Inventive Prototypes Stretch Mobile Phones Bounds

Pen phones, intelligent phones and a wave of clamshell designs flood CTIA Wireless trade show in Atlanta, with Siemens and Samsung standing out.

ATLANTA—At the CTIA Wireless trade show here this week, its all about the phones. Both the usual suspects and unusual newcomers rolled out new models for the world to see.

As I looked over all of the handsets coming out, a few trends emerged. First, a move toward clamshell designs echoes users demand for them. Both Siemens AG and Nokia Corp. proudly rolled out their first clamshell units. Why clamshell? Because as phones get smaller and lighter, a fold-out unit is easier to hold and more closely matches where our ears and mouths are on our heads.

Were also moving beyond simple, small photo phones. I saw a number of phones with more than CIF- or VGA-size CCDs, with some well over a megapixel. But more than still images, video will begin to take center stage later this year.

More smartphones, beefy devices that combine PDA with phone, made their debuts, running on Symbian, Palm and Microsofts SmartPhone for Windows OS. My nod for creativity and volume, though, goes to Symbian for its phones. I didnt see a single new Microsoft-based phone and spotted only one new Palm device.

The sweet spot of the market, though, appears to be intelligent phones, running J2ME or Brew, that are capable of downloading small games and other applications. I had dinner with Trip Hawkins, CEO of new mobile content company Digital Chocolate, and he gave me an interesting perspective on the market. Within two or three years, he predicted, there will be two billion application-ready phones in the world. These devices wont be smart phones but will be able to download and run applications. Thats a pretty amazing market.

What follow are some of the more interesting phones, along with commentary on how they really work.

Next Page: Siemens shows off a pen phone with handwriting recognition.