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Hiptop to leap into color soon

Wireless start-up Danger sets a deadline for the debut of the long-awaited color version of its combo phone, Web and e-mail device.

Wireless start-up Danger plans to start selling a color version of its Hiptop device by the end of next month, continuing its alliance with wireless carrier T-Mobile.

For months, Danger has been demonstrating a prototype of the color Hiptop handheld product. The upgrade adds a color screen and more memory to the soap bar-sized device, which allows users to make cell phone calls, to surf the Web and to send e-mail and instant messages. Like its grayscale predecessor, it will be marketed by T-Mobile under the "Sidekick" brand.

Nonwireless handhelds have been moving to color for some time, with black-and-white screens now found only in the least-expensive models from product makers such as Palm and Sony.

Brian Blair, an analyst at hedge fund Bluewater Capital, said the addition of color makes the Web surfing experience on the Hiptop "10 times better."

In addition to a color screen, the device will come with a faster 48MHz processor and 32MB of memory, double that of the original model. Palo Alto, Calif.-based will offer a new, 320-by-240-pixel camera, expected to go on sale at $50, for the device. The grayscale Hiptop was bundled with a lower-resolution camera that featured only about one-third of the new model's pixel count, producing thumbnail-sized photos only.

Pricing and the exact launch date of the new Hiptop/Sidekick have not been finalized, according to a T-Mobile representative, though sources expect it will sell for around $300 with service activation. That's about $100 more than the highest sticker price of the grayscale original.


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Existing T-Mobile plans for the Danger handheld run at $40 to $60 dollars a month for unlimited data transfer and with a set number of voice minutes. The German-owned carrier has not said whether there would be any changes to those plans.

The announcement follows news that another formerly gray-only handheld is going color. Research In Motion said at a wireless conference last week that it will have a color version of the BlackBerry available this summer.

Blair said his understanding is that the new color BlackBerry will feature a much-improved interface. However, he said a question hangs over the software on the device.

"I think RIM historically has done one thing very well: corporate e-mail," Blair said. "For me, it's still a question of what other applications can they add to take advantage of color."