CES: AT&T promises 8 new high-speed devices

Las Vegas Mon Jan 9, 2012 5:16pm EST

Las Vegas (Reuters) - AT&T Inc announced plans to launch seven new smartphones and a tablet computer early this year for a new wireless network it is building, in an effort to catch up with bigger rival Verizon Wireless in high-speed wireless services.

The product line-up includes two phones using software from Microsoft Corp, which needs to regain ground lost in the smartphone market in the last several years.

One Microsoft phone will have a 16 megapixel camera from HTC Corp, a first for the U.S. market. The other is a smartphone from Nokia, which is also desperate to win over customers in the United States where it has lost out to rivals like Apple Inc iPhone in the last several years.

"AT&T is playing a critical role in our reentry strategy to the United states," Nokia Chief Executive Stephen Elop told the audience at AT&T's event on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Microsoft also came on stage at the AT&T event to encourage third party software developers to create applications for Microsoft phones to help it compete with iPhone.

"There's really no better time to be a developer on Microsoft platforms," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said.

Attendees were left waiting until Monday afternoon to find out details of the phone from Nokia, which will hold its own press event.

Meanwhile, Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart said the 16 megapixel HTC phone may not be a big advantage to users but he expected it to turn heads of consumers who are more used to phone cameras with 8 megapixels.

"There's little practical value to a 16 megapixel camera on a phone but its a spec that will turn heads at retail," he said. "It's not so much a question of blowing up cameraphone pictures to life size. It's about convincing consumers this phone can replace a point and shoot."

AT&T said it will also sell three new high-speed smartphones from Samsung Electronics as well as a high-speed phone from Sony Corp and Pantech.

In an unusual pricing move, AT&T also said it would sell Pantech Element, a waterproof tablet based on Google Inc's Android software, with the Pantech Burst smartphone for a combined price of $249.

AT&T emerging device executive Glenn Lurie said "the idea is to continue to make the barrier to entry lower" for consumers buying their first smartphones and tablets.

AT&T showed off the new products at its conference for developers at the sidelines of Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The devices will run on AT&T's newest network which is based on a technology known as Long Term Evolution (LTE). AT&T started offering LTE services in 2011 behind its bigger rival Verizon Wireless. Verizon Wireless unveiled its first LTE smartphones at the 2011 CES show.

(Reporting By Sinead Carew; Editing by Bernard Orr)