NEW YORK (Reuters) - AT&T Inc, the No. 2 mobile service, plans to sell three smartphones from Motorola Inc based on Google Inc’s Android software, potentially helping the phone maker depend less on Verizon Wireless, its most important U.S. customer.
The new devices, announced on Tuesday, are aimed at a wider, more cost-conscious audience than Motorola’s flagship Droid X device, which Verizon Wireless sells for $200.
In comparison AT&T plans to sell the Motorola Flipout for $79.99, with a two-year service agreement starting October 17. The phone, which has a full keyboard that flips open, is already on sale in Latin America and Europe but AT&T will be the only operator to sell it here.
AT&T will also sell the Motorola Bravo, a touchscreen phone, for $129.99, in time for the holiday shopping season which typically starts at the end of November, also to customers who sign long-term contracts.
The Motorola Flipside, which has a slide-out keyboard, will cost $99.99 to AT&T customers who sign two-year contracts in time for the holidays.
AT&T, currently the exclusive U.S. provider for Apple Inc’s iPhone, has been looking to expand its smartphone line-up amid speculation it will lose iPhone exclusivity next year to bigger rival Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc.
And while Motorola has seen strong sales of Droid X due to heavy promotion from operators, some investors worry that it is too dependent on Verizon Wireless for sales, especially if Apple expands iPhone distribution to Verizon.
Motorola has said its mobile phone business would turn a profit in the fourth quarter this year. The company plans to split itself in two in the first quarter, separating mobile phones and television set-top boxes from the rest of Motorola.
Shares of Motorola were up 1.2 percent to $8.56 in early Tuesday afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Tim Dobbyn