EDIT 10/15/09: The SAMSUNG R451C is now available for sale directly from Straight Talk wireless, and they’re offering free shipping too. Click here to check it out.
EDIT 1/22/10: I’ve completed my reviews of these phones. You can find my review info on the following pages:
As some of you have pointed out in the comments section, there are some new phones showing up on TracFone’s and Net10′s website. This is big news in several aspects.
First, I’ll go over the phone models themselves: showing on both the TracFone and Net10 sites are the LG 290c, LG 220c, and LG 100c. The Net10 site also has two new models that are currently NOT listed on TracFone’s site: the Samsung R451c and Samsung T401g.
The big thing that jumps out at me right off the bat is the “c” at the end of 4 of these model numbers. In recent years, the final letter at the end of a TracFone or Net10 model number has indicated the type of network used by the phone – “g” refers to the GSM network, while “c” refers to CDMA.
All the new releases over the last two or three years have been on the GSM side. All of the available CDMA models lack in the newest features such as bluetooth, web browser, and camera. In some parts of the U.S., a CDMA signal is all that’s available, meaning that people living in those areas who want to use TracFone or Net10 service are forced to pick from a very basic phone lineup.
At long last, it looks like that lineup is about to be refreshed, assuming we can rely on the naming structure to accurately indicate what type of technology will be inside these new handsets.
The other big news is that the two Samsungs appear to offer another feature that many of you have been requesting for some time now: a full, slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The Samsung R451c appears to be very closely related to the r450 Messager, which Samsung produces for MetroPCS and Cricket. In addition to the QEWRTY keyboard, the r450 offers bluetooth, a 1.3mp camera, mp3 player and microSD memory card slot. [edit: I've begun my review of the Samsung T401g here.]
News on the Samsung T401g was harder to find, but speculation on the web is that it will at least include a QWERTY keyboard and possibly an mp3 player as well. Based on the naming structure, it would seem that the T401g would offer at least some advantage over the T301g, which was released for TracFone earlier this spring.
As for the LG models, the 290c looks to be a slider, the 220c a flip phone, and the 100c a basic candy-bar design. As I mentioned earlier, though, they all seem to be CDMA phones, meaning they’ll be potential upgrades for those of you that own the LG 3280 and 200c or the Kyocera 126c.
I should also issue a couple of disclaimers here: in the past, we’ve seen situations where a phone appeared on both the Net10 and TracFone site before release, but then was offered for only one of the two services. This was true of the Samsungs released this spring; to this day, each model is available only on one of the two services. Further, since Straight Talk is a sister company to TracFone and Net10, it is possible, though unlikely in my opinion, that one or more of these models could be headed for Straight Talk ONLY.
Further, the appearance of these phones on the websites does not necessarily mean that they will be released shortly. In the past, it’s taken as much as a couple of months before a phone was actually available for sale.
That being said, I think it’s safe to say that we can look forward to some new phone options by Thanksgiving at the latest – in time for the height of the Holiday shopping season, which would seem to make sense for Trac and Net10 from a business perspective. And of course, as you know, I’ll keep you up to date on this news and get reviews out to you as soon as I can.
Also, as you can see throughout the post, I’ve included a few pictures of the new models. I apologize for the poor quality; they are simply screen shots from Net10′s and Samsung’s sites.