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Two firsts for T-Mobile's Sony Ericsson 3G phone

The TM506 will be the carrier's first Sony Ericsson phone and its first 3G handset since it launched its wireless broadband network.

T-Mobile launched a new cell phone on Thursday that marks two firsts for the carrier. The Sony Ericsson TM506 is not only the carrier's first Sony Ericsson phone in a couple of years, but also its first new 3G handset since it launched its wireless broadband network last May. The TM506 sports a slim flip phone design in an amber hue.

The Sony Ericsson TM506 sports a slim candy bar design in an amber hue. T-Mobile

Features include a 2-megapixel camera, messaging, stereo Bluetooth, a microSD card slot, a speakerphone, integrated Assisted GPS, and basic organizer applications. Yet, its most exciting offering is its support for T-Mobile's nascent 3G network. That means support for 1700 and 2100 AWS spectrum (both UMTS and HSDPA) on top of compatibility for slower GPRS and EDGE networks. On the calling side, however, it's only triband (GSM 850/1800/1900).

The TM506 is more than welcome considering T-Mobile's protracted 3G rollout. The carrier has been struggling to keep up with its rivals and its late entry to the 3G party has been a factor. So far, the network is available only in New York City and Las Vegas, with more markets promised by the end of the year. What's more, though it already had a few 3G phones when it launched its network, they pale in comparison to models from competing carriers.

As the first phone designed specifically for T-Mobile's 3G network, the TM506 is indeed welcome but T-Mobile will have to boost its 3G handset offerings and coverage if it wants to be remembered for more than just good customer service. Hopefully, both happen soon.

The TM506 will be available in early September; T-Mobile has not announced pricing yet. We'll have a review just as soon as we can get a unit in-house.