By Kent German, senior editor
Lately, I feel like Wayne Newton--I'm always going to Las Vegas. After two trips to Sin City for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the last thought I had on my mind would be returning to Vegas for the annual Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) trade show. After all, for the past two shows, I've traveled to Atlanta (2004) and New Orleans (2005
), so I assumed I would return to the South yet again. But instead of traveling to Dixieland, my ticket for 2006 is for Vegas, baby.
As the largest show for the cell phone industry, CTIA explodes every spring with new handsets, new accessories, new services, and new ideas. I'll be there along with CNET editors Bonnie Cha and Nicole Lee to report on the latest trends in the cellular world. Though we always see exciting things at CTIA, some innovations never quite make it off the show floor and into the real world. So this year, I hope that unlike so many secrets, all the new gadgets won't just stay in Vegas. While I'm not a gambler, I bet we'll find the following trends in the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center. Slim is in, and color me cellular
In case you've been under a rock the past year and a half, the Motorola Razr V3
was the cell phone that swept the mobile world. Despite some performance problems, its tricky buttons, and a recent recall
, the slim phone was the top-selling handset in 2005. Motorola capitalized on the trend with the Razr V3c
for Verizon and the Slvr
candy bar phone for Cingular. And not to be left out, Samsung introduced a slightly better Razr competitor with the MM-A900
. In Las Vegas, I expect to see more radical designs such as the Razr. UTStarcom, Kyocera, and LG are said to be working on designs.
Another design trend I expect we'll see more of this year is color. Rather than just stick with the traditional silver or black, some manufacturers have fashioned their phones into a rainbow of hues. Take Motorola, for instance. Besides an ice-blue version
of the Razr, there are now two pink models and one in magenta. Motorola then pulled out its coloring book for the sexy Pebl
. It's now available in pink
, blue, and orange. And don't forget Nokia's fashion phones such as the 7830
. GSM grows up
Though GSM is the dominant cell phone technology globally, it faces stiff competition in the United States from CDMA. Not only are Verizon and Sprint's networks arguably more widespread than either Cingular or T-Mobile systems, the CDMA guys were first to market with 3G
services. Verizon debuted its EV-DO V Cast
service in January 2005, and Sprint followed later in the year with its EV-DO Power Vision
service. It wasn't
unitl last month when Cingular made its UMTS network and Cingular Video available for cell phones such as the Samsung SGH-ZX10
. Though T-Mobile rolled out EDGE last September and isn't supposed to get UMTS until next year, I expect to find more 3G phones at CTIA, including some models for the GSM carriers.
GSM also grew up late in December when Cingular introduced its push-to-talk (PTT) walkie-talkie service with the LG F7200
and the Samsung SGH-D357
. Previously, PTT service was exclusive to Nextel, Sprint, and Verizon, but Cingular's announcement ensures that its customers can now hear the familiar screech tone that signaled PTT services. Again, though T-Mobile has yet to catch up, we should see more GSM PTT phones on the show floor.
In their first incarnations such as the Nokia 6230
, MP3 cell phones suffered from clunky interfaces, limited memory, and shaky sound quality. But they've come a long way, and we now see MP3 phones that make a stronger case for convergence than camera phones. At last year's CTIA
, there was rampant speculation that Motorola would release a cell phone compatible with Apple's iTunes Music Store. When we got to New Orleans, however, there was no iTunes phone to be found. It was a full five months before Apple and Motorola released the Motorola Rokr E1
to much fanfare. For many, compatibility with the world's most popular music service was a plus, but the phone's overall features and design were underwhelming. The same is true for the Slvr--iTunes' many restrictions make the phone not very user-friendly. That's why I consider Sony Ericsson's Walkman phones such as the W800i
and the W600i
much better MP3 phones.
This year in Vegas, I expect to see music phones from a variety of manufacturers. Sony Ericsson showed us the W810i
at CES this year, and we hope to see not only a carrier announcement for this newest handset but also more Walkman models. Likewise, LG will again be showing the CU320
that we first noticed at CES, and I expect we'll see more handsets like it from the company. Samsung put out a couple of sweet MP3 phones, such as the MM-A900
, so I'm sure it'll unveil more music mobiles as well. And back on the Moto front, we hope to see more of the Rokr E2
and verify the rumors of a Rokr E3. Also, we'd love for the Razr V3i
to be picked up by a carrier.
Of course, if you have music, you also need a music store. Sprint
currently have music stores, so perhaps Cingular will follow at the show. Smart phones take off
We're only a few months into 2006, and we've already seen a barrage of new smart phones infiltrate the market. From the Palm Treo 700w
to the Cingular 8125
to the T-Mobile SDA
, these converged devices are hot. In fact, according to ABI Research
, smart-phone shipments are projected to more than double in 2006--and with good reason. Smart phones are invaluable tools for mobile professionals, and the latest batch of mobiles has proven themselves in performance and form factor. As we head into CTIA, we hope to see more of the same, as well as innovative and cool solutions such as the SlingPlayer Mobile
. And maybe, just maybe, we'll get more information (read: release dates) on some highly anticipated smart phones, such as the Motorola Q
and the Nokia E series
. Finally, integrated keyboards are not just the domain of smart phones; just consider the LG F9200