Major Manufacturers Mark Multiple MegapixelsSascha Segan
Major phone manufacturers here at the CTIA Wireless show are heading in two directions: towards two-megapixel camera phones and a wider variety of CDMA phones for networks like Sprint, Verizon, Virgin and Alltel.
Still, we were a little disappointed by the lack of truly breathtaking announcements from the big guys. One manufacturer explained the problem to us. With the CES and 3GSM shows both in the past two months, many manufacturers have already had plenty of opportunities to show their 2005 wares. Meanwhile, in the cutthroat world of wireless, cell phone companies are paranoid about competition. So, some companies have stopped announcing details of their product lines in advance.
Of the new models we did see here, LG's VX8100 looks like Verizon's new flagship phone. We already really liked the VX8000, to which we gave four stars. The 8100 is smaller and rounder, less of a brick than the 8000. Wide-mounted stereo speakers promise good sound, and the phone will have a mini-SD slot, Bluetooth and an MP3 player. An LG executive at the show even said something about "full track music downloads," presumably through Verizon's V Cast high-speed EV-DO network.
This could be a killer handset — on the other hand, Verizon could cripple the Bluetooth like they did with the Motorola V710 and cripple the SD slot like they did on the Audiovox 8940. We choose cautious optimism here, verging on eternal hope.
Samsung has one new 2-megapixel EV-DO handset, the A970. It combines the swiveling form-factor of their P735 with top-notch specs: that 2-megapixel camera, plus Bluetooth, a TransFlash memory card slot and VoiceSignal voice recognition.
We were impressed by the A970's big lens (which hopefully will do better than other camera phones under low-light conditions), its razor-sharp 320x240 screen, and its "camcorder" mode, where it takes videos with the screen swiveled to the side. (See our slideshow.) Expect it to appear early this summer, perhaps as one of Sprint's first EVDO phones.
The A970 joins two other previously-announced Samsung camera phones on display here. The P777, a 1.3 megapixel slider phone with high-speed EDGE data for Cingular, packs a whopping 100 MB of memory, enough for a slew of VGA photos and ringtones. That one is on sale now for $299. Samsung's A800, another Cingular slider, looks to be the US's first two-megapixel phone. It will probably arrive in stores within the next two months, and it looks gorgeous, with a 320x240 screen, 32 MB of built-in memory and a TransFlash slot.
Sharp and Audiovox
Speaking of two-megapixel phones, the Sharp TM-200, which we saw at the Audiovox booth is the third mega-megapixeler we saw yesterday. The TM-200, which will probably be coming to T-Mobile sometime later this year, not only has a high-megapixel camera and removable memory, it has autofocus, something that we hope will result in better-quality pictures.
Also at Audiovox, we saw the CDM-180, which we was first introduced to at CES. The CDM-180 is an unusual, chubby phone with a landscape-format screen that Audiovox says will be especially good for guys with big fingers. The most notable change on the model we saw here was the Verizon logo, promising that the phone will show up on that carrier soon.
Kyocera and Nokia
Kyocera's KX5 slider has a 1.3 megapixel camera, a TransFlash memory slot and a dedicated music key to start playing the MP3 or AAC-format music on your memory card. We really liked their tiny wired remote control, which hooks up to the phone to let you plug in a set of standard music-player headphones rather than a specialized phone headset. That makes the KX5 an unusually able music device. No word on which carrier it'll go with, though Kyocera has strong relationships with Verizon, Alltel and Virgin.
The KX5 can also dock to an optional gamepad, which looks like an old Nintendo controller.
Nokia is freshening up their CDMA lineup with three flip phones. The 6155i is the best, with a 1-megapixel camera, speaker-independent voice recognition, MP3/AAC ringtones, and "an available mapping and navigation system," according to Nokia.
The 3155 is a solid, midrange flip-phone for business with MP3 ringtones, PC synchronization, FM radio and a speakerphone, but no camera. The 2115i, meanwhile, is a light, basic phone with a built-in flashlight. We didn't hear of any carriers for any of these phones.
Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in PC Magazine.