Hollywood-style razzmatazz heralded the arrival of a new batch of mobile handsets, writes Lia Timson.
All the talk might be about the new iPhone 3G S but there are plenty of cool mobiles on the way that demonstrate some dazzling innovation from the other handset makers. Features like gesture-style gaming (think Nintendo Wii) and a 12.1-megapixel camera will be among some of the features arriving in mobiles in the second half of this year.
A collection of mobile manufacturers unveiled their latest phones at the glamour-studded CommunicAsia 2009 event held this month in Singapore.
Some mobiles will bring real innovations to the handset market such as Sony Ericsson's new gesture gaming phones that let you box or do yoga in front of them and LG's GD900 Crystal that can recognise symbols and handwriting on its transparent alphanumeric keypad.
Other makers like Nokia and Samsung are ramping up the touch functions, screen resolution and speed of smartphones to ensure people who use their device primarily for work don't miss out on iPhone-like features. Samsung's new Jet is one new model that looks impressive in this category. Its screen resolution is four times higher than previous Samsung models and it has a new user interface that supports motion, customisable widgets, multitasking and simultaneous downloads.
The user interface experience is also the focus of LG's new models based on the company's proprietary 3D cube menu launched earlier in the year. Instead of lists of icons or fixed widgets, the cube spins at the swipe of a finger so the user can manipulate the entire menu. One touch of any icon and it zooms on a category, such as multimedia or photo gallery and opens a fuller sub-menu. This makes it easier to navigate and customise the phone.
Of the three LG models, the Viewty Smart carries an 8-megapixel camera (the previous model was 5 megapixels) made all the more intuitive with automatic photo adjustment of subject, light and background. The second model, GM730, is a smartphone that claims to make the Windows Mobile operating system and multimedia features more cohesive and easier to access because of close collaboration with Microsoft.
The aforementioned LG GD900 Crystal has a keypad that doubles as a touchpad. It can be configured to flick to music, phone, contacts and other functions just by using finger-drawn symbols. This gives you a simple, one-command shortcut to all the phone offers, which saves you pressing buttons. It also recognises handwriting but it appears very slow compared with typing text messages and notes the old-fashioned way.
Sony Ericsson unveiled three phones that demonstrate a close collaboration with Sony Pictures, Sony Music and PlayStation 3, in addition to Sony Cybershot cameras and Walkman, which are features of previous models. The Satio, Aino and Yari handsets each come with free content, such as three full-length feature films or three music videos or three PlayStation 3 games, chosen from a library of hundreds. In future, users will be able to buy additional content on the same day as it is released on DVD, effectively turning mobile phones into personal film distribution devices.
The Satio, announced earlier this year as Idou, is the company's star attraction. It boasts an incredible 12.1-megapixel camera capable of producing professional-quality shots but its product planner, Maiko Ishida, says it is not just a phone attached to a Cybershot camera.
"We want to provide the most perfect [photo] quality we can but it's not only about the camera, I don't want to limit myself," she says, turning the phone over and demonstrating the media player, user-interface and multitasking capabilities.
The Satio's biggest promise is a feast for your eyes based on the 3.5-inch 16:9 format screen. It is ready for movies, television and games and looks and sounds impressive. The phone is also tilt-sensitive, like the Samsung Jet and the iPhone, so gaming is a bit more fun.
Aino, on the other hand, focuses more on music and comes complete with Media Go, Sony Ericsson's iTunes-like software, which transfers, backs up and organises audio and image files between phones and PCs. Media Go has just arrived in Australia with the new Walkman phone W995 and, like the upcoming SamsungLive software, it should come as a relief to people currently struggling with keeping their digital life in some sort of order. It will be built into all new entertainment models. You can also stream content from a PC to the Aino over Wi-Fi using add-on software.
The Yari has more modest screen and performance ambitions but it is designed with fun in mind. It brings gesture-gaming to mobile phones for the first time outside Japan, allowing those already hooked on the competing Nintendo Wii platform to get their exercise and sports fix on the road. Games demonstrated by Sony Ericsson include boxing, tennis and yoga.
The LG phones arrive in Australia from July. The Sony Ericsson W995 is available now, while the three Sony Ericsson entertainment phones will start arriving in October. There is no set arrival date for the Samsung Jet.
Lia Timson attended CommunicAsia 2009 as a guest of Sony Ericsson.