Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The perfect cell phone

I think the perfect cell phone was the Star Trek Communicator.

Think about it. It could communicate over insanely long distances, and under any kind of weather conditions. It worked inside buildings, in caves and tunnels, anywhere.

A couple of new phones on the market now are coming closer to offering the type of universal communication that was previously only available in science fiction.

In the fall of last year, Samsung introduced its first WiMax-enabled cell phone. This do-everything phone has three hinged pieces, which when opened fully, offer a full QWERTY keyboard, 5-inch WVGA screen, and a 30-GB hard drive, plus the usual extras like an mp3 player, camera, and video.

If you're tired of squinting at the tiny letters on your cell-phone's display, then Telecom Italia has a phone for you. Working with Polymer Vision, they have introduced a cell phone with a unique rollable display. As shown in the photo to the left, the display is larger than the handset itself, and offers readability similar to printed paper. Rollable color screens are planned for future models.

As part of its multi-million-dollar WiMax gamble set for a 2008 launch, Sprint recently introduced its first WiMax-enabled phone, as well as a sports and entertainment "network" known as Sprint Power View with daily video news clips. Access to the network will be on a subscription basis, with basic voice packages starting at $30 a month, with unlimited access to Power View as an add-on cost of $15 to $25 per month. In addition, Sprint is exploring a number of avenues to bring WiMax coverage indoors. According to Bin Shen, Sprint-Nextel's VP of Broadband, in an article for unstrung.com, Sprint "is examining a number of WiFi options--from small cells that link to the Internet over Ehternet cable to more standard cellular-style distributed antenna systems. 'It depends on the situation,' says Shen. 'There is no kind of uniform way that we can do this.'"

However, if Sprint is able to strike gold on some of its indoor WiMax claims, then it could become a significant competitor to traditional WiFi providers--since Sprint could offer blazing-fast connections three to five times faster than WiFi at the same cost.

Other new phones offer even more goodies. For example, the Nokia 6131 can be used as a wireless credit card, transferring payment information to pads at certain retail stores. Other "smartphones" will have Windows-like interfaces, which will allow users to run several applications at the same time, without having to close any of them.

Beam me up, Scotty.

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