Computerworld

New mobile phones dance across the world stage

Mobile phones unveiled in Barcelona this week will soon make whatever's in your pocket or purse seem dated.

Sony Ericsson's Xperia X1 Takes the Windows Mobile Plunge at the Mobile World Congress.

Barcelona this week was the world showcase for new mobile phones. Due in this year, the Xperia X1 goes where Sony Ericsson has never gone before--into the realm of Windows Mobile. But thanks to a custom interface featuring nine square panels--each of which launches a different application--you might not realize that you're looking at an HSDPA handset based on the Microsoft platform for mobile devices. The X1 is the first entry in Sony Ericsson's new "premium" (read, expensive) Xperia line; future models may be based on other operating systems. But observers say the company chose to stray from its Symbian/UIQ roots to reach out to corporate customers.

Xperia X1's large (3-inch) touchscreen exemplifies another handset trend. But it also lets you navigate via an optical joystick underneath the display. When closed, this Sony Ericsson's metal-finish rear case shows nothing but the lens of its 3.2-megapixel camera. However the X1 does have an unusual design feature: It slides open sideways in a gentle arc to reveal a roomy portrait-mode keyboard. As with other sideways sliders, the display adjusts automatically.

The G700--Another Touching Experience from Sony Ericsson

The G700, another eye-catching touchscreen phone announced by Sony Ericsson, sports an unusual sticky-notes application. Tap the note icon in the upper left, and a new blank note fills the screen. You choose the note's color and screen position, and use the phone's stylus to scribble or draw memos. Sony executives compared this handset to the Post-It-covered Filofaxes of a decade or two ago.

Sony Ericsson's Two Cyber-shot Phones Step Up

The higher-end of two new Cyber-shot phones announced at the Barcelona gathering, the C902 boasts a five-megapixel camera accessed via a new slide-apart design that's touted as able to capture images "within an instant." Other advanced technology includes auto-focus, face detection, flash, and image and video stabilization. The C702 has a 3.5-megapixel camera and geo-tagging features using assisted (by cell technology) GPS, a.k.a. aGPS.

Walkman 980A--A Clamshell You Don't Have to Flip Open

Sony Ericsson's newest Walkman phone is designed to appeal to clamshell aficionados who might not want to see a keypad just to play music: The entire Walkman player interface appears on the exterior. The handset has 8GB of internal memory (same as the current smaller-capacity iPhone), and an FM transmitter to beam music to your car or home stereo receiver.

Samsung Adds Soul to Its Lineup

You can't go anywhere at the Mobile World Congress without seeing huge banners touting Samsung's Soul, the undisputed star of the company's lineup. Checking in at an eyelash over half an inch thick, this super-slim metallic HSDPA (the fast 7.2-megabit-per-second variant) slider phone has a 2.2-inch display with simple icons showing its applications--controls on the a haptics-enhanced OLED navigation touchpad below the display change depending on application. The Soul also packs a 5-megapixel camera with face detection and image stabilization technology, as well as Bang & Olufsen IcePower amplification for music playback.

Samsung's G810: A HSDPA-GPS-Wi-Fi Camera Phone

At seven-tenths of an inch thick, it may look positively chubby next to the Soul, but the Symbian-based G810 does offer a few things the Soul doesn't--most notably Wi-Fi (for when its 3.6-mbps HSDPA isn't fast enough and you're near a hotspot) and assisted (by cell technology) GPS with geo-tagging support. Other goodies in this Symbian handset include a 5-megapixel camera, a 2.6-inch screen, and TV-out port. Another one for the European market only, alas.

Samsung's SGH-400: Speakers at One End, Keypad at the Other

The SGH-400 music phone with its dual slider design. Slide the back up to see some serious-looking features; slide it down for the usual keypad. It too has Bang & Olufsen IcePower audio technology and a 3-megapixel camera (which is almost chintzy in this year's crop).

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Nokia's N96: The Feature List Goes On and On

The successor to the popular N95, Nokia's top-of-the-line N96 proves you can have it all (except touch technology, something Nokia says its working on)--if you're willing to pay for it. The N95 boasts a big (2.8-inch) screen and the connectivity (HSDPA, Wi-Fi, USB 2.0) to encourage MPEG4, Windows Media, or Flash video playback; in areas where DVB-H (technology for live broadcast TV for handhelds) service is available (mostly Europe), the Symbian S60-based N96 can handle that too. This slider phone also has a built-in aGPS receiver (but turn-by-turn directions are an extra-cost option); a five-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics; 16GB of internal flash memory (expandable to 24MB via a MicroSD card slot . . . the list goes on.

Nokia's Value-Priced, Versatile N78

If the N96 is too rich for your blood, take a look at the N78, the next-gen version of the N73. It too brings HSDPA, Wi-Fi and aGPS (with support for geo-tagging of photos) to the table, along with a 3.2-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, a MicroSD card slot that will support up to 8GB of user-added storage, and an FM transmitter for music playback over an available stereo receiver frequency. The 2.4-inch display sits atop a handsome navigation pad and keypad (no sliding required).

Nokia's 6210 Navigator: Good for Walkers and Drivers

Nokia's 6210 Navigator will come bundled with Nokia Maps 2.0, the latest version (now in beta) of the company's mapping service,which has a few neat features you don't see in most GPS handsets. The new Walk component creates turn-by-turn directions for pedestrians on the 2.4-inch screen (in addition to the usual driving directions) and works with the phone's integrated compass and an accelerometer to help keep you on course (systems designed for cars generally don't pick up changes in walking quickly enough to realize you've made a wrong turn, for example). Multimedia city guides are available as an extra-cost download. This HSDPA phone also has a 3.2-megapixel camera and FM stereo receiver.

LG's Flagship KF700 Gets Very Touchy

LG's new handsets are all about touch, which isn't surprising considering such recent touch-screen U.S. arrivals as the Voyager and the Venus. The KF700 combines three input modes: A 3-inch touchscreen display, a hardware shortcut wheel (on the back) that lets you scroll through icons on a virtual dial to access user-defined features, and a slide-down alphanumeric keypad. Functionality can change depending on application: If you're browsing the web, the shortcut dial lets you zoom in and out of pages. This HSDPA phone, with a 3-megapixel camera, is headed for Europe in March.

The LG Venus Goes European

LG's KF600 is basically a GSM version of Verizon's Venus slider, with a touch-enabled, context-sensitive 1.5-inch Interact navigation screen occupying most of the phone's lower half and a 2-inch display on top. What's particularly cool are the Keith Haring themes that span both the top and bottom displays. It's bound for Europe only, however, and it only supports EDGE data speeds (although it has a 3-megapixel camera, compared to the 2-megapixel camera on the Verizon handset).

LG's KF-510 Super Skinny Slider

Most of the phones at Mobile World Congress are between half and three-quarters of an inch thick. But LG's KF-510 is a slider that checks in at 0.43 of an inch--and yet still manages to bundle a 3-megapixel camera, MP3 player, and an FM radio.

Motorola's Z6w Enables Seamless GSM to Wi-Fi Transitions

Having introduced its showy Moto Z10 video-creation and ROKR E8 music phones at CES, Motorola in Barcelona focused mostly on support (via reference designs) for future network technologies such as WiMax and LTE. But there was one newsworthy device announcement: The Moto Z6w, a Linux-Java handset with both GSM/EDGE and Wi-Fi, also incorporates UMA technology that will allow VoIP calls and Web browsing to be handed off between networks (although your carrier may have something to say about how you'll be able to use this technology). You get a 2-megapixel camera, too.