Phones To Watch, And One That Is A Watch
LAS VEGAS -- Palm's Prē smartphone has drawn an enormous amount of attention here -- scroll down for more details about it -- but it's not the only noteworthy phone-related news at CES.
Microsoft's Windows Mobile software is running on a wide variety of smartphones on display -- most of which cover up the usual WM interface with simpler, more stylish software. Many of these devices also include Opera's browser in place of the woefully obsolete Internet Explorer Mobile.
Microsoft has taken the hint: It's developing a new version of that browser, Internet Explorer Mobile 6, that no longer chokes on full-sized pages and includes a lightweight version of Adobe's Flash Player. A copy running on a Palm Treo Pro seemed to have no problem displaying a particularly complex page -- the Gizmodo comparison of phone browsers that gave the current IE version an F- grade.
Microsoft also says it's working on an update to the awkward experience of installing add-on programs, but hasn't revealed any details about it. Product manager Greg Sullivan would only say that "We are looking to make it easier."
BlackBerry manufacturer Research In Motion plans to launch its own improved program installer, the Application Storefront, in March. But it wasn't demonstrating this at its booth, instead using most of its space to showcase a variety of add-on software -- plus the Curve 8900, a phone that T-Mobile will start selling in February. Its screen has the same high 480-by-360-pixel resolution and upgraded Web browser as the BlackBerry Storm, but sticks with the traditional BlackBerry design.
At LG's exhibit, the phone to check out is one built into a watch. The company says this device, about half an inch thick, will ship sometime in the second half of this year and run on GSM networks. It includes a touchscreen, voice dialing and a camera that allows for two-way videoconferencing; you'll be able to hold it up to your face, Dick Tracy-style, or you should be able to use any Bluetooth headset.
Contrary to my expectations, Android phones beyond the T-Mobile G1 have not made an appearance here. An LG rep told me that the company was working on an Android phone that might be ready to show off at the CTIA conference this spring.
Now about the Prē... here are answers to some of the questions in the comments on my earlier report:
* No, this phone can't run existing Palm applications. I suppose that somebody could write an emulator to accomplish this, but nobody's announced any such thing.
* There will be some sort of equivalent to the iPhone's App Store behind the "Find Apps" button on the Prē's screen.
* The Web OS's browser is apparently based on the same open-source WebKit foundation as the iPhone's Safari and the browser in Google's Android software. Play the video to see Palm product manager Tina Hampton demonstrate how it displays a site you may be familiar with, along with the Web OS's deck-of-cards system for switching among open applications.
* Syncing over the air means what you think it does: Your contacts, calendar, etc. info lives on a Web site that the Prē talks to continuously using its Internet connection -- in the same way that an iPhone works with a MobileMe account and a Google Android phone syncs to your Google Calendar and Google Contacts online. The Prē will also sync to a Microsoft Exchange server.
* Yes, Web OS will allow you to copy and paste text.
* Its Bluetooth wireless will support sending photos and files to and from other devices and will also permit you to employ the Prē as a wireless modem for your computer.
For more details, see Sascha Segan's Q&A
How do the phones described here sound to you? Let me know in the comments...
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