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(ARA) – Americans are cutting costs in many areas of their lives — but not, it seems, when it comes to staying connected. While the overall mobile phone industry, like most others, is feeling the recession’s effects, smartphone sales are booming.

Unlike ordinary mobile phones, smartphones offer Internet access, e-mail, music and calendars that sync to desktop or notebook computers — some even offer a touch screen and full keyboard. In addition, they have all the features of a standard mobile phone — contacts, camera, texting, games and the ability to dial favorite phone numbers with the press of a single button.

And while Americans are tightening their belts, they’re also discovering that saving money doesn’t have to be painful, says Lynn Fox, who keeps an eye on smartphone trends at Palm, Inc. “Buying a low-priced smartphone can feel like a splurge without much impact on your wallet,” she says. “It’s a great way to get something nice for yourself or someone you care about, without breaking the bank. And it can actually wind up saving you money.”

In the last quarter of 2008, U.S. smartphone sales rose 12 percent over the same period in 2007, and constituted about 23 percent of all handset sales at the end of last year, according to market research firm, NPD Group. Fox says the smartphone trend may seem contrary to Americans’ new belt-tightening mindset, but actually makes budgetary sense.

“Smartphones are fast, easy, reliable and convenient, and are the most efficient way to stay in touch with personal and professional contacts, news and other information. And you can do it on your own time, at your own pace. Customizable features let you bring the world to your phone,” says Fox.

“Rather than carry multiple devices, like a regular mobile phone and a PDA, you can get all the functions you need in a single, compact device. With prices dropping, smartphones are even more cost-competitive with traditional mobile phones,” she says. And she notes that with a more powerful phone, many customers are able to cancel their conventional landline phone, saving them far more than the cost of upgrading their phone.

Palm’s Centro leads the way in terms of price, typically selling for just $99 — or even as little as $49, depending on the carrier.

“Centro has been particularly popular among college students who have less to spend but need the Internet, texting and other applications at their fingertips,” says Fox. “Many people see smartphones as a luxury that is at once practical and affordable.”

Palm has found that more people are taking the smartphone plunge for a variety of reasons:

* Doing more with less — Smartphones plug people in to their favorite social technologies (like texting, Facebook, streaming music and video services) with a convenient, attractive, easy-to-carry package.

* Communicating any way you like — Smartphones not only let you talk to friends, family and business contacts over the phone, they provide access to voicemail, e-mail, texting and the Internet.

* Falling prices — Some smartphones (like the Centro) are competitive with or even cheaper than traditional low-cost mobile phones.

* Greater control and flexibility — Features like a color touch screen, fast speeds for Web browsing and wireless e-mail, sleek design and the ability to add on applications, make smartphones a “feel good” product that’s also practical.

To learn more about smartphones and the Palm Centro, visit www.palm.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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