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Cingular to Sell BlackBerry Pearl

Cingular Wireless put a little more smarts in its handset lineup today with news that subscribers can now have Research in Motion's consumer-oriented Pearl smartphone.

Cingular said the smartphone would support its Push to Talk network; TeleNav GPS NavigatorT, which gives subscribers GPS-based driving directions; its EDGE high-speed wireless data network.

With a 160Kbps download speed, Cingular's EDGE network trumps the 120Kbps data rate for T-Mobile. The line between 2G and 3G service is 144Kbps, said Gartner analyst Todd Kort, and Cingular's Edge trumps the 120Kbps data rate for T-Mobile.

Kort said Pearl is the product that enables RIM to become a mainstream phone player. RIM will be one of the world's top 10 phone vendors by 2009. RIM now has 7 million customers, he added.

RIM sold the Pearl as its first consumer-focused device. Along with its e-mail service, popular with corporate users, the Pearl includes a digital camera, multimedia features and a slimmer design.

When the Pearl debuted it was offered exclusively through T-Mobile, selling a half million handsets. The agreement provides Cingular a connection to the fanatical BlackBerry user base and RIM an even wider audience.

"Cingular has a much broader audience and higher quality network," Kort said. A joint venture of AT&T and Bell South , Cingular claims more than 58 million customers.

RIM's Pearl has attracted a larger audience than the Motorola's Moto Q Phone. Verizon and Sprint Nextel offer the phone, designed to compete with RIM by offering Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0, keyboard and office application integration. But the Moto Q never approached the level of success enjoyed by Motorola's RAZR, Kort said.

Pricing is key to whether Cingular can continue the success T-Mobile experienced with the Pearl. Cingular will charge $29.99 per month for the carrier's BlackBerry Personal plan, while corporate customers will pay $44.99 per month for unlimited service, according to a statement. There are additional fees for both Push to Talk and Cingular's TeleNav GPS service.

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