Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mobile Roundup, Mobile World Congress Edition

This was one of the biggest news weeks of the year in the mobile space thanks to the Mobile World Congress trade show. We saw some really cool handsets (Omnia HD is my favorite), nearly everyone jumped on the App Store bandwagon, and Android had a rather disappointing appearance. But some of the news slipped through the cracks, and I'll cover that after the jump.

I-Mate Shows Off Funky Windows Mobile Phones

I-Mate showed off a few Windows Mobile smartphones, and I was particularly taken with the Centurion above. It's about the size of a credit card, will run Windows 6.5 for phones, and will have all the connectivity and multimedia options you'd expect from a smartphone. The company says it's the smallest Windows Mobile phone in the world, and I wouldn't doubt it. While the small size is cool in a novel way, I have to wonder how easy it is to hammer out messages on such a small screen. It's expected in the summer for about $550.

The company also showed off the 810-F, which is a ruggedized smartphone that can withstand rain, dust, and being dropped. It has Wi-Fi, GPS, 3G compatibility, and it'll have a full QWERTY keyboard. Look for it in March for about $700.

Another interesting device is the Legionnaire smartphone that's designed to dock with an ultramobile PC. The Legionnaire is a Windows Mobile touch-screen device that looks like an iPhone, and it docks into the laptop-like "Warrior" -- essentially creating a laptop that runs Windows Mobile. It's kind of a similar concept to Celio's Redfly or the failed Palm Foleo.

(Photo Credit: CNET Asia)

Acer To Offer Free Smartphones?

Acer jumped into the smartphone games with its Tempo line, and I wasn't terribly impressed by it. Sure, it looks fine, and the user interface work its doing could be interesting, but it really seems like a me-too product. But an Acer exec told PC Mag it is trying to get these into store for free with a contract.

"We'll make it a very simple, easy interface … and these will retail at zero dollars," said Aymar de Lencquesaing, Acer's smartphone unit president.

Of course, you'll have to sign a two-year contract with a data plan, but "free" is always a good way to move some units, especially during tough economic times. This aggressive pricing plan means Acer is aiming big, and execs said the company wants to be in the top five in smartphones within five years.

(Photo credit:

LG To Bring Out 12-Megapixel Camera Phone

Sony Ericsson caused a bit of a stir by showing off the Idou smartphone, which packed a ton of multimedia features and a whopping 12-megapixel camera. Unfortunately, the handset won't be hitting the streets until at least 2010. But LG Electronics toldTechRadar it would likely have a 12-megapixel camera phone available by the end of the year.

"We'll very much be releasing a 12-megapixel camera phone," said Jeremy Newing, LG Mobile's head of marketing. "It's the same where you're buying a car; if you've got two equal cars then you'll obviously go for the one with the bigger engine."

We're seeing the cell phone manufacturers engage in somewhat of a megapixel race, and the current high-end standard appears to be about 8 megapixels (as seen in the Nokia N86, Samsung Innov8, and others). Of course, I'm more concerned about the sensor, zooming ability, and photo-editing software on board than the sheer number of megapixels.

INQ's 'Facebook Phone' Wins Best In Show

With all the big players at the trade show, guess who won the award for the best handset? It was little-known INQ Mobile for the INQ 1, which is a relatively cheap phone that has strong integration with Web services like Facebook, Skype,, and Windows Messenger.

I've been desperately trying to get my hands on one of these guys, as I'm really intrigued with INQ as a company. Its goal is to create affordable handsets that leverage Web services -- for example, you could connect to Facebook and use that as your default contact list. You can hop on Skype to avoid using wireless minutes altogether as well. And when I say it's affordable, I mean it: You can buy the INQ 1 in the United Kingdom for about $115 without a contract.

I'll be eagerly awaiting the next generation of this thing. If they can give it a full QWERTY keyboard, Wi-Fi, 3G, and can get it out the door for less than $200 unlocked, I would probably be fine ditching my BlackBerry.

For the record, it beat out the Nokia E71 (which is an incredible device), T-Mobile G1, BlackBerry Storm, and the LG KS360.

Source :