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Cingular handset talks to users

Software application is intended to help the visually impaired make full use of their cell phones.

Cingular Wireless is offering a software application intended to help the visually impaired make full use of their cell phones.

The Talks application, which works only with the Nokia 6620 phone, converts menus, instructions and content displayed on-screen into speech for output to the phone's internal speaker or through an optional wired or Bluetooth wireless headset.

Key features of Talks include a sounded version of caller ID, as well as call logs, a calendar, and the ability to maintain and dial numbers from contact list. The software was developed in conjunction with ScanSoft.

"This is the first advanced cell phone released in the U.S. that allows users to access all of its many features through speech output," said Paul Schroeder, vice president of the program and policy group at the American Foundation for the Blind.

The software, launched on Thursday, costs $199, but an introductory rebate offer from Cingular for qualifying customers will convert all or half of that amount into a rebate for service charges, depending on the length of the contract. The Nokia 6620 can be purchased from Cingular for $299, after a $100 rebate for customers making a two-year commitment.