NEW YORK — Cingular Wireless is introducing a service for nonbusiness users to get BlackBerry-like mobile access to their personal e-mail accounts from AOL, Yahoo and MSN Hotmail on a cellphone.
The new service, powered by Oz Communications Inc., is designed to adapt the look and capabilities of a Web portal or e-mail program such as Outlook to the limited screen size, keyboard and processing power of a garden-variety handset.
The Java-based e-mail application initially will be available for download on existing phones starting today with five models from Motorola Inc. and one from Samsung Electronics Co. It also is being preinstalled on new phones, though not immediately through all Cingular sales channels.
There's no monthly charge for Cingular Mobile Email, but users will need to subscribe to one of the company's wireless Internet plans with a monthly allotment of data usage. Jim Ryan, a Cingular vice president, said a $5 monthly data plan should provide sufficient capacity to check one's e-mail a few times daily.
Fetching e-mail on a cellphone has been possible for some time, generally by using a mobile Web browser or a downloadable third-party application. But the process often is cumbersome: Users need to click through multiple menus, type in Web addresses, sign in using a telephone keypad and scroll about to read poorly formatted messages on a small screen.
By contrast, BlackBerrys and other "smart" mobile devices were designed for accessing corporate e-mail accounts and other business information in real time with a click or two, displaying them in an easier-to-read format on a slightly larger screen.
The surging popularity of such devices -- BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. reported that its user base grew about 20% in the third quarter to 3.6 million -- has fueled predictions that mobile e-mail will be a big draw for consumers too, generating new revenue for wireless carriers.
"RIM has been phenomenally successful catering to high-end users, but that's peanuts compared to the 700-million-plus consumer e-mail accounts," said Skuli Mogensen, chief executive of Montreal-based Oz.
The Cingular application is designed to minimize clicks as well, while offering other BlackBerry-like features such as immediate notification of new e-mails as they arrive.