3GSM World Congress 20063GSM World Congress 2006 (Part 1)
14 February 2006 Reported by Albert Malik
Another year, another trade show, this time the 3GSM World Congress being held at Barcelona in Spain from the 13th to 16th of February. Barcelona you wonder? For many years the show has been held in Cannes, France, but the event has grown so large over that time that a bigger exhibition venue was needed. With eight halls and 962 companies signed up and exhibiting their wares, the 3GSM show has an astounding 40 per cent more exhibitors than last year, and the operators are expecting 50,000 show-goers to attend.
And as always, the 3GSM show is used by many mobile-related companies, manufacturers and network operators alike, to make new announcements that take our breath away. This year was no exception, with a slew of announcements made in the first day of the show.
As usual, Sony Ericsson has announced a small number of phones, but ones that have set the industry ablaze.
Sony Ericsson W950i: The latest in the Walkman line of phones, the W950i is a 3G/GSM device based on the recently announced M600i business phone, but sports a regular numeric keypad instead of the QWERTY keypad of its business sibling. The killer feature is four gigabytes of flash memory, thrusting it right into the iPod Nano’s arena. Other features include a 2.6 inch QVGA touch-screen, Bluetooth with A2DP stereo headset support, FM radio, Symbian 9.1 with UIQ 3.0 operating system and Opera 8.0 web browser. There is no camera however. The W950i should start shipping from the third quarter of this year.
Sony Ericsson K610i: A candybar handset to succeed the K600i, the K610i is a 3G W-CDMA device with the functionality of the K750i. That means a two megapixel camera with autofocus, Memory Stick Micro (M2) card slot, Bluetooth, a Netfront HTML web browser and USB 2.0 mass storage support. Oddly, the Disc2Phone music ripping software normally reserved for the Walkman phones is included too. It’s expected in the second quarter.
Sony Ericsson J100: An entry-level, dual-band GSM candybar phone focused on voice calls and SMS. Without even a phone-based contacts list (uses SIM memory only), the best feature this handset has is polyphonic ringtones. This is clearly a phone designed to be just that – a phone. It should be available in the second quarter.
Sony Ericsson HBH-DS970: A Bluetooth stereo headset compatible with the A2DP profile, Sony Ericsson is promoting the DS970 as the perfect headset to use with the above-mentioned W950i. It can be paired with multiple devices at once, and you can even listen to music through it from a computer or music player while still answering a phone call that comes through. Available from the second quarter.
Sony Ericsson have only made two other announcements so far. The first is the launch of new software developed with partners for their Symbian UIQ 3.0 phones, such as the P990 and M600. 11 partners are covered in the announcement, and these partners have developed software that can do anything from being a travel organiser to a dictionary application that scans words using the phone’s camera. Sony Ericsson also announced their intention to work with Nokia to make their future DVB-H digital TV-enabled handsets interoperable with each other, an important step in the development of the TV specification.
The world’s biggest phone manufacturer made some new phone announcements, consisting of mainly middle-range handsets, although one ground-breaking one was in the lineup.
Nokia 6136: A clamshell, quad-band GSM handset with built-in WiFi and UMA technology for seamless roaming between the two networks standards. It’s the first handset with UMA technology. Also features a 1.8 inch, 128x160 pixel screen with 262,144 colours, a 1.3 megapixel camera, FM radio and microSD memory card slot. It will be initially launched by Orange in Europe in the second quarter.
Nokia 6131: Another clamshell but with a 16.7 million colour QVGA resolution (240x320) screen. It’s a quadband GSM (850/900/1800/1900) device with GPRS and EDGE data support, and features a 1.3 megapixel camera, microSD memory, Bluetooth, Push To Talk and Nokia’s Xpress Audio messaging solution. It will come out in the second quarter.
Nokia 6070: This is a triband GSM phone in a candybar shape, with somewhat lower specifications. A VGA camera, CSTN 128x160 pixel screen, 3.7 megabytes of internal memory and no Bluetooth highlight this, but the 6070 does have an FM radio, Push-To-Talk and EDGE support. It will be available from the second quarter.
Nokia has also made an announcement with Vodafone to jointly work to improve the use of the S60 operating system in Vodafone’s handset portfolio. The main development from this announcement is a plan to create Vodafone-specific software to be used in their S60 devices. Apart from this no other technical details were given.
Perhaps the big announcement from Motorola was that of a deal with Microsoft to license Windows Media in future Motorola handsets. This means support for Windows Media DRM (digital rights management), the Media Transfer Protocol and other components of Microsoft’s Windows Media technology to allow full support for protected and non-protected Windows Media files on Motorola handsets. Music bought from Windows Media compatible stores via a PC can be transferred to Motorola handsets, and the two companies plan to work with operators to provide music download services based on Windows Media. After the failed alliance between Motorola and Apple, and the farce that was the ROKR E1 with its 100 song limit, this new development sees Motorola working together with one of Apple’s biggest rivals.
Motorola also announced a few new handsets.
Motorola W220: An entry level GSM clamshell with built in FM radio. The W220 has a 600 entry contact list and supports basics such as 128x128 pixel colour screen, SMS, MMS and dualband GSM. It will be available from the third quarter of this year.
Motorola V195: A new clamshell that builds on the previously announced V190. Changes include an internal antenna and Bluetooth support. Previous features include a 128x160 pixel colour display, 10 megabytes of memory and some of the longest battery times known: 624 minutes talk time and 525 hours standby. Availability should be from the second quarter.
Motorola L2: A slim candybar handset based on the SLVR L7, the L2 was announced early last year, but has only made it to market now. Features a 128x160 pixel screen, MP3 player and 10 megabytes of memory in an 85 gram package. The L2 is shipping now in Europe, although there’s no word on when we’ll receive it in Australia.
Motorola also announced i-mode versions of the SLVR L6 and L7 thin candybars, and has told the press that the CDMA-based Q smartphone will be made as a 3G UMTS version from the fourth quarter of the year. Motorola hasn’t forgotten the faster version of W-CDMA, HSDPA, with a prototype RAZR V3x on display achieving download speeds of 3.6mbps. Finally, they announced the H350 Bluetooth headset, supporting Bluetooth 2.0 with enhanced data rate (EDR) support.
Samsung never ceases to impress at 3GSM, again launching a multitude of new handsets with differing sets of technology. Possibly the biggest focus of Samsung is mobile TV, with the company showing off many different handsets. The P900 supports the proprietary T-DMB digital TV standard (currently used only in South Korea) and can have its flip rotated 90 degrees to a horizontal position for TV viewing. There’s also a two megapixel camera, 2.2 inch QVGA TFT screen, music player, Bluetooth and document viewer application. It should go on sale in the second quarter, which doesn’t give Samsung much time to get a digital TV network based on DMB going in Europe. However, it says it’s operating trials with multiple operators in Europe, so there is a good chance that they will make it in time. Samsung is also exhibiting phones aimed at their home Korean market with many combinations of DMB support, many of them including the ‘world first’ title in front. These include the B4100, with dual S-DMB (satellite) and T-DMB (terrestrial) TV support; the B340 slim DMB phone; and the B380 with five megapixel camera and TV support. Samsung did also show off a handset with DVB-H support instead of DMB, the P910.
The SGH-Z560 HSDPA phone is also on display, supporting 1.8mbps download speeds. The main difference between this and other HSDPA handsets on display is that this isn’t a prototype; the Z560 is ready to go and will be on sale from Vodafone in Europe by the end of the second quarter, hopefully with a running HSDPA network to take advantage of the extra speed.
While Samsung didn’t announce any more handsets at 3GSM, they had many of their previously announced models on hand, particularly the super-thin lineup. Phones such as the Windows Mobile 5 based i320 with QWERTY keyboard. The Z510 and Z540 slim 3G clamshells; the D800 and D820 slim GSM sliders; the credit card-sized P300, the Z710 3G clamshell with 3.2 megapixel camera, FM radio and microSD slot, and many more Z series 3G phones. They’re all there, in true Samsung fashion.