What's new in the wireless world
Seattle Times technology reporter
At one of the largest wireless shows in the U.S. last week, plenty of gadgets were on display to make the tech-savvy salivate.
Typically, lots of cutting-edge phones grab the spotlight at CTIA Wireless, an event thrown by the wireless association with the same name (the name spells out to Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association), but this year there was also buzz around what people can do with their phones — other than talk, that is.
So, in addition to the usual line-up of phones that flip, spin, fold and fit in a pair of tight designer jeans, mobile applications highlighted the show. Here are some of top attractions that nearly 40,000 attendees and 1,000 exhibitors converged on Las Vegas to demonstrate and see.
LG Bluetooth Style-i
This piece of technology is actually a sign of how far the wireless industry still has to go, but for now, it works as a pretty good patch.
The Bluetooth Style-i looks like a wand or a fat pen that allows you to make and receive calls when you are away from your phone.
If you don't get good reception in the kitchen, leave the phone near the front door and bring the Style-i with you. It uses short-range Bluetooth to communicate with your handset and comes with an earbud and a lanyard so you can hang it around your neck. It works for up to 33 feet.
Verizon Wireless started offering this device last week for $129.
This phone is as close to an iPod as you're going to get.
The clamshell design sports a blue and white motif on the outside with buttons and navigation that look strikingly similar to the iPod's scroll wheel.
But it's the software and applications inside that make it even better than an iPod. It comes loaded with an FM transmitter, meaning it can pair with a car or home stereo and play music through those speakers. Although that's one of the coolest features, it also has a piano application that allows you to use the keypad to play a song. The song, perhaps a poor rendition of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," can then be set as your ringtone.
The phone uses CDMA technology provided by Verizon Wireless and Sprint, and comes loaded with the high-speed EV-DO version. No word on which carrier will sell it or at what price, but it's set to come out in the next two months.
Sony Ericsson W810
This is the phone that America has been waiting for. Many of Sony Ericsson's high-end phones are sold around the world and are available here, but they are not technically engineered for the U.S. The W810 is and comes with necessary radios to work with the airwaves commonly used in the U.S.
This phone, which is black with orange trim, is quad-band and runs on the fairly speedy EDGE network. The handset is made for music and has a designated Walkman button. It comes with 512 megabits of removable memory, which can be upgraded to 2 gigabytes. It also has a 2 megapixel camera. The phone is set to start shipping this spring; the price has not been disclosed.
Sony Ericsson Portable Speakers MPS-60
The natural pairing for the W810 is the MPS-60, or two mini-speakers that can be attached by a wire. The speakers are as portable as your phone since they run off of the phone's battery. At $60, the MPS-60 is the cheapest of the line, which also includes two larger, higher-end versions that use batteries or plug into the wall.
Sony Ericsson K790
If Sony Ericsson's answer to music is the W810, its picture-phone star is the K790. This "velvet black" phone is also built for the North American market.
The handset is the first from Sony Ericsson to carry the Sony Cybershot digital camera brand, meaning it is more camera than phone.
The 3.2 megapixel digital camera comes with autofocus and Xenon flash.
One of features called BestPic allows you to take nine pictures back-to-back, so you will never catch someone with his eyes closed again.
The pictures can be printed directly from the phone when connected by USB cable to a capable printer.
The phone comes with software that allows users to create and update personal blogs with a few clicks.
The phone will be available in the next two months with an undisclosed carrier and price.
Motorola H5 Miniblue
Accessories were also hot at the show, with many attendees sporting flashing blue ear buds that connected to their phones wirelessly using Bluetooth technology.
The Motorola Miniblue is likely the smallest of all the ear jewelry. The piece, which measures 33 by 41 millimeters, fits comfortably in the ear.
What's amazing is that instead of having a microphone pointed at your mouth, this headset uses your ear canal to pick up vibrations of your voice.
Because of its petite size, the battery lasts for only 1.5 hours of talk time. With a portable charging base, users can chat for up to 7.5 hours. It is expected to be available by June.
Kyocera Rear-View Mirror
Another common Bluetooth accessory makes it easy to turn your Ford Taurus into a BMW. OK, not really, but face it: Most BMWs come with Bluetooth these days and Ford Tauruses don't.
But now, and in many cases for less than $100, a little device the size of a tape recorder can be mounted to your visor to give you hands-free talking.
In this case, the device is a rear-view mirror that mounts directly over your standard mirror.
It provides not only the anti-glare feature, but also speaker phone, caller-ID and echo- and noise-cancellation functionality.
No word on price.
The device should be out around June.
One of T-Mobile USA's big pushes is the idea of personalization — your phone should reflect your style.
The Bellevue company was at the show to reveal its new line of color Pebls by Motorola.
The standard black Pebl looks like a stone smoothed by the ocean's waves, but it will be available next month in celery, pumpkin and teal colors.
The color ones follow a magenta Razr that T-Mobile started selling last year. They did so well that one out of every five Razr's that T-Mobile sold in the last three months of the year was magenta, the company said.
During CTIA, one of the more interesting announcements wasn't about a phone at all.
Cingular Wireless, InfoSpace and MySpace.com announced a partnership that allows undiscovered talents to create and sell their own ringtones.
The service, called Cingular Mobile Music Studio, allows budding artists to upload their tunes to create ringtones that can be heard and purchased on MySpace, the popular social-networking site.
During the show, the band Shifter launched a ringtone based on its "Butter" single. After nine days, the ringtone had already been previewed 11,800 times. Check out the program at www.myspace.com/cingularstudio.
Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company