Wireless Turns 20 With 21st Century Phones

By Joseph Palenchar On Mar 10 2003 - 8:00am




The wireless industry will gather here at Wireless 2003 to celebrate the cellular phone's 20th anniversary with a post-Mardi Gras orgy of devices that the industry's founding fathers could hardly have envisioned.

During the March 17-19 event, at least five companies — LG Mobile Phones, Motorola, Nokia, Panasonic and Audiovox — will display their first phones with integrated digital cameras. Nokia will show the first camera-phone able to capture and e-mail full-motion-video clips, not just digital still images. And Motorola and Nokia will show their first EDGE-equipped handsets, capable of sending and receiving data at rates up to 384Kbps.

Multiple suppliers will show PDA-phones, including the world's first Linux-based PDA phone with Java. The phone is from Motorola, which marketed the world's first commercial handheld cellular phone in 1983, when the U.S. became the first country in the world to launch commercial cellular service,

though only in a handful of markets.

Also at the show:

  • GSM will proliferate. Several companies will field their first U.S. GSM phones, many of them dual-band 850/1900MHz models developed to operate only on U.S. frequencies. The companies include Panasonic and Korean manufacturer LG Mobile Phones, which is following Korean rival Samsung into the U.S. GSM market.

  • Color-screen prices will fall. Motorola will bring the consumer price of color-screen handsets down to less than $100 with the launch of the GSM/GPRS C350 compared to a starting price of about $150 to date.

  • First EDGE handsets will arrive. Motorola and Nokia will display a pair of the industry's first.

In other developments, Handspring will detail its plans to distribute its Treo PDA-phones through carriers rather than sell them direct to its traditional handheld accounts.

Here is what select suppliers plan:

Audiovox: Four integrated camera-phones are in the works, as announced during CES.

Hitachi: The Multimedia Communicator, to be displayed at the Microsoft booth, will be Hitachi's second U.S. market phone and the first announced PocketPC phone with built-in digital camera. It features touch screen and QWERTY keyboard.

Earlier, Sprint said it would probably would begin offering it in mid-year through retail and enterprise channels. (See TWICE, Jan. 20, p. 34).

LG Mobile Phones: The company's first two phones with built-in camera are CDMA 1X models, one each for Verizon and Sprint. The company's first two GSM models for the U.S. market include a model that accepts a camera attachment, available from LG for the first time.

The 1X camera phone for Sprint is the trimode high-tier 5450 clamshell, due in the spring with VGA-quality (640 by 480) camera, 260K color screen with 120 by 160 resolution, J2ME, WAP 2.0 browser, and support for viewing images in bmp, jpg, png and wbmp formats. The 3.88-ounce phone features blue-backlit external caller ID, 32 polyphonic sounds, vibrate alert, silent alert and assisted GPS.

The 1X camera phone for Verizon, the top-tier clamshell 6000, is one of LG's first two phones to use organic EL LCD technology, available on the external caller ID display. The dual-band 800/1,900MHz phone features BREW, assisted GPS, Openwave UP 4.1 browser, personal organizer functions, vibrate alert and MIDI sound.

The two GSM-only phones, the 4010 and 4050, are 850/1900MHz models with GPRS Class 10. The 2.93-ounce 4010, targeted for early summer shipment, features Class 10 GPRS, WAP 1.2.1 browser, EMS, and 40 polyphonic sounds. The step-up clamshell 4050 at 3.35 ounces accepts snap-on camera and features 65K color screen, WAP 2.0 browser, MMS, 40 polyphonic sounds, IrDA, voice dialing/ recording, instant messaging, and organic EL LCD for the external display.

Also new: two other CDMA 1X phones. One is the entry-level 1.96GHz, 3.18-ounce clamshell 1200, due in March from Sprint. It is available in silver or blue and features external caller ID, personal organizer functions and SMS. The 3.28-ounce 3100 clamshell is a 1X-only 800/ 1,900MHz model with assisted GPS, personal organizer functions, and Openwave UP 4.1 browser.

Nokia: The company will show a variety of products previously announced (see TWICE, Jan. 9, p. 122), including the N-Gage wireless-phone/Symbian PDA/game deck/MP3 player. It's due in the U.S. and overseas in the fourth quarter, when T-Mobile plans to offer it globally. The triband 900/1,800/ 1,900MHz device will allow for portable multiplayer gaming over a GSM/ GPRS network and locally via Bluetooth.

Also at the show: the company's first two integrated camera phones. One is the 3650 triband (900/1,800/1,900MHz) GSM/GPRS Symbian PDA-phone, which takes VGA-quality still pictures and 10-second video clips. It shipped to T-Mobile and Cingular channels in early March at less than $400.

The other camera phone, the 7250, is due in spring at less than $400. It is also a triband (900/1,800/1,900MHz) GSM/ GPRS models. It includes FM radio.

The company's first EDGE phone for the U.S., the 6200, ships in the spring or summer at an expected retail of less than $400. The 6200 operates in the 850/1,800/1,900MHz bands. It features MMS, Java, xHTML browser, color display, embedded FM radio, voice recorder, MIDI ring tones, and up to four hours of talk time or eight days standby.

Panasonic: The company's delayed GU87 camera-phone with 2x zoom will be displayed and was scheduled to be available from AT&T in mid-March. It's Panasonic's first U.S. GSM phone. Features include 65K color display, MMS and 850/1,900MHz GSM/GPRS operation. Picture resolution is 110,000 pixels, about a third of VGA's 640 by 480 resolution.

Rand McNally: The cartographer will unveil a downloadable J2ME application that lets any J2ME-equipped cellphone access maps and driving directions directly on their cellphone.

Samsung: The company is expected to show its first PocketPC-based PDA-phone and its first phone incorporating the Microsoft Smartphone (Stinger) OS.

Siemens: The company will introduce three new GSM phones for the North American market and announce new carrier agreements.

TracFone: The Miami company will be offsite showing the Motorola v120 in CDMA and TDMA versions, which let prepaid customers view airtime balances on a phone's display. It will be TracFone's first Motorola phone in years. Available mid-March at a suggested $89, it features voice-activated dialing, voice recorder, vibrating alert and clock with alarm. The company' prepaid wireless service starts as low as $7.99/month, including caller ID, voice mail and call waiting. TracFone said it is the only prepaid service that offers local phone numbers in every county in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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