It’s been a banner year for cellphones-one that brought us the iPhone, mobile TV and new open-source systems. But as always, two months before 2008 rolls in, fresh offerings already have us salivating. Smartphones are getting smarter, incorporating video calling, touchscreens and easy IM access. Free services are experiencing a renaissance, sprouting practical and well-designed applications that offer everything from step-by-step driving directions to lists of your friends’ top-rated nearby eateries. And, in the face of the “Jesus Phone,” designers have stepped up the competition with cleaner designs and tighter application layouts.
Also making headlines today is Google’s announcement of the Open Handset Alliance-a partnership with key mobile players around the world such as T-Mobile, Sprint, HTC, Samsung and Intel focused on creating a Linux-based open platform for mobile phones, a direct challenge to the locked-down carrier control that is typical of the U.S. mobile business. It should be an exciting year.
Launch the gallery for a look at next year’s mobile phones and the new software that will give ’07 a run for its money.
The Rumor is now fact. This compact handset, available from Sprint, sports a slide-out Qwerty keyboard, a microSD slot, a 1.3-megapixel camera, a speakerphone and Bluetooth. With easy access to instant-messaging clients (such as AIM, MSN and Yahoo) and social networks (including Facebook), the phone is ideal for social butterflies. It costs $130, or $80 after a $50 rebate.
Coming soon to AT&T;, this clamshell-style 3G phone will support the carrier’s mobile TV and music services plus video share (the ability to send live or recorded video during a call). Other notable features include Push-To-Talk, stereo Bluetooth, quad-band GSM for global roaming, and the ability to create and manage playlists directly from the handset. The price has not been announced.
i-mate Ultimate 8150
With video out, you can display any application from an i-mate Ultimate series cellphone, such as the 8150, on a desktop LCD monitor, HDTV or digital projector. You navigate the interface using a desktop keyboard and mouse.
The follow-up to the Chocolate is sturdier and slimmer than the original. But it’s wider and taller to make room for a bigger screen with haptic feedback. The phone vibrates to make onscreen buttons (which change depending on the application) feel like the real deal when you tap them. The Venus has the same slider-style form factor as the Chocolate and is equipped with a two-megapixel camera and a microSD card slot. It will be available from Verizon in late November.
Motorola Razr2 V8 Luxury Edition
The 18-karat gold-plated Razr2 has black faux snakeskin on the back for an easier grip. Carrier and price have not yet been announced, but Motorola expects to ship the blingphone by the holidays.
A new mobile social network called Whrrl will enable you to read up on your friends’ recommended businesses and see where your buddies are on your GPS-enabled cellphone. The idea is you find, say, a nearby restaurant that your friends highly recommend. Of course, such resources will depend on how big your network of friends is. Whrrl will initially be available in 10 American cities, including Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle.
Motorola Rokr U9
Motorola applied the glossy design of its old clamshell-style Pebl handset to the new U9 music phone. It sports the same rounded edges as the original Pebl and a flat keypad. Updates include a two-megapixel camera, touch-sensitive music keys on the outside, and the ability to cancel background noise during calls.
Going beyond its landline roots, AOL unleashed an application designed to run on Windows Mobile smartphones. MyMobile is a one-stop shop for accessing a variety of AOL services including e-mail, instant messaging, city guide, MapQuest, news, weather, local search, sports and a picture gallery. It will be available by this January as a free download from wap.aol.com.
NoiseFree promises to cancel background noise from VoIP calls. The software runs on Windows Vista capable computers alongside VoIP apps such as Skype and Vonage as well as video IM clients like Yahoo Messenger and Google Talk. To download a free trial, visit noise-free-wireless.com.
With the Dmailer Mobile application installed on your cellphone’s memory card, you can sync files between your phone and PC organizer programs including Outlook, Outlook Express and Vista Mail. The product ships in February; the price has not yet been set.
Lost? Simply dial DIR-ECT-IONS (347-328-4667) on your cellphone and answer the automated voice prompts about your current location and your destination or a business you’re looking for, such as Whole Foods. You’ll receive directions instantly via text message. Using MapQuest’s database, the free service is available in several American cities and will go nationwide before the end of the year.
The successor to the enV carries the same look and feel, opening sideways to reveal a Qwerty keyboard. The Voyager does offer a few major updates, however, including a large external touchscreen with haptic feedback, a full HTML browser, and support for Verizon’s V Cast Mobile TV live broadcasts. It also has a two-megapixel camera and a microSD slot. It will be available from Verizon late this month.
Samsung BlackJack II
The BlackJack upgrade carries the same basic styling as the original, with some improvements on the numeric part of the keypad. (The numbers are now next to each other rather than separated by a column of alphabetical keys.) Other major updates include the Windows Mobile 6 platform, built-in GPS, a two-megapixel camera and support for AT&T;’s Video Share service. It will cost $150 and be available by the end of the year.
i-mate Ultimate 8502
I-mate released its new Ultimate line of Windows Mobile smartphones. The 8502, with its comfy Qwerty keyboard and large 2.6-inch touchscreen, is the most promising. All phones feature the Windows Mobile 6 operating system, quad-band GSM, a two- or three-megapixel camera, GPS, Wi-Fi, stereo Bluetooth and a microSD card slot. The 8502 ships in December; the price has not yet been set.