Nextel launches push e-mail for Java-based phones

Nextel Communications Inc. is bringing users of less expensive phones an e-mail capability similar to what users of smart phones and Research In Motion Ltd. BlackBerry devices already enjoy.

The Reston, Virginia, mobile operator on Monday began offering instant two-way e-mail for all of its Java-enabled phones. The new Mobile Email Enhanced service can synchronize with Microsoft Corp. Outlook, IBM Corp. Lotus Notes and most Internet e-mail accounts, and it delivers each message over the air as soon as it hits the mail server, said Sanjay Kamble, vice president of marketing at Visto Corp. The service is based on Visto's ConstantSync technology.

Mobile Email Enhanced can also instantly synchronize users' contacts and calendar items, which can be viewed on the phone through and easy-to-use interface, Kamble said.

Nextel already offers the BlackBerry 7520, which doubles as a phone, but is now extending push e-mail to lower-end phones including the Motorola i605, i355 and i275, according to a statement by Visto and Nextel. The service is available in three plans priced from $14.99 to $29.99 per month.

Though most users would have a hard time sending e-mail messages from a phone with a standard 12-button phone keypad, being able to see e-mail on that device would have benefits, said ABI Research analyst Ken Hyers. The Visto-based service even has an edge over the widely used BlackBerry technology, he said: The mobile device receives e-mail instantly, whereas a delay of three to five minutes is typical on a BlackBerry. Though not all users care about that delay, there are cases in which workers need information -- more than can be sent via instant message -- immediately. One good place to find those workers is in the kinds of industries Nextel has specialized in serving, such as construction and delivery.

Large organizations can set up Mobile Email Enhanced to work with an enterprise server, while employees in smaller companies can have the system synchronize the phone with their own PCs. A key advantage of the service is that employees can start using the system on a new phone without an IS staffer's help, Kamble said.

Visto already offers ConstantSync for high-end mobile devices that use Microsoft Corp.'s Pocket PC operating system, PalmSource Inc.'s PalmOS and Symbian Ltd.'s Symbian OS, according to Kamble. This is the first commercial carrier deployment of ConstantSync on Java, he said. The company worked closely with Motorola Inc., which makes all the Java-enabled phones that run on Nextel's iDen network. Visto will soon announce a carrier deployment using Java-enabled Nokia phones, Kamble said.

Mobile Email Enhanced is offered as part of Nextel's $29.99 per month Premier Data Service Plan, which also includes unlimited data access, 120 MMS (Multimedia Messaging System) messages, unlimited text messaging and wireless Web browsing. It is also part of the carrier's Enhanced Data Services Plan, at $19.99 per month, which has 2M bytes of data access (including e-mail) and other features. Mobile Email Enhanced is also offered as a standalone service, with 2M bytes of e-mail, for $14.99 per month. Nextel offers a wide range of Java-enabled phones, some for less than $100 with purchase of a service plan. By contrast, Nextel is offering the BlackBerry 7520 at a final price of $149 with a service plan, though customers can get it for $49.99 with trade-in of an eligible PDA (personal digital assistant).

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