Sprint's Samsung Instinct has taken center stage as CTIA, but the carrier has more to offer in Las Vegas. Monday it also unveiled its first series of QChat phones (see our Sprint QChat slide show for the eye candy), which for the first time offer push-to-talk interoperability between CDMA and iDEN networks. There's no mishmash of competing technologies here. The QChat phones make and receive PTT calls through Nextel's Direct Connect service. Oh, and incidentally, QChat marks the final nail in the coffin of Sprints previous ReadyLink PTT service.
The first two QChat handsets to hit stores will be the Sanyo Pro-200 and the Sanyo Pro-700. Though these are Sanyo's first Direct Connect models, and the company has done its homework. Rugged designs with rubber sidings make us think of classic Nextel phones such as the Motorola i335. Also, the Pro-700 is built to military specifications for dust, shock, and moisture. Features are mostly midrange and include a speakerphone, Bluetooth, Web access, e-mail, GPS, and EV-DO Rev. A. We should see the handsets later this month (no pricing yet) but by that time, the Sanyo name may be gone. Kyocera's acquisition of Sanyo's cell phone division also became official on Monday and from what we hear, Kyocera will send the Sanyo brand to the cell phone graveyard.
We'll have to wait a little longer to see the other QChat handsets. They are the LG LX400, the Samsung Z700 and Z400, and the Motorola V950. Like Sanyo, LG, and Samsung are making their first Direct Connect handsets. The durable Z400 is built to take a lot of punishment, while the Z700 and LX400 ditch rugged designs in favor of sleek style. With its long iDEN history, Motorola is no stranger to Direct Connect phones. The V950 has durable rubber sidings, but it adds a camera and a music player with external controls. The LG, Samsung, and Motorola handsets should be out later this year.
The Direct Connect interoperability marks a new turn in Sprint Nextel's rather circuitous-post merger strategy. At first, the combined carrier said it would move all voice calls to CDMA while keeping iDEN for PTT calls. As part of that move it introduced dualmode iDEN/CDMA handsets such as the Motorola ic902. But Nextel loyalists, who cherished the Direct Connect service that made the carrier famous, didn't seem to grab onto the new bridge-building handsets. Perhaps Sprint has realized that there's a lot of value in keeping the two brands separate. We would certainly agree with that sentiment and the QChat devices seem like a great way to let the two groups of customers talk to each other.