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New cell phone takes dictation

Rest that sore thumb. Samsung unveils the first of two phones that translate speech into text. Photo: Samsung's speech-to-text phone

South Korean electronics giant Samsung unveiled the first of two cell phones that translate speech into text, in the latest attempt to make it easier for cell phones to surf the Web or send text messages.

Rather than typing, consumers just speak into the phone, telling it the e-mail address and the content of the message. The phone does the rest.

Samsung P207

No. 1 U.S. cell phone operator Cingular Wireless sells the Samsung P207 for $80 to those signing two-year service contracts. Its manufacturer's suggested retail price is $180. The second Samsung speed-to-text phone, the A800, is set to debut in the next two months.

Anyone who has tried to peck out a text message on a phone's dozen keys or on miniature versions of QWERTY keypads knows the inherent frustration, not to mention . Especially in the United States, the irritation is a primary reason for the tepid, albeit growing, use of new data-oriented cell phone services, which operators are counting on to bring in new revenue.

For now, speech technology is expected to be used mainly for text messages. But it's just a short step from there to using the same software, provided by VoiceSignal Technologies, to "type" in a Web address and more easily surf the Web. The two Samsung phones use a VoiceSignal Technologies application called QuickPhrase, which lets people send pre-programmed short messages like "call me" or "will call you later" by simply speaking the words.