Mon, Feb 14, 2005 - Page 11 News List

It's a cellphone buyers' market

BARGAINS Phone companies and service providers are going all out to lighten people's hung baos, but with the market already saturated it is an uphill task

By Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Models pose for BenQ's latest clamshell phone, the A520, with a built-in Web camera released for Valentine's Day. By connecting the Web camera to their computers, users will be able to see each other while talking on the phone.

PHOTO COURTESY OF BENQ

If you have been waiting for a long time pondering whether to upgrade your mobile phone, now might be the time to do the deed since handset vendors are flooding the market with special offers hoping to lighten people's Lunar New Year red envelopes.

Sophia Wang, a 30-year-old accountant at a local sushi-bar chain, has made do with her Nokia 8210, a bar-type model with a grey screen and no special gizmos for the last two years. Now she is eyeing a Panasonic X400, a clamshell phone with color screen, 300,000-pixel camera and which allows multimedia message transmission, for NT$10,300.

"The handset is more affordable now. Local telecom carriers are offering the Panasonic X400 at about NT$8,000 and a new cell number," Wang said, adding that the cellphone will only cost a small portion of her year-end bonus.

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Nokia Oyj has special post Lunar New Year packages, and hopes to exploit the Valentine's Day market.

"As Lunar New Year is conventionally one of the hottest sales seasons of the year, most cellphone makers are offering special prices to boost sales in the local market. Nokia is no exception," said Jessica Chiu (邱麗霏), a communications manager at Nokia's Taiwan branch.

With Valentine's Day falling so close to the Lunar New Year holiday this year, handset makers including BenQ Corp (明基電通), Inventec Appliances Corp (英華達) and Nokia are offer extra gifts for lovers including sporty bags, scarves, or heart-shaped cushions with certain models.

Nokia now is offering users loyal to its products a free Swatch watch, if those users replace their old phone with one of the company's latest series of handsets featuring a variety of functions including shooting video clips, taking photos and reading news clips on the Internet.

The Nokia 7280 with a distinct lipstick-shaped handset, is designed to appeal to trendy female consumers, and contains such goodies as a digital music player, FM radio receiver, and zoom camera.

But, this kind of package does not come cheap. Those handsets, which also operate not just as a communication tool but also as a personal entertainment center, can cost as much as NT$20,000, which is more than half the average monthly wage (NT$38,000) last year.

But budget shoppers might pick their dream handsets from different telecom operators, if they don't mind the bother of changing phone numbers, according to Chiu.

In fact, handsets bundling a new service agreement are usually older models but much cheaper. For less than NT$8,000, consumers will be able to get a Sony Ericsson K700i, featuring strong entertainment functions including an MP3 player, FM radio receiver and 41Mb memory storage, enough for a CD. This is about 30 percent off the regular price.

If users prefer clamshell phones, a favorite among Asian consumers, they can choose Motorola Inc's V600 and V501 at similar discounts. Consumers can also spend much less, around NT$3,390, on Sony Ericsson's T630 camera phone. This model was a remake of the Japanese-Swedish company's previous hit, the T610, only with a much more vivid TFT-LCD screen and iPod-look white body.

Phones for Free

People who just want a cellphone to talk on can get a Nokia 2650 for NT$1,680, less than half the original retail price when the color-screen flip phone launched last quarter, bundling with Chunghwa Telecom Co's (中華電信) service.

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