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R380 gets um, new colour and USB

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Updated Ericsson has revamped its R380e smartphone.

It's a dual band Symbian phone, but not an open device, which means you can't load third-party software. And there's no Java.

But Ericsson claims it's faster, has a better battery and it now sports a USB port and comes in a colour.

It emphatically doesn't feature a colour screen, we learn, and as we reported earlier. This was probably wishful thinking on our part, so apologies for the goof.

The omission of a USB slot on the Nokia 9210 is one of its greatest bugbears: you need to download your Doom Wad files over a serial link. It has the same memory is the same as the existing R380 models. The R380e will only work in Europe, and Ericsson wouldn't say if a US-capable version, an upgrade to the current R380 World, will be made available.

We wrote about the upgrade a few weeks ago: then, Ericsson swore like crazy that it the R380 wasn't going to be superseded by a faster, colour model R580. Sources close to Ericsson told us we were spot on, and we now suspect this revamped R380 is a placeholder for a faster model.

It's expected to be available for £99 which is pretty good value, although it will reinforce suspicions that a premium-priced model (with a gen-u-wine colour screen) is a possibility.

When the R380 was launched networks offered it with contract for around £299, but the price rapidly fell. Shortly after its introduction, Palm saturated the market (and caused catastrophic disruption to its high margin business model) with low-cost Palms, which in turn, devalued the worth put on PIM functionality.

Clearly, there's a lot of room for experimentation for pricing smartphones, and the vendors are feeling their way as they go.

Ericsson held the launch today with in front of "the yachting media" in Southampton we're told. Undeterred, we'll persevere in getting a review to you. Even if it means we have to start writing about boats. ®

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