, a slot for a TransFlash memory card and support for the BlackBerry e-mail service.

The handset resembles a standard clamshell design at first glance, but an unusual hinging arrangement allows the screen to be rotated so that it lays adjacent to the numerical keypad. When the device is turned on its side, with the screen is in landscape mode, the keypad doubles as the QWERTY keyboard.

The SGH-D550's main screen is a TFT (thin film transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) that can show 262,144 colors with a resolution of 176 pixels by 220 pixels. A grayscale OLED (organic light-emitting diode) is used for the external display, with a resolution of 129 pixels by 96 pixels.

For executives who tire of sending e-mails and want some entertainment, the sleek black SGH-D550 can also be used to play music files in a variety of formats, including MP3 and AAC. The handset was on display at the CommunicAsia exhibition in Singapore and will be available in Asia and Europe during the third quarter. Pricing was not immediately available.

The SGH-D550 wasn't the only Samsung phone with a full QWERTY on display at CommunicAsia. The SPH-M7000 is based on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Mobile for Pocket PC software and supports CDMA2000-1x (Code Division Multiple Access) EV-DO (Evolution Data Only).

Running on a 520MHz XScale processor from Intel Corp., the SPH-M7000 has a 65,536-color TFT LCD screen that slides sideways to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. In addition, the handset has built-in support for IEEE 802.11b WLAN (wireless LAN) networks and includes a 1.3-megapixel camera with flash.

The SPH-M7000 is expected to ship in the third quarter and will be available only in South Korea. Pricing was not disclosed.

CommunicAsia runs through Friday.