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Motorola Krave May Not Find Its Calling


Another day, another futuristic phone.

Motorola (MOT), the world's third-largest phone maker, is playing catch up with its new Krave ZN4.

PC Magazine describes the new wireless phone as looking like a "Star Trek communicator" with some "genuinely innovative touch-screen technology." But the review also notes the "software feels old - functional, but stale."

Motorola's Krave ZN4 will be sold by Verizon (VZ) for $149.99 after rebates to customers who sign a 2-year contract with the wireless carrier.

The new phone will slug it out with Apple's (AAPL) iPhone, Research in Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry Storm, Google's (GOOG) G1, Samsung's Instinct and the LG Dare.

For users in search of a gimmick their friends don't have, the Krave ZN4 has a see-through cover that flips open to reveal the touch-screen's virtual keypad.

Ho-hum, you say? Wait, there's more! Users can enjoy popular features, such as mobile TV and navigation, by pressing their fingers on the cover without opening the phone. (Coming soon: The do-it-yourself frontal lobotomy option?)

Hyperventilating about minor details suggests there's not much new under the sun when it comes to the differences among wireless phones. (But don't tell Apple aficionados - their fearless leader can do no wrong, and apostates from the cause are likely to receive nasty emails.)

If wireless phones continue to offer similar features, sales will ultimately turn on aesthetics and network dependability. But you can bet the hand-held devices will be gussied up with more zippy features no one really needs - and the gizmo's appearance will continue to be a major selling point as competing manufacturers try to leapfrog one another.

Motorola is looking for a hit to replace its immensely popular Razr phone. For several years, the company sold a touch-screen phone called the Ming which, while popular in China, was not available here.

The iPhone's touchscreen has since made clunky keypads a horror for the technologically chic. Where will the marketing madness end?

As long as the latest touch-screen phone is a "must-have" item among the gizmo cognoscenti, investors hope the answer is "Never!"

"Stale" software? Oh, the humanity!
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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