Saturday, February 14, 2009

Smartphones To Take Center Stage At Mobile World Congress

The mobile phone industry as a whole is expected to contract in 2009 for only the second time in its existence, and headlines have been filled with quarterly losses and layoffs. While it may be impossible to avoid the specter of the global economic slowdown, next week's GSMA Mobile World Congress should have enough new hardware are services to get businesses and consumers excited.

The market as a whole could decline by as much as 10%, but smartphones will continue to see tremendous growth over the next few years. The major manufacturers will have a full slate of new smartphones at the show that will take advantage of this rising consumer demand.

Many consumers are still taking a wait-and-see approach with Google (NSDQ: GOOG)'s open source Android platform because users haven't had a good look at other handsets besides the T-Mobile G1. With multiple Android handsets expected to be released in 2009, Mobile World Congress could be Android's coming-out party.

HTC will reportedly show the sequel to the G1, and it will likely ditch the slide-out keyboard for a full-touch interface. Huawei, Lenovo, and Sony Ericsson may also have smartphones with Google's mobile operating system.

Motorola (NYSE: MOT) could be an interesting player on the Android front, as the struggling manufacturer has focused many of its resources toward a handset with Google's OS. The company is still struggling to find a hit on par with its Razr phone, and it's reportedly prepping an Android-powered device that has strong social networking features.

Samsung was expected to have at least one Android smartphone at the show, but it recently said its handsets would be delayed until the second half of the year. The company will likely focus on handsets like the UltraTouch, the Acme i8910, as well as the revamped TouchWiz user interface.

The world's leading cell phone manufacturer is also expected to have a big show, and Nokia (NYSE: NOK) is sure to unveil a few handsets. Retailer Expansys already unveiled the full details of the E75 smartphone, and the Symbian device will have a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, assisted GPS, Wi-Fi, 3G, and a 3.2-megapixel camera. Nokia will share more details on its touch-screen N97, and rumors persist that the cell phone manufacturer will be bringing out an online store for distributing mobile applications wirelessly.


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