Motorola Looks to Touch Off Comeback With New Krave

Verizon and Motorola launched another touchscreen wireless phone into the market Tuesday. However, unlike other touch screen handsets, the Krave ZN4 is a flip phone with a new spin — a transparent plastic cover.

That design feature provides users with one-touch access to photos, the music player, the phone’s messaging center, V Cast Mobile TV and other features regardless of whether the cell phone cover is open or closed.

The Krave is an update on the Ming handset Motorola launched in Asia two years ago. At that time, the Ming featured the clear cover and ran a Linux-based operating system.

“The Ming was very popular device in China. It had a stylus and was geared toward the touchscreen,” said Chris Hazelton, director of research for mobile and wireless at The 451 Group.

The Krave does not run Linux, but it builds on the Ming in that users are able to work with the phone a lot more with the cover closed, Hazelton told TechNewsWorld.

Transparent Offering

The Krave features a 2.8-inch screen with 240 by 240 resolution. That’s roughly an inch smaller than the displays on other touchscreen handsets, such as the HTC G1, the iPhone and the BlackBerry Storm.

It also includes an accelerometer, a 2 megapixel camera and haptic feedback in the touchscreen.

“It has text input through a soft numeric keypad, much like a traditional phone. It’s software, not hardware. But, then if you rotate the phone, using an accelerometer, it switches to a full QWERTY keyboard,” Hazelton noted.

In combination with the camera, the accelerometer enables users to take both portrait and landscape photos as well as capture and watch video. Using the carriers V CAST Video service, Verizon subscribers can download video onto the device, which includes a microSD card slot for up to 8 GB of storage.

V Cast Mobile TV and V Cast Music with Rhapsody services enable users to view broadcast-quality, full-length TV shows and listen to more than 5 million songs.

The handset also includes an HTML browser, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, visual voice mail and Bluetooth functionality.

“As far as Motorola goes, I just want to say ‘bravo.’ You are addressing a gap in your portfolio,” Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC, told TechNewsWorld.

Stiff Competition

The Krave ZN4 will hit store shelves next to at least four new touchscreen phones from rivals, including the iPhone 3G, Blackberry Storm and the G1, which runs Google’s Android operating system. Several models of touchscreen phones have been released in the past 12 months. With so many handsets out there offering similar functionality, will the Krave be able to stand out from the crowd?

With a price of US$149.99, (after a $50 rebate and after the buyer agrees to a two-year service contract), the Krave should be competitive even though it does not include WiFi support, according to Llamas.

“Not everybody’s going to dig into WiFi. WiFi is great, but when you consider all the other things that are stuffed into this thing, they make it pretty darn attractive value proposition for potential buyers. The touch capacity, the music capacity and the messaging-focused menu — this device answers the gap Motorola had in its portfolio,” he said.

That said, however, the Krave will not be the device that helps Motorola back to its former status as the market leader. That, both Hazelton and Llamas said, will take several market-leading handsets across several categories.

“This phone isn’t about Motorola. It’s about Verizon Wireless. On one hand, they despise the iPhone, and on the other, they come out with product after product that is supposed to attack it on the iPhone’s own terms,” David Chamberlain, an analyst at InStat, told TechNewsWorld.

“If it were about Motorola, it would not get them to the top of the heap. They don’t need to get to the top of the heap. They need to start thinking like the underdogs they are and innovating their way out of this,” he added.

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