Mobile Phones: Birth of the Third Generation

Opinion: 3G is here and, at last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it looked like 2005 is the year of EVDO.

Verizon kicked the US mobile phone market into the third generation at CES this year, lighting up 32 cities with high-speed data services and announcing three handsets. And thats just the tip of the EVDO (Evolution-Data Only) iceberg; every manufacturer we saw, from Samsung to Motorola to oddball Chinese firms like Amoi, was showing off a high-speed data phone front and center.

So what?

Verizon thinks consumers will flock to their new VCAST high-speed consumer EVDO service to watch video clips on the run. They also mumbled something about gaming, but when it comes down to it, music videos, sports scores and spinoffs of "24" are the Big New Thing thats supposed to drag millions of Americans over to the next generation network.

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Were skeptical. Phone menus are still too complicated to use many handsets data functions – though voice-recognition firm VoiceSignal is working on solving that problem with products like Samsungs innovative dictation-phone.

In his Thursday keynote, Motorola exec Ron Garriques said new digital mobile services should grow out of, well, analog analogs. Note passing becomes text messaging. Talking becomes calling. Standing around with your friends trying to figure out what movie to go to becomes wireless Internet-based movie listings. In that paradigm, were not sure where video clips fit in.

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