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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Amstrad launches home videophone
Screengrab of Amstrad homepage, Amstrad
The E3 will be promoted heavily before Christmas
Electronics firm Amstrad has launched a cut-price videophone that lets people see who they are talking to.

Called E3 the home videophones are going on sale for 99 each. A pair of videophones will cost 179.

Video calls can only be made between E3 handsets but the devices can also be used to browse the web and send e-mail messages.

The handsets can also take still photos that can be sent to other computers or mobile phones.

Picture post

The E3 is the third-generation of Amstrad's E-Mailer product introduced in March 2000.

The first E-mailer let people send and receive messages and the second added net access - albeit to a subset of all sites on the net.

E-mail session - 15p per day
Video call - 50p plus call costs
Net browsing - 5p per minute
Send photo - 25p per e-mail
MMS - 1 per message
SMS - 50p per message
Amstrad said there were no joining fees or subscription costs associated with the E3 phone. Users register for the service by following on-screen prompts that appear when the E3 is first plugged in and turned on.

Video calls made via the E3 handset incur a 50p charge as well as usual call costs.

Amstrad said the images appearing on the E3's colour screen will not be TV quality but are likely to match what is possible on a PC using a dial-up net account.

As well as letting people make voice and video calls the E3 can also be used to send text messages and multimedia message to mobile phones. These types of messages can only be received by the E3 if they are sent in response to one from the handset.

"We developed the E3 because we realised that many people want to be able to keep in touch via an easy-to-use and cost-effective means of video calling," said Simon Sugar, commercial director at Amstrad.

"Prior to the E3, alternative options for video calling were cost-prohibitive to the majority of people," said Mr Sugar.

He said that the E3 removed the need to use a PC to make video calls, send e-mail and pictures and browse the web.

As yet it is unclear how popular the device will be. Videophones have been tried many times in the past but, so far, have not caught on.

The E3 may also face competition from mobile phone firm 3 that lets its customers do video calls.

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