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Nokia goes direct with US smartphone

Target ... Elbonia

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As of this morning, US buyers can purchase Nokia's 9290 Communicator via the web, with Nokia telling us that deliveries should be fulfilled within a week or so.

"It's the first time we're selling a phone directly to the end user," a spokesperson from Nokia US in Austin, TX told us today. "Although we have sold accessories before."

That makes good the promise to ship by mid-year.

The 9290 is priced at $599 without a contract, with a $50 voucher for third party software. That's lower than expected: Handspring's revamped communicator, the Elbonia 270 has gone on sale this week for only $499, although that includes a contract. Last summer's Nokia 9210 set you back £500 ( around $720).

But the $100 extra spent on the Nokia buys you a keyboard, full web browsing via Opera 4, with Real and Flash players bundled; and we hope, the Beatnik audio engine (a favorite here).

Motorola ships its A388 smartphone in the US in the next month, a thorough makeover of the Accompli 008 that we reviewed here and that first launched in the Far East. (Note: US GSM 1900 capability was pulled from the 008 at the last moment, it won't work here).

Although we haven't had any complaints from Handspring engineers, our Elbonia gag refers to the choice of materials rather than any lack of technical sophistication. They did a fine job considering, and we'd love to see what Handspring can do with either a home-brewed micro OS (the route adopted by Danger Inc) or something as rich as Symbian. A review should follow, although we're still on the waiting list for the original Elbonia 180, launched last October and now in the Handspring bargain bin. Cough. ®

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