Sendo unveils new handset plans

The UK phone maker has revealed more details of its upcoming smartphone project - including a developer program--and has launched a feature phone.

Sendo M550
The UK phone maker has revealed more details of its upcoming smartphone project - including a developer programme--and has launched a feature phone.

UK mobile phone maker Sendo is launching a new line of "feature phone" mobile handsets, and says it is on track to launch its new smartphone this autumn, following the demise of its Microsoft-powered Z100.

The company also plans to launch a smartphone developer programme on Monday during the 3GSM Congress in Cannes, France, to boost the number of applications that will run on its handset when it arrives on the market.

Sendo, a start-up which focusses on making customizable handsets branded by network operators, made headlines late last year when a smartphone relationship with Microsoft collapsed into mutual acrimony. Sendo later filed a lawsuit accusing Microsoft of a conspiracy to rip off Sendo's technology and give it to low-cost Taiwanese contract manufacturers, a charge Microsoft denies.

Sendo had already begun manufacturing the Z100 when the project was aborted, and there has been some speculation over whether Sendo could simply replace its Windows CE operating system with that of Symbian, its new smartphone partner. Chief executive Hugh Brogan said that is out of the question: "Even if we could, we wouldn't."

Sendo is planning to deliver a smartphone software developer kit (SDK) in March, and will supply a full developer kit including test hardware in June.

Brogan said he "could not be more happy" with Symbian's cooperation on the new handset. He said that Sendo has more freedom to customize its smartphone because features such as multimedia messaging service (MMS) and Java support are already standard on Symbian. "We don't have to bring it up to the standard operators expect, we start from there," Brogan said. Sendo added MMS and Java support to Smartphone 2002 through its own efforts.

Sendo has given away little about its new smartphone, other than that it will be based on the Symbian operating system and Nokia's Series 60 user interface. Series 60 is designed to be operated via the phone's keypad, rather than with a stylus.

In the more immediate future, Sendo is launching a line of "feature phones", a term that refers to handsets with some added features, such as colour screens and MMS. Smartphones generally have handheld computer-like processing power and features.

The first of the new range is the M550, announced on Friday, a clamshell handset with a colour screen, games and customizable polyphonic ring-tones and graphics. It also supports EMS (enhanced messaging service), which allows users to send ringtones, simple graphics and customized text to other EMS handsets. Unlike MMS, EMS cannot handle photographs and sound recordings.

Sendo said it has priced the handset significantly below other colour clamshell handsets, but did not reveal pricing specifics. At 82mm x 45mm x 19.6mm, the M550 is significantly smaller than other clamshell mobile phones, according to Brogan.

He said that Sendo plans to launch four feature phones this year. A Sendo spokesperson was unable to confirm availability of the M550 in the Asia Pacific.