Release of new top Sony Ericsson phone delayed

Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB’s new top-of-the-line mobile phone won’t hit store shelves in the third quarter, but will be available in time for Christmas, the company confirmed.

The P800, a tri-band phone with a 230 x 320 pixel color touch screen, built-in digital camera and simple PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) functionality, was officially announced in March. Sony Ericsson said at the time that the phone would be available in the third quarter and demonstrated it at various events around the world.

“We start shipping the P800 to operators in a few weeks time. It should be in shops before Christmas,” said Peter Bodor, a Sony Ericsson spokesman. “It just took a bit longer than expected to get it ready.”

Nokia Corp. seems to have won this particular features race. The Espoo, Finland, company already has a phone out with a built-in camera, the 7650 that became available late June. Sony Ericsson of London, however, earlier triumphed over Nokia when its T68 was the first handset with a color screen to hit the shops in Europe.

The P800 delay won’t bother many mobile phone users because the market is waiting for cheap phones, not expensive ones, said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Dataquest Inc., a unit of Gartner Inc.

“Taken that it is not a low-end phone, I don’t think that people are waiting for it,” she said, adding that Sony Ericsson hit the right track with the T300 announced in June to compete with Nokia’s 3300 series. The T300, due out in the fourth quarter, has a color screen and a small price tag, Sony Ericsson has said.

Sony Ericsson won’t say why the P800 will come to market later than originally planned. Dataquest’s Milanesi can only guess; it could be a marketing move to launch the phone just before the holiday season, or a manufacturing problem, she said.

Sony Ericsson is a joint venture of the mobile phone operations of Sweden’s Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Sony Corp. of Japan formed last year. At the time, Ericsson said Sony Ericsson would be profitable from the start, but the company has failed to live up to that expectation as demand for mobile phones dropped.