CES and MacWorld may have marked the official transition of mobile handsets in the U.S. from "phones" to "portable computers." Multimedia-centric designs and features, touchscreens that morph into different interfaces to match the current application, and hardware as suited to music and imaging as it is to phone calls and messaging: Get ready for the next generation of mobile multimedia and connectivity. Here are the 5 phones I can't wait to get my hands on, some just released and others coming soon:
1. Apple iPhone
Now that it's real, it's at the top of my list. Apple knows how to create buzz like no other, and they know how to do user interfaces like nobody else, too. Though the debate already rages over whether or not the iPhone - with its lack of 3G data and 3rd-party application support - is a true smartphone or not, its next-gen multitouch interface, slick form factor, and "Widescreen iPod" capabilities might just shake up the cellular marketplace when it hits stores this June. $499 and a two-year service agreement is a lot to ask, but it's my journalistic duty to try it, right?
2. Motorola ROKR E6
The poor man's iPhone? It's not quite fair to Motorola to tag the newest ROKR with that "wanna be" moniker, but the E6 does share some features with Apple's forthcoming handset. There's the long, wide, flat form factor. There's the touchscreen and new user interface. There's the music-centric design and integrated 3.5mm stereo headset jack. There's the two-megapixel camera. Though it's not intended for the US market, this GSM handset is available now through ebay and various importers.
3. LG Shine
I'm usually more of a sucker for features and specs than straight-up design, but when I saw Shine at CES I wanted one immediately, whatever the specs. So much sexier than Chocolate, Shine looks like a sleek silver mirror until you touch it - then the OLED display "emerges" from behind the mirrored front. LG gave Shine a UI equally as beautiful as its body, and a nifty scroll wheel to get you around its features. While no plans were revealed for a stateside launch, Shine's too pretty not to make it to the US eventually.
4. HTC Athena
While a "phone" with a 5" touchscreen, internal hard drive, and detachable QWERTY keyboard might sound like a Frankenstein-esque nightmare waiting to happen, HTC has a way of building smartphones that pack everything but the kitchen sink but still remain usable and portable. While the Athena - recently launched in Europe as the T-Mobile Ameo - isn't necessarily "pocket friendly," it may just bridge the gap between smartphone and ultraportable computer. With a 624 MHz processor, 8GB hard drive and miniSD slot, 3 MP camera, and 3G and GPS on board, the Athena could be a glimpse into the future of cellular-based computing.
5. Nokia N95
Still the King of Cameraphones, the N95 didn't disappoint when I got the chance to try it out at CES. Featuring integrated GPS backed by some slick maps software, the dual-sliding, 5 megapixel, WiFi-sporting N95 will be the king of multimedia phones when it goes on sale ... any day now. While the Series 60 interface isn't new, it's still a solid smartphone platform well-suited to handling the flagship Nokia's many talents.