Cellphone makers woo talkers with new gizmos

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Cellphone makers woo talkers with new gizmos
In the face of a global slowdown, wireless players hope new-and-improved
technology, updated software will boost sales
February 18, 2009
>From touch-screen cellphones to more powerful software, the wireless
industry is rushing forward with new technology to try to lock down market share, even
as sales of handsets tumble.
The annual fashion extravaganza of the wireless world is a toned-down affair
in Barcelona this week, with fewer attendees and fewer product launches than previous
Mobile World Congress trade shows. But big players from Google Inc. to Microsoft Corp.
and Nokia Corp. to Research In Motion Ltd. are still investing heavily to bring
richer, more powerful features to market.
“They are very conscious about the market this year. All of them, they are expecting
a market slowdown so there is no point to launching high-end devices and
[dropping them] after a quarter or two,” said Francisco Jeronimo of the market
research firm IDC.
With product cycles still turning about every six months, every device maker knows
it has to offer something new just to keep pace with competitors.
“Nokia’s rhetoric against RIM seems more heated than usual with new
messaging devices,”
said Mark Sue of RBC Dominion Securities Inc.
Global sales of mobile devices will likely plummet 20 per cent in the
current quarter from a year earlier, the analyst wrote in a report from the show. But the
downturn isn’t cooling Nokia’s efforts to compete. The world’s largest maker of
cellphones has added predictive text messaging to its latest high-end “E” series
devices. RIM is already using a similar feature called SureType, which predicts words as
users type them, on several of its models, including the BlackBerry Pearl Flip.
Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. is aiming to increase its market share by
adding touch-screen features to all of its new smart phones. The South Korean company is
offering an eight-megapixel camera that can also record high-definition video, and it
introduced a handset that can be charged with solar power. Sony Ericsson, meanwhile, is
boasting a 12.1-megapixel camera on its “Idou” smart phone due later this year.
Google’s new open-source operating system for cellphones won the backing of
Vodafone Group PLC, the world’s largest mobile carrier, which will soon begin selling
a phone from HTC Corp. that runs on the second incarnation of Google’s Android
platform.  The device will launch this spring in several European countries. The first
version of Android was introduced last year, running on an HTC device sold
exclusively by Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile.
Microsoft’s launched its own updated operating system, Windows Mobile 6.5,
which the company says will manage multimedia more effectively than the current
version.  New features include large icons on the screen designed for fingers to
touch. Previous versions had smaller icons created for tapping with a stylus pen, said Tim
McDonough, a senior director at Microsoft.
Perhaps one of the most widely felt developments announced at the trade show
will turn out to be a commitment by at least 17 wireless phone companies and
handset makers to standardize battery chargers by 2012 for most of the
world’s cellphones. The chargers would be interchangeable, making it
possible to power most brands with the same cord.
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About Donna Jodhan

Donna Jodhan is an award winning blind author, advocate, sight loss coach, blogger, podcast commentator, and accessibility specialist.
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