While the Fall CTIA Show is, as the "Wireless IT & Entertainment" moniker would suggest, more about business-to-business services than new phones for consumers, I did get to play with some cool handsets yesterday. I also got some interesting insight into the state of the cellular world from folks as diverse as Nokia Execs, the head of Telecom for Deloitte & Touche, and some of my fellow bloggers.
The general consensus is that the line between phones and smartphones is getting blurrier by the minute here in the states. Folks from Nokia pointed out that the working definition of "smartphone" is different in Europe - where people use advanced handsets more for entertainment purposes than in the US where "smartphone" equals "productivity." That may be changing somewhat this holiday season, however, with a bunch of new entertainment and productivity-rich models hitting the stores.
LG showed off the Venus and Voyager, new handsets that should be in Verizon Wireless stores by the end of November. Both models are VCast Music and Video compatible, and the Voyager also works with VCast Mobile Television offerings. And both phones are hot - you can see them in action in the video I posted earlier today.
Something of a successor to the enV, Voyager features horizontal clamshell design - there's a 3" touchscreen display on the outside and a smaller display and full QWERTY keyboard on the inside. A two-megapixel camera and dual stereo speakers make this phone an entertainment monster as much as it is a messaging maven.
Venus, on the other hand, is a slim slider with a large display split into standard and touch-sensitive sections. What's cool about Venus' design is that there's a standard keypad for dialing and texting, but the touchscreen area can be programmed for different application-specific controls. It's an interesting way to raise the tech/feature level without sacrificing much in the way of style or bulk.
LG was also showing the Sprint Rumor, a messaging phone that looks kind of likeLG's F9200 for AT&T. Rumor is interesting - it's a sleek, nice-looking device that marries a small screen to a slide-out QWERTY board, packs a decent feature-set, but doesn't do 3G data speeds. Instead of buzzing along on Sprint's EV-DO network, it's relegated to the slower 1xRTT data path. Rumor will be inexpensive, though - $79 with contract, so it could turn out to be a good choice for messaging addicts on a budget. I tapped a few sentences out on it and generally liked it - I'm looking forward to getting a review model to play with awhile.
Speaking of Sprint, I got a Palm Centro in my paw for the first time and I was pleasantly surprised. Currently available for under $100 with contract, Centro is a total 180 from the old days of big, bulky, PDA phones that screamed "Geek!" Centro is stylish in that "functional" way like Nokias are, and in addition to phone, email, and Web functionality it also supports Sprint TV. And while the QWERTY board on the Centro looks tiny in photos, it actually seemed pretty usable in hand. Even with my giant thumbs.
T-Mobile had their new Sidekicks - the Slide and LX - on display. The LX is also now available for purchase, as well. I liked the Slide's smaller, lighter form factor and new sliding display/keyboard cover. Slide also features a 320 x 240 resolution display to the LX's 400 x 240. Both models also feature cameras and music players.
And while the Nokia booth on the show floor was primarily geared towards showing off their Ovi ecosystem of Web 2.0 services (more on that in another post soon), they did have handsets, too of course. The N95 8GB is slick. Finished in black with a larger LCD display than the original N95, the 8GB model is a total powerhouse. I also checked out the N81 8GB, and came away really impressed by its graphics performance during gaming. Nokia's serious about rebirthing N-Gage, and while the new NGage is a platform and not a specific handset, the N81 was a good choice for showing it off. FIFA soccer, in particular, looked terrific on the S60 slider.
Motorola had the Z6tv and Q9h (amongst others) on display at their booth. The z6tv is a Verizon Wireless slider that supports VZW's MediaFLO-powered VCAST Mobile TV service. What's nice about the Z6tv is that it's the first VCAST TV handset without an ugly external antenna. It's basically a RIZR done up in a nice, black and chrome finish.
The Q9h is the forthcoming GSM variant of Moto's newest smartphone - the Q9m has been available on VZW for awhile now. Aside from with a few cosmetic differences, the big differences are under the hood. Q9h will run Windows Mobile 6 and feature HSDPA support for 3G data along with a 2 MP camera.