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Late-starting US pulls ahead in phone tech?

Nokia updates 6600

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Strange things are happening in the US, which for some years has been wearily resigned to receiving bleeding edge phone technology many months after the rest of the world, if at all.

No more. Not only do potential GSM buyers here now have access to a nationwide network that leaves GPRS in the dust, but the handset manufacturers are targeting the US first with higher specification phones. On the heels of AT&T Wireless activating its faster EDGE technology in most major urban areas last November, Nokia has launched a version of its flagship 6600 smartphone in the US first, with considerably beefier specifications.

Nokia sees the conservatively-styled 6600 as the centerpiece of its Series 60 offerings - the styling is intended not to frighten business customers - and the phone rolled into the European and Asian markets last Fall. But the US is the first market to receive the 6620, an EDGE-capable version of the 6600, launched this week in New York. The 6620 boasts more headroom, with the memory upped from 6MB to 12MB, and bundled IM and Presence applications. MobileBurn has a report from the launch party here.

Early testers - and we haven't been able to corroborate them - consistently report that EDGE offers twice the speeds of GPRS. For carriers who haven't made the decision to go to 3G, EDGE offers plenty speed enough for now.

Of course there's more to the consumer experience than impressive technical specifications: call quality, building penetration and service footprints in the US are respectively lower, weaker and smaller across the board. But this represents a small milestone, of sorts. Can the carriers sell it? ®

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