Cell phones, smart phones, and PDAs preview
Cell phones: They do more make than make calls
By Kent German and Bonnie Cha
December 15, 2006
Another year has passed, and CES
is upon us again. Unlike the annual CTIA show, where cell phones rule, CES is a technology hodgepodge, with hundreds of gadgets crowding the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center. As a result, cell phones have to scream for attention in the crowd of cameras, MP3 players, and flat-screen televisions. But as the kickoff tech show of the year, CES does set the stage for the year's cell phone trends, and in 2007 we expect to see a few developments. Multimedia
Although cell phones first and foremost are about making calls, they haven't deviated from a steady march toward integration. But unlike in past years, we're finally seeing camera phones and music phones that are more than just novelties. The Nokia 5300
remains one of our favorite music phones, not only because it is easy to use but also because it offers fantastic performance. We expect to see improved music phones that are so cool they may entice you to leave your iPod at home (at least for short trips). The Sanyo M1
is one such device: It promises multiple equalizer settings and an impressive 1GB of memory. Also, look for some big carrier announcements regarding music services, as we hope Cingular Music
finally will enable wireless downloads.
On the camera phone side, both the LG enV and the Sony Ericsson K790a
blew away most competing mobile shooters. Outstanding picture quality and cool features such as autofocus made these handsets winners. At CES we expect to see camera phones for the U.S. market that will top 5 megapixels and will include nifty services for printing your shots. You may even be able to leave your standalone camera at home when you're on the go.
Of course, we can't forget 3G. Since Verizon Wireless introduced its V Cast
service at CES two years ago, 3G devices have landed on store shelves in a steady stream. Samsung should show a few devices at the show with dual-hinged designs and improved displays (including a model with a landscape orientation) for better viewing. Thin is still in
Although the Motorola Razr
is now two years old (a lifetime in the cell phone world), the thin phones remain a hot commodity. Both Samsung and UTStarcom will show more slim devices, while Motorola continues to build on the Razr's success with devices such as the previously announced Krzr
. Speaking of the Rizr, look for more slider designs as well. Better Bluetooth
One of the most exciting developments of 2006 was that stereo Bluetooth was finally breaking into carrier-supported cell phones. Handsets like the LG enV
and the Samsung Sync
allow you to ditch wires altogether, and the trend will continue at CES with Nokia showing handsets that support the feature. Jabra should show a headset that alternates between mono and stereo modes, while we'll also see such design innovations as a headset with a slider design, a shoulder-mounted model, and headsets that mimic the form factors of popular phones. Smart phones in all shapes and sizes
It's been a big year for smart phones, as 2006 saw the launch of a number of highly-anticipated devices, such as the RIM BlackBerry Pearl
, Cingular 8525
, and the Palm Treo 680
. So is there anything left to look forward to at CES 2007? Of course. Design continues to be a driving force with all mobiles, so we expect to see more slim and compact smart phones (a la the T-Mobile Dash
and the Samsung BlackJack) to sashay down the runway. Also, the Cingular 3125
by HTC showed that smart phones can work in a flip phone design, so we hope to see more companies follow suit. Reaching a mass audience
With the launch of the user-friendly Treo 680 and BlackBerry Pearl, it's also clear that smart phone manufacturers want to reach a broader audience than just business users. Multimedia has played a big role, as these gadgets are more than tools for business: They can play music and video, take photos, and entertain as well. We'll be watching Nokia in particular, as that company has led the charge in this space with its N series
At CES 2006, we chose Cingular's Samsung SGH-ZX20 as our top pick from the show. Though it looked like an ordinary flip phone from the outside, it was one of the first phones in the United States to support HSDPA networks
, a 3.5G technology that's the next evolution of 3G UMTS
networks. In other words, it meant getting broadband wireless data speeds on your cell phone. Other features include a 1.3-megapixel camera, a digital media player for AAC and MP3 files, Bluetooth 2.0, a speakerphone, and a TransFlash card slot.
Samsung and Cingular took a long time to introduce the SGH-ZX20, so when we finally got the chance to review it, our initial excitement quickly waned. It wasn't that it was a terrible phone--in fact, it largely lived up to its potential--but by the time we saw it, much better devices such as the LG CU500
had appeared. Ultimately, the SGH-ZX20's mundane device design didn't lend itself to its high-end features.