New Handsets Push Features Forward: Motorola V710 launched
We in North America have often complained of the inferiority of the handsets sold here versus those in Asia and Europe, which typically have more features. Even American makers, like Motorola, have been known to pull functions from models for their sale in the US. (ex: a past model shipped to worldwide markets with an Ir port, but in the US the Ir window was on the case, but with no Ir behind it). The reason the US was singled out was usually because customers here were expected not to use the features, or the carriers simply didn’t want the feature. Well, at the CTIA show this week I can see the trend is changing. The US may not be leading the race for modern terminals, but the lag is shrinking. Case in point is the Motorola V710, a CDMA terminal for the US market. The V710 is particularly meaningful because it introduces Bluetooth to CDMA carriers in the US, as well as a camera for pictures and video, an MP3 player, e-mail, BREW, and voice recognition dialing. The phone also introduces a new size of flash memory we expect to see more of in phones: TransFlash. TransFlash is similarly priced to SD, and uses the same protocols, but is substantially smaller. It is being pushed to phone makers as a way of installing permanent memory (no access door) or as user-swappable memory.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I also had a chance to play with the Samsung i550, an update of the PalmOS based i500 for 1xRTT CDMA networks. The i550 model impressed me greatly because it added a 4 directional keypad, dual screens, an SDIO slot, a camera, PalmOS 5.x, multimedia, better button placement and stylus, and more to the already great i500. The only thing missing from my wish list would be an EV-DO radio – but this is no surprise, since SprintPCS is the likely carrier to offer this terminal later this year, and only VZW has a USA EV-DO network. Nokia dipped further into the CDMA waters with a clamshell (unusual for the Finnish company) model 6255 featuring many of the features as the i550 and an FM radio to boot. Sony Ericsson offered the P900, which they’ve been touting at shows for a while, and the new S700 (which I did not get my hands on at the show). The S700, which will be released at the end of the year, uses a swivel hinge to reveal the full keypad, and touts a 1.3MP camera, multi-directional joystick, MP3, Bluetooth, Ir, memory stick duo, 3D gaming, and huge 2.3″ color screen. Unfortunately, the best network you’re going to get with this tri-band is GPRS. I would have hoped for at least EDGE.
With Nokia releasing CDMA clamshells, Bluetooth coming out in CDMA markets, increased features in the US, the near-ubiquity of removable memory, there sure seems to be a blurring of the lines we grown accustomed to in the handset segment. This is all for the better, as it offers greater functionality and consumer choice. Turns out the US market does like features.