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Cell Industry Wants Consumers’ CE Dollars


– The cellular industry took giant steps at Wireless 2004 toward a future envisioned by Sun chairman Scott McNealy, who said during a keynote speech that cellular phones will take on the functions of a consumer’s wallet, keys, Walkman, portable TV, and handheld game player.

The industry is also on its way toward turning cellular phones into long-distance remote controls that monitor and control home appliances from miles or even continents away, said LG InfoComm president Juno Cho during another keynote speech.

Intent on carving out a share of the portable audio/video markets, multiple suppliers showed the first Java-equipped phones capable of playing 3D Java games, not just existing 2D games. The suppliers include Motorola and Siemens.

Motorola also showed a Linux-based GSM/GPRS PDA-phone that doubles as a “multimedia entertainment phone” capable of playing music and video files transferred from a connected PC. The E680 triband world phone features large color display, touchscreen dialing, built-in FM radio, built-in VGA camera, PIM applications that synchronize with Microsoft Outlook, MPEG-4 playback, and playback of audio files in the MP3, AAC, WMA, and wav formats. It also plays 3D Java games and is expected to retail for about $500

In related developments:

  • Audiovox, Motorola, Nokia, and Kyocera showed their first megapixel cameraphones. Motorola had four, including two announced before the show.
  • Tom Tom, which makes GPS navigation add-ons for PocketPC and Palm PDAs, said it plans third- or fourth-quarter availability of similar add-ons for PDA-phones based on the PocketPC and Symbian platforms and for BREW-equipped phones.
  • Samsung showed its first cameraphone with ability to capture video. It’s the CDMA 1X trimode a680. The company plans to ship a megapixel cameraphone later in the year.

On the network side, carriers and infrastructure suppliers prepared to offer the high-speed data networks needed to turn cellular phones into multimedia terminals that wirelessly download and stream audio and video.

Verizon Wireless, for example, announced that it would expand its CDMA 1X EV-DO network by the end of the year to cover 30 percent of the population base in its markets. The carrier didn’t disclose its post-2004 timetable. “We’re not sure if more ubiquity in 2005 makes sense for us,” said Verizon CTO Dick Lynch. The network will deliver data at speeds averaging 300-500kbps, although Lynch said he regularly exceeds that rate when he uses the network at home.

For their part, Samsung and Motorola demonstrated CDMA 1X EV-DV base stations that will deliver data at ever faster speeds of 1-1.5Mbps on average. Samsung also demonstrated a prototype EV-DV phone by streaming live CNN video to a handset at 15fps. The phone featured rotating videocamera to make video calls and stream live video. “We could start shipping base stations by the third quarter,” said Carl McLesky, senior systems engineer at Samsung.

Unlike EV-DO, EV-DV will enable simultaneous voice and data sessions from a phone.

Also at the show:

  • Samsung and Motorola unveiled with industry’s first hybrid CDMA 1X/GSM world phones, which are designed to work on U.S. CDMA networks and foreign GSM networks. Samsung’s a790, a clamsehll VGA-camera phone due in the second half, operates on 800/1900MHz CDMA 1X networks in the U.S. and GSM 900/1800MHz networks elsewhere. Motorola’s a840, also due in the second half, operates in the same bands and adds GPRS data.
  • Samsung also showed its first Palm-based PDA-phone for U.S> GSM networks. The i505 features GPRS data and VGA camera.
  • Samsung showed its first slider-style GSM model, the d415, and its first PTT (push-to-talk) phone, the CDMA 1X a690. The latter is destined for Verizon’s network.
  • Nixxo of Garden Grove, Calif., and Telson of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., entered the U.S. cellphone market with their first branded models.