Smaller and smarter phones to debut at Cebit

Visitors to the Cebit trade show in Hannover next week can expect to find phones that pack even more features, such as mega-pixel...

Visitors to the Cebit trade show in Hannover next week can expect to find phones that pack even more features, such as mega-pixel digital cameras and multimode connections, into ever-smaller devices with ever-longer battery lives.

However, most of the new handsets to be launched at Cebit will target existing GSM and GPRS networks. Handsets designed for new third-generation networks are still thin on the ground.

The German subsidiary of Vodafone Group will introduce one of the industry's first mobile phones with an integrated mega pixel CCD (charge-coupled device) camera. The camera, Sharp's GX30, offers a resolution of 858 x 1.1 mega pixels.

Additional features include an internal, 18-bit colour display capable of showing up to 262K colours - four times the quality of the GX20 - and support for both Bluetooth and infrared. The phone measures 95mm by 49mm by 26mm and weighs 100g, with a battery that gives users up to 200 minutes of talk time and 220 hours of standby time.

Sony Ericsson will unveil its S700 phone, which has an integrated 1.3 mega pixel CCD digital camera and a 2.3 inch 262K TFT colour screen. The triband GSM-GPRS phone also features a swivel-opening design to support all types of functions. The handset, which measures 108mm by 49mm by 25mm, will be available in the fourth quarter of this year

In addition to the S700, Sony Ericsson is also launching the K700 camera phone with a lower resolution camera, plus a connector device that allows users to send images and audio from their mobile phones to TV sets and digital projectors. The MMV-100, which plugs directly into the TV set or projector, connects to mobile phones via wireless Bluetooth technology. Users can transfer content from their phones to these larger screens by pressing a button.

Meanwhile, Philips will demonstrate a variable-focus lens system capable of focusing on objects and creating sharp pictures in ways similar to the human eye. The new lens does not have mechanical moving parts - which are still used even in high-end digital cameras - but works instead by manipulating two fluids in a tiny transparent tube.

Ideal for small mobile devices, the fluid lens measures 3mm in diameter by 2.2mm in length. It consumes virtually no power.

Siemens will exhibit a prototype phone in the shape of a pen that allows users to write letters and numbers on any surface and enter the data directly into the device. The PenPhone is aimed largely at heavy SMS users. The device is 140mm long with a diameter of 19mm.

Nokia will highlight a product launched last month at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes. The Communicator 9500 is one of the first mobile phones to include Wi-Fi wireless internet connectivity.

The triband GSM phone will support the 802.11b Wi-Fi standard, as well as Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution (Edge) and GPRS data communications technology. It runs on the Nokia Series 80 software platform, which is based on the Symbian operating system.

As for 3G handsets, remarks made by two of the industry's leading players at last month's 3GSM World Congress indicate that users in most European markets may have to wait a bit longer to use the new high-speed mobile service.

At the conference, Vodafone chief executive officer Arun Sarin, said his company would not be able to roll out 3G to the masses until 3G phones are as good as the 2G and 2.5G ones used by millions of customers today. Sarin addeed that the 3G handsets available on the market now are too bulky, get too hot and have a short battery life.

Jorma Ollila, president and CEO of Nokia, said in Cannes that the world's largest mobile phone maker had suffered from a "chicken-and-egg" situation; it had to wait for carriers to build enough stable networks before it could test its devices adequately.

Cebit opens on 18 March and closes 24 March.

John Blau writes for IDG News Service

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