There were several bits of smartphone news today that didn’t merit a full story by themselves, but are interesting when taken together.

Wal-Mart and the $99 iPhone

The Boy Genius Report and MacRumors are suggesting that when the iPhone hits Wal-Mart, there may be a $99, 4-gigabyte model available. Though Apple has discontinued the 4 gigabyte model for its own sales, a low-tier device that could compete with other $99 devices such as the Palm Centro could fit right in with Wal-Mart’s desire to be the “low-price leader” in everything.

A 4-gig iPhone would make a handy device for people who don’t care about (or have another iPod for) music or movies, but would like access to Safari and other iPhone-specific applications. It could make a great e-book reader, as well. But read the fine print—a two-year phone service commitment is required, and apparently six months on a high-tier plan.

Second Android Phone On the Way

Australian company Kogan has started taking pre-orders for its Android smartphone, the Agora, the second Android-powered phone to be released. Priced at $299 and $399 Australian ($194 and $259 US) respectively for the Agora and Agora Pro, the phone is being sold directly from Kogan’s website.

The phones come with no network locking, and will be delivered on January 29, 2009. They can be ordered internationally, with an AU$45 (US$29) delivery charge.

The standard Agora features a full QWERTY keyboard, central navigation key, 2.5″ touchscreen, microSD slot, and 3G connectivity.

The Agora Pro has the same form factor, but also adds a 2 MP camera, Wi-Fi, and GPS to the Agora’s impressive specifications.

More-detailed specs can be found here.

Unlike the sliding flip-out G1, this phone has much the same form factor as a Blackberry or Treo—QWERTY thumb keypad on the bottom, 320×240 screen on the top. The form factor will be at least as good for e-reading as a Blackberry or Treo, but probably not as good as the taller screen of an iPhone or iPod Touch.

RIM Reduces Earnings Outlook

Going hand-in-hand with the recent bad news for Palm, Research In Motion (RIM), the maker of the popular Blackberry smartphones, reduced its earnings outlook for the quarter that ended Saturday from the previous $2.95-3.1 billion to a more modest $2.75-2.78 billion. “RIM’s executives blame the shortfall on the stronger dollar and the ‘general economic weakness in the United States.'”

RIM recently introduced its new Blackberry Storm, a touch-screen only model similar in appearance to the iPhone, available on the Verizon network. RIM says that response to its new phones has been strong.

Unlike the iPhone, Blackberry devices have access to an official Mobipocket reader application, and a Blackberry eReader app should become available in the first quarter of next year.


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