Updated from 9:19 a.m. EDTAT&T ( T) ramped up its smartphone strategy Monday, touting new offerings from Nokia ( NOK) and Samsung in an attempt to boost its wireless business. The telecom giant will unveil a slew of devices at the CTIA conference in Las Vegas, including Nokia's E71x smartphone, and Samsung's Propel Pro, as well as a number of phones aimed at the 'quick messaging' market. In addition to Propel Pro, these include full-keyboard phones such as LG's Xenon and Neon and Samsung's Impression and Magnet offerings. Smartphones and quick messaging are helping drive AT&T's wireless growth, according to David Christopher, chief marketing officer for the firm's mobility and consumer markets "Smartphones and quick messaging phones are no longer for early-adopters and text-happy teens," he said, in a statement. "The ability to text often, or check your email from a phone is easy and more customers demand these features." AT&T has typically lagged behind rival Verizon ( VZ) in terms of its full-keyboard phones, although at least one analyst thinks that the Dallas, Texas-based firm is making the right moves. "I think that they are closing that gap," said Matt Thornton, an analyst at Avian Securities in Boston, Mass. "That form-factor, when you're talking to teenagers or to people that do a lot of SMS or IM'ing, is becoming very popular." Despite seeing its wireline operation take a pounding recently, AT&T continues to see strength in next-generation phones. Buoyed by the growth of its wireless business and the popularity of Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone, AT&T is even forecasting low single-digit revenue growth during 2009, despite an increasingly tough economy.
During its recent fourth quarter, for example, AT&T added 2.1 million wireless subscribers to reach a total customer base of 77 million, 7 million more than the same period last year. Whereas the Blackberry Storm is the jewel in Verizon's crown, AT&T continues to champion the iPhone, and is even rumored to be offering iPhones without mandatory two-year service contracts. The telecom firm is also waiving activation fees, according to company communications obtained by BoyGeniusReport. AT&T shares fell 84 cents, or 3.2%, to close at $25.16 Monday.