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Cell Phone Trends for 2009

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Some of the must-have features for 2009 in so-called "smart" phones -- think mobile computers that make calls -- include touch screens with "clickability," sophisticated accelerometers (which can sense when the phone is changed from portrait to landscape view and adjust the screen accordingly), full QWERTY keyboards, GPS capability, high-resolution cameras with flash, 3G networking and WiFi connectivity.
The Palm Pre. (Image: Palm)
One such feature-laden phone, one of most anticipated smart phones since its debut on the showroom floor at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this month, is the Palm Pre.

Palm's Pre and its updated operating system, webOS, stole the show at CES, and received awards for Best Cell phone, Best of CES (the first cell phone to receive the award) and the People's Voice.

The phone is scheduled to be released in the first half of 2009, with the initial version being available through the Sprint-Nextel network.

Also unveiled at CES was the Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot phone, the C510. The product combines an affordable Sony Ericsson phone with Cyber-shot technology. The 3.2 MP Cyber-shot camera has an accelerometer that can autorotate the view as the phone is turned, face-focusing technology and the ability to detect a person's smile and take a photo via Smile Shutter.

Sony Ericsson's C510 Cyber-shot. (Image: Sony Ericsson)
The W508 Walkman from Sony Ericsson, combines a cell phone with a Walkman portable music device. The phone features technology such as shake and gesture control, which allows you to raise the volume or set the shuffle function by giving the phone a quick shake. The SensMe technology lets the user create playlists based on tempo and mood, while the TrackID feature lets you receive a few seconds of a song that you like but don't know what it's called, then send it to a mobile music database, which will quickly send the name, artist and album information back to your phone.

T-Mobile and Research in Motion (RIM) announced this month that the new BlackBerry Curve 8900 smartphone, billed as the thinnest and lightest full-QWERTY BlackBerry, will be available beginning in February. The phone features the highest resolution display available on a BlackBerry, built-in GPS, easy access to social networking sites, built-in WiFi, a 512 MHz processor and a 3.2 MP camera with image stablization, digital zoom and flash, among other features.

Nokia is billing its new-in-the-US E63 as an affordable QWERTY smart phone with 3G optimization. The E63 uses the open source operating system Symbian S60 3rd Edition, giving users the ability to download third party applications to customize their device however they'd like.
Open and closed views of Nokia's N97 (Image: Nokia)
Nokia's N97, announced in December, is expected to begin shipping in the first half of 2009. It combines a 3.5-in. touch display with a full QWERTY keyboard and includes multiple sensors, memory, processing power and connection speeds geared for people who want to create a personal Internet and stay connected. The N97 has a 5-MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics, 16:9 and DVD-quality video capture, and supports up to 48 GB of storage, including 32 GB of onboard memory.
Motorola's MotoSurf A3100 (Image: Motorola)
Motorola's MotoSurf A3100 - a high-speed touch tablet with a customizable home screen - also made its debut during CES 2009. The touch tablet lets users navigate by simply touching or swiping their finger across the screen, or by using the omnidirectional trackball. The smart phone with WiFi and 3G connectivity is expected to be available in the first quarter of 2009. The device runs on Windows Mobile 6.1 software and is designed to give users fast access to a host of personalized applications, such as weather, news, personal and work e-mail, messaging and calendars.

There are two words to describe the hottest trend in operating systems for smart phones: open source.

For mobile device makers hoping to lure customers from Apple's iPhone and the 15,000 applications available via its App Store, opening operating systems is seen as a way to accomplish this, although Apple's dominance remains secure for now.

Nokia announced last summer it would make the Symbian operating system (Symbian OS) and its Series 60 (S60) platform open via the nonprofit Symbian Foundation. Other platforms that will be merged into the new open source platform by the foundation include UIQ from Sony Ericsson and Motorola and MOAP from NTT DoCoMo Inc.

Google's Android became open source in October via the Open Handset Alliance project. The G1, the first phone based on the operating system, was released last fall by T-Mobile.
The G1 from T-Mobile (Image: T-Mobile)
"Open source allows everyone and anyone equal access to the ideas and innovation that can make good products great," said Andy Rubin, senior director of mobile platforms, Google. "An open-sourced mobile platform, that's constantly being improved upon by the community and is available for everyone to use, speeds innovation, is an engine of economic opportunity and provides a better mobile experience for users."

Google said the availability of Android to the open source community will all consumers to start to see more applications like location-based travel tools, games and social networking offerings available to them directly; cheaper and faster phones at lower costs; and a better mobile web experience through 3G networks with richer screens.

Cell phone manufacturers, many of which have joined the Google alliance, are expected to begin introducing more Android-based phones later this year.

According to a Jan. 21 posting on the gadget blog Gizmodo, a second-generation Android phone, the G2, is being readied for the market by HTC for a mid-May release date. Alleged spy photos posted of the phone show a thinner iPhone-like device with no keyboard (it has a clickable touch screen) and a 3.2 MP camera.

Melinda Rose, senior editor
Jan 2009
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