CTIA Wireless: The Class of 2008
CTIA Wireless 2008 is history, but the handsets we saw April 1-3 in Las Vegas are far from it. Here's a look at some of the most interesting cell phones -- some influenced by the red-hot iPhone, some not at all -- slated to appear in the weeks and months to come.
Samsung Instinct: Best of Breed Among iPhone Competitors
The phone everyone was talking about -- the Instinct -- a collaboration between Sprint (which badly needs customers) and Samsung (always interested in cutting-edge design) shapes up as the most serious iPhone wannabe yet.
It has true 3G data support (via Sprint's EVDO network), real (not cleverly triangulated) GPS to support its navigation app, plenty of customization features, the possibility of third-party support via its Java/Brew underpinnings … and, oh yes, did we mention it should significantly undercut the iPhone in price? It's a little thicker and a tad narrower, but it certainly is in the ballpark for those enamored of the iPhone form factor, and it is a touch-screen phone -- with haptics feedback, no less. Could it be an iPhone killer? Maybe not, but given Sprint's intention of spending $100 million to market it, we'll be interested to see how things play out.
Anti-iPhone: The Itsy Bitsy Neo Plays Music and Video Too
I'm not sure it's quite accurate to call Neonode's N2 an iPhone wannabe, given its diminutive size -- it weighs only about 2 ounces and is generally about the shape of a midsize restaurant matchbox. It does have a proprietary touch-screen interface, and support for music and video playback, as well as browsing and e-mail (although with no Wi-Fi or high-speed data support, you might not enjoy the latter tasks -- read Dialed In columnist Grace Aquino's recent review of the N2TEXT). Neonode says it will launch by mid-summer as an unlocked phone, for people who mean it when they say small is beautiful.
Casio's G'z One for Verizon Wireless
Casio bills the G'z (pronounced Geeze, or they'll be very unhappy with you) One as shockproof and waterproof; at the show, they displayed it in a goldfish bowl. There's nothing fancy in terms of mobile broadband here -- just a slightly (but not incredibly) bulky rubberized clamshell that appears to work, even when dripping wet. I also like the way they've made a design minus (the antenna) into a design plus by curving it and turning in to a sort of handle for a lanyard.
The target market would appear to be people who can't wait to make a phone call after surfing or scuba diving -- or who are just pool accident-prone. The G'z One is supposed to be available from Verizon Wireless in June for about $100.
A RAZR-Slim Slider from Motorola
The Moto Z9, expected to appear midmonth on AT&T Wireless, is a slider designed in the skinny tradition of Motorola's hit superslim RAZR clamshell, with support for AT&T's high-speed HSDPA/UMTS network and assisted-GPS technology to power AT&T's navigation service (it has AT&T's brand now but is basically just good ol' TeleNav). The Z9 will be the first Motorola handset to support AT&T's application for sharing video in real time between handsets. Expect to pay $250 (with a two-year contract, before any mail-in rebates).