Samsung Unveils First Hard-Drive Mobile
By Carlo Longino, Mon Sep 06 16:45:00 GMT 2004

The company says it will start selling a new handset that features a 1.5-gigabyte hard disk in South Korea later this month.

It had to happen sooner or later, and now Samsung is the first to the punch. Its SPH-V5400 handset will feature a 1.5-gigabyte drive, along with some pretty serious media features. The phone, which is expected to go on sale in Korea later this month for around $800, also has a megapixel camera, and FM radio with a transmitter as well as a receiver, and some type of "TV output", though it's unclear if it has a TV tuner.

This is more just a proof-of-concept and buzzmaker for Samsung than anything else. 1-gigabyte memory cards are pretty commonplace -- and pretty cheap -- these days, and this new phone carries a hefty price tag. But the fact that Samsung's engineers have shoehorned a hard drive in way ahead of anybody else reinforces the company's ambitions, and its media features show what's possible, or at least what's going to be possible, when a handset has a large amount of storage.

Just as cameraphones are slowly killing the low-end digital camera market, a phone with a 4-gigabyte hard drive isn't too far off an iPod mini. The real difference is the interface and the iPod's integration with a PC -- something Apple appears to be well aware of. It's feature creep, and maybe Apple and other MP3 player makers (don't forget Samsung makes those, too) will have learned after watching mobile phones suck up PDAs and digital cameras. Certainly this will add more fire to the wireless iPod, or even iPhone, rumors.

The TV-out function is even more cool. It makes this device the closest thing yet to a mobile TiVo, and the possibility of receiving and recording digital satellite TV on the mobile device is exciting -- and it's even better than playback isn't limited to the phone screen.

One great thing about the iPod and other MP3 players with huge drives is that they make it possible for users to carry their entire music collections around with them. It's a powerful feeling to know that you can access any piece of music you own, at any time and in any place. But a handset like this one with lots of capacity takes that a step further, and makes it possible to carry all of your media files -- music, photos, video or anything -- with you. Things like recorded TV shows, home movies and digital photos are no longer tied to the home, or even to the network.