Mobile phone operator Orange plans to launch a new version of its SPV (sounds, pictures and videos) phone in April, as the mobile operator steps up its efforts to counter the growing popularity of the Live video messaging service from rival Vodafone.

The SPVx handset will offer several new features, including a larger phone keyboard, an integrated rubber joystick for gaming, and an improved screen and graphical user interface, Orange said at the 3GSM World Congress trade conference and exhibition in Cannes, France.

The phones will be available in Denmark, France, Switzerland and the UK where Orange offers services.

The updated handset will retail for about £179 — the same price as the current SPV.

So far, Orange has struggled to win customers for its SPV phone, the first in the world to use Microsoft's Windows-powered Smartphone operating system software. Launched in October, the SPV has attracted around 40,000 buyers, compared to Live's more than 400,000. A security bug, detected in the smartphone software, hasn't helped win devotees for the SPV.

The SPV has an attachable camera and offers MMS (multimedia messaging service), email and web surfing. It operates on Orange's GPRS (general packet radio service) network.

While the company aimed the first handset mostly at business customers and early adopters, the new version will target the consumer market, a company spokesman said. In addition to the joystick, it will include a range of accessories, such as entertainment memory cards with games, songs and video clips, he said.