Weekly Wrap: Is it Christmas Yet?
By Carlo Longino, Fri Dec 12 09:00:00 GMT 2003

The dog days of December drag on as moves to ban and limit cameraphones push ahead, handset sales continue to impress, and more...


Cameraphone foes mounted battle on several fronts this week, with one analyst advising people to poke out the "eyes" the devices. While that seems a little drastic (to say the least), at least he's not advocating criminalizing the devices, like some people in California, where it will soon be a crime to carry a cameraphone (or any other recording device) into a movie theater, even in a purse or a pocket. Ah Hollywood, a place that inspires such creativity, such freedom...

All of this comes amid more new about booming third-quarter handset sales, boosted by replacement cycles seeing high demand for devices with color screens and those pesky cameras. Gartner released its figures this week, echoing the jump in sales that others reported earlier. The firm also said in light of these numbers and the strong pre-Christmas sales we told you about last week, 500 million handsets could be sold worldwide this year.

Speaking of handsets, we caught wind of a handful of new devices coming out of Asia this week. Rumors are gathering that Korean vendor LG is looking to make a Symbian version of its SC8000 Pocket PC Phone Edition device to sell in Europe next year. While it remains to be seen exactly how much of the hardware the two would have in common, it would be the first device offered with a choice of the two operating systems.

Over in Japan, NTT DoCoMo released the three latest models in its 505i line, again making rest of the world jealous. One model features a 2-megapixel camera, another that has Flash and audio/video playback capabilities, and another with some intriguing UI features like split-screen views and a speech engine that can read users their e-mail.

Also out of Japan this week was a WLAN VOIP handset from ISP Livedoor. The device doesn't seem to be very attractive beyond its cheap calling rates (though the handset itself costs about $500), though those might not be too cheap if you've got to pay usage fees at a hotspot as well. For those thinking of this as a replacement or competition for mobile phones, just consider it the mobile phone with the crappiest coverage in the country.

Another vendor looking at Wi-Fi is Canada's Research in Motion, which said this week it will launch a Blackberry that can roam between cellular and Wi-Fi networks sometime after the spring. While this probably won't offer many business cost savings, it should reinforce the Blackberry's position as the preeminent enterprise mobile device.

It strikes me as a sign of just how far the industry has come that we've gotten to a point now where Vodafone launching 3G services in a couple of countries gets buried down below several other items this week, though the global giant did just that in Italy and Germany. Motivated mainly by regulatory guidelines, the carrier will offer data-only service via PC cards first, at least until it can procure some decent handsets in decent quantities.

Finally, chip behemoth Intel faced its wireless troubles this week and said it planned to fold its struggling unit into its stronger networking group. The company, which has had success in the PDA market with its XScale processors, is reeling from a severe pricing misstep earlier in the year that cost it a huge amount of market share, and its products for mobile phones have failed to catch on.

Elsewhere on the site this week, Mark Frauenfelder writes about one company looking to capitalize on moblogging, and Justin Hall tells us about advanced ringtones in Japan.