A Phone Smart Enough To Pass The Mass Market Test?

The idea of the "smart" phone isn't new. American Telephone & Telegraph Co., and other companies, spent years developing hybrid computer/phones, but they never evolved into a hot consumer item. Philips and printer R.R. Donnelly & Sons Co. are betting they've got the phone--and the service--to attract consumers. The phone, developed by Philips, includes a microprocessor, slide-out keyboard, and a 16-line liquid-crystal display and handles voice and computer data simultaneously.

The service is a national phone directory offered by Donnelly's Metromail Corp. subsidiary. With a screen phone, users can get a listing of phone numbers for the entire U.S. and by hitting a button, dial the number or store it. Both companies hope the directory service, as well as others including home banking from Citibank, will spur consumer interest. Ameritech Corp., the Chicago-based phone company, has ordered 200,000 screen phones from Philips for a trial it will launch later this year with Citibank. Philips sells the phones for $699, but Ameritech is considering a $10-per-month rental fee.