For a show that was "light on news," it still took me the entire weekend and Monday after getting home from CTIA Las Vegas 2009 to edit and post all of the video footage I took at the event. CTIA comes at something of an odd time for the US cellular market, as it's both very close on the heels of Mobile World Congress, at which many manufacturers launch their flagship products for the year, and it's too early for the traditional Summer new product push here in the States.
Still, each April we mobile tech types gather in the desert to see what's new in the land of mobile products and services, and to catch up and network with folks we rarely get to see. This year's Vegas show afforded me hands-on time with a dozen or so new devices (some of which were US-branded versions of phones already launched abroad), and plenty of time to meet, shmooze, and catch up with everyone from fellow bloggers to wireless company executives to CEOs of software companies big and small.
So what was newsworthy at CTIA this year?
Still waiting on Palm Pre and the next Android phone
Palm and Sprint sequestered a few Pres away in a meeting room turned "VIP Lounge" off of the show floor. While I got demos of a few new Pre apps, including an emulator for legacy Palm OS apps, media and analysts still weren't allowed to hold or play with the phone ourselves. No launch date or pricing info, either. I honestly love the folks I know at both Palm and Sprint, but this is getting frustrating.
Meanwhile, the MWC launch of HTC's Android-Powered "Magic" handset on European carrier Vodafone had me salivating over the prospect of a similar device launching on T-Mobile USA at CTIA. Nope. Nothing new in the way of Android devices in Vegas except rumors, rumors, rumors: Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, and even Huawei are all set to launch Android devices this year. Supposedly.
Netbooks, Netbooks, Everywhere
While the show was light on high-profile new phones for US carriers, there was lots of talk about *other* connected devices coming to the states later this year. Verizon and AT&T have both been talking about selling 3G-equipped Netbooks using the subsidized model common to new handset purchases. AT&T talked about a possible $49 with two-year agreement price point for a Dell Mini Netbook, Verizon had an early prototype of a new version of their Hub - the all-in-one home phone/Web/messaging center featured on a recent episode of Gossip Girl. AT&T also talked a lot about wanting to get most every piece of consumer electronics possible online via an embedded cellular radio, a concept that Sprint and Verizon have also been talking about as of late.
Speaking of Netbooks, Asus showed off their latest models while Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm showed off their latest chipsets in netbook and MID (internet tablet) prototypes. Samsung also launched Mondi, a WiMax/WiFi tablet computer that will be on sale in the US later this year. WiMax, LTE, and HD Video were the buzzwords of the week in Netbook land.
Nationwide, High-Speed, Contract-Free Service
Zer01 Mobility soft-launched their new $70/month, unlimited voice and data service for unlocked GSM devices. They've got some magic combination of VoIP software and four million roaming agreements that they say will get you unlimited voice and 3G data all across America for $69.95 per month. I'm eager to try this out. Meanwhile, more than one of my fellow media types was spotted with a Cricket EV-DO dongle plugged into his laptop's USB port. $40/month for unlimited data with no contract? And it works? Sweet. Apparently it doesn't quite work as well as Verizon's more expensive, need-a-contract plan, but it's a big step in the right direction. Enough of the mandatory two year commitments, already - people who already have equipment just want speedy, reliable dumb pipes for voice and data. Looks like we may finally be getting them.
AT&T Launches Phones, T-Mobile Launches Just One, and Sprint and Verizon Don't at All
AT&T launched a six-pack of Spring handsets two days before CTIA started. T-Mobile launched a single device, an entry-level Nokia phone. Sprint and Verizon launched exactly zero new phones between them.
On the one hand, yawn. On the other hand, Nokia's e71x (AT&T) may finally get Symbian S60 some love in the US with its combination of excellent hardware and a very attractive $99 price point. Also, Samsung's Impression and LG's Xenon brought some stylish touchscreen love to AT&T's messaging phone lineup.
And the lack of US carrier releases at the show just means there's all that much more to be excited about come late Spring and Summer ... right?