Cell phones and other mobile devices: What's expected at CES

Consumer Reports News: January 06, 2007 03:04 PM

Phones will continue their march to Swiss Army Knife status this year, with more models that do far more than just voice and texting (and photos, and video, and email).

Here are some of the developments I'll be watching for:

  • Phones that are even thinner and smaller overall. Average size has dropped from 7.5 cu. in. to 6.5 cu. in. in just the last six months. We expect that trend to continue in the 2007 models.
  • Better, more plentiful TV content for the mobile screen. Verizon and T-Mobile will be the first carriers to debut phones that can display 30 fps-video content on their tiny screens via MediaFLO. Unlike current TV-content offerings like MobiTV, which use the cellular network, MediaFLO is a separate network expressly designed for carrying video. One issue our testing will have to explore: Will the MediaFLO receiver shorten the phones' talk time? (Many phones already supply power to two other radios: one for cellular service and the other for Bluetooth.)
  • Your phone as a tour guide or Big Brother. You'll see more phones (and other devices) that can access GPS-based services to help you find your way around town, locate a child, or notify you when a buddy is in your area. Services will range from $3-$4 per day to $10 to $20 per month.
  • More smart phones. Cell-phone makers will be flooding the market with affordable versions of the smart phones used by business people. Designed for consumers, these new models, debuted this year via the Blackberry Pearl, Motorola Q and others, have advanced e-mail capabilities and high-speed network access, but lack the touch screens and PIM software found on more expensive models. They're also more phone-like in size and appearance.
  • More music phones, including possibly an iPod phone. Verizon and Sprint will be trotting out more phones capable of downloading songs from their online stores, while Cingular has also finally launched its own music service. So far, consumers have largely turned a deaf ear toward music downloads. But that may change if Apple introduces its own  phone at MacWorld.
  • Higher-resolution phone cameras. VGA and 1-megapixel camera phones are practically standard. But we may see one or two 5-megapixel models as well.
  • One phone for home and beyond. T-Mobile will be introducing new phones that seamlessly switch between cellular and VoIP service to ensure you never miss a call. The hitch: You have to buy VoIP service from T-Mobile.

Mike Gikas, telecom and mobile reporter 

Marc Perton


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