Mobile

AT&T Wireless unveils messaging-only handheld

The company says the device, dubbed the Ogo, won't be bogged down by features that are "hardly used."

AT&T Wireless on Monday seemed to be trying to turn back the clock on cell phone design trends when it introduced the Ogo, a messaging-only handheld.

The Ogo is designed to let subscribers send e-mail, instant messages and text messages. The device costs $100 after a rebate, and service plans start at $18 monthly. That price gets subscribers unlimited ingoing and outgoing messaging using e-mail and IM services from one of three providers: Yahoo, MSN or America Online. Customers can get access to additional providers for $3 a month each.

Made for the carrier by Chi Mei Communication Systems of Taiwan, the Ogo isn't a phone, and it can't play music, take photos or perform any of the other functions often packed into handhelds.

The clamshell-shaped device, aimed at teenagers, represents a rare departure from the handheld industry's current infatuation with devices that have more features than a Swiss Army knife. Such multifunction gadgets are popular, in part, because they help unburden pocket books, briefcases and pockets from the weight of multiple devices. Even Research In Motion's BlackBerry, which has enjoyed success as a messaging-only device, is available in models that double as cell phones. Research In Motion recently launched a version designed to look more like a phone and less like a traditional BlackBerry.

"Unlike many of today?s disappointing multipurpose wireless devices, we created Ogo to do one thing--mobile messaging--extraordinarily well," Andre Dahan, president of AT&T Wireless Mobile Multimedia Services, said in a statement. "Ogo doesn?t pretend to be all things to all people and is not bogged down by hardly used features."

Sales of such messaging-only devices have not done well in recent years. Three years ago, Motorola built two such devices to take on the BlackBerry. But sales of the Timeport and the TalkAbout were lackluster, and Motorola stopped making them two years ago.

Wireless-market analysts say consumer preferences for multi-use handhelds, typically known as smart phones, will continue to surge. Shipments of such devices will reach about 4.3 percent of an estimated 700 million shipments in 2005, according to market research company IDC.