Speakers made for home audio setups are encased in cabinets constructed of a variety of materials, but many high-end models stick to solid wood enclosures. The argument is that this particular natural material offers superior acoustics. It makes sense, then, that we'd eventually see a pair of earbuds made of wood. Enter the Woodees Inner Ear Stereo Earphones, a reasonably priced set that offers some of the most natural-sounding bass we've ever heard through headphones.
As CTIA 2009 closes, so does the busy cell phone trade show season that began three months ago at CES. And now that the CNET crew has left Las Vegas for San Francisco and New York City, we've had a chance to reflect on what CTIA gave us. I'll describe the highlights in detail below, but be sure to check out our CTIA videos and CTIA photo galleries. We also picked our favorite products for the Best of CTIA.
A snoozer of a show Though there were plenty of new phones to handle, CTIA was rather quiet. Sure, the torpid economy is a likely culprit, but CTIA has a bigger strike against it. Since it follows the two much bigger blowouts of CES and the GSMA World Congress, CTIA just can't offer the same level of news.
It's not really CTIA's fault--after all, a U.S.-focused show can't be expected to compete with global events--but I'm not the first to suggest that CTIA should switch its schedule to later in the year. But as I said, there was plenty to report.
Getting the message If there was one theme at CTIA 2009, it was the messaging phone. A total of five new models made their first appearance in Las Vegas, with Samsung and AT&T leading the way.
On the Monday before the show, Sammy and AT&T unveiled the Samsung Impression and the Samsung Magnet. Both offer full QWERTY keyboards on a different theme. While the Magnet offers minimal features and a simple design, the Impression has a comfortable slider design, a brilliant display, and mid-range multimedia. It made such an impression on us that we picked it as our top phone of the show. … Read more
Along with the Xenon and the Neon, LG also introduced the LG HBM-900 Bluetooth headset at CTIA.
This rather large headset has not one or two microphones, but three, in what it's calling a tri-mic ultra-clear audio solution. The multifunction button is touch-sensitive, and the power button is a slider switch. Features of the headset include automatic volume control, volume circulation, echo cancellation, noise suppression, multipoint, and voice activated dialing.
Not sure what the price and availability of it is just yet, but we're sure it'll be out this year.
As CTIA comes to a close, we pause to select the best products from the show. The scene in Las Vegas was much quieter than in past years, and it lacked any high-profile announcements like the Palm Pre. But, there were a few products that deserve recognition as the Cream of the Crop from CTIA 2009.
Best phone: Samsung Impression
For the third year in a row, Samsung takes the title of the best phone in CTIA. While the Samsung Impression can't quite compete with the hype of last year's Instinct or 2007's Upstage, it is the most practical of the three. And in a year where messaging phones were all the rage, it stands out in a crowded field as the one of the best-designed messaging phones we've seen in a while.
The keyboard is spacious and tactile, and while the handset isn't quite sexy, it has a pleasant, minimalist shape that feels nice in the hand. Yet the Impression's biggest draw is its gorgeous active-matrix organic light-emitting diode display. As Samsung promised, the display is positively brilliant with bright colors and vibrant graphics. Features are decent, even if they're not groundbreaking.
Inside you'll find a 3-megapixel camera, a full HTML browser, Bluetooth, Samsung's TouchWiz interface, 3G support with access to Cellular Video and AT&T Music, a personal organizer, AT&T Navigator, and a speakerphone. No, that won't knock your socks off; in fact, you might even see it as somewhat boring. But as we said before, the Impression's story is more about functional features and an intuitive design rather than flash and glam. And at a very quiet show, it deserves its prize. The Impression will be out soon with AT&T; we should have a review shortly.
Best smartphone: HTC Snap
Aside from rising importance of applications, the other theme of CTIA 2009 was messaging. We saw a slew of new messaging devices debut at the show, and it extended to smartphones. While the Nokia E71x and Samsung Propel Pro were nice additions to AT&T's lineup, the HTC Snap stood out for its Inner Circle feature.
With a simple press of a button, Inner Circle brings e-mails from a preselected group of people to the top of your in-box so you can read and reply to them immediately. The capability isn't the wave of the future, but it does help prioritize your e-mails based on your preferences.
In addition, HTC, once again did a nice job on the design. The Snap is a beautifully constructed and sleek smartphone. The QWERTY keyboard also features good-size buttons for easy messaging. Finally, don't be fooled by its diminutive size, as it's packed with features, including Windows Mobile 6.1, push e-mail, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G, and a 2-megapixel camera. We look forward to checking out the U.S. version of the Snap, the HTC S522, when it's released in the summer. … Read more
Jabra introduced two new devices today at CTIA 2009, and neither of them are traditional mono-Bluetooth headsets. They are the Jabra HALO stereo headset and the Jabra SP200 speakerphone.
The Jabra HALO stereo headset uses stereo Bluetooth or A2DP to stream music wirelessly from a stereo Bluetooth-compatible handset or MP3 player. It also has a wired option if your device only has a 3.5-mm headset jack and no Bluetooth. Like other stereo headsets, you can also use the HALO to make and receive calls; the music will fade out whenever there are incoming calls, for example. It boasts Zirene … Read more
Sound ID has just announced two new Bluetooth headsets at CTIA 2009, the Sound ID 300 and the Sound ID 200. We've been quite impressed by Sound ID Bluetooth headsets in the past, especially since they're apparently made with the science of hearing in mind (Sound ID's founder is an otologist at Stanford University). The last Sound ID headset we reviewed was the SM100, which was released almost two years ago, so we're glad to see these new headsets.
Both headsets have Noise Navigation technology that optimizes speech intelligibility and automatically reduces wind and background noise, … Read more