Weekly Wrap: New Gadgets, The Rise of MMS
By Carlo Longino, Fri Oct 24 09:00:00 GMT 2003

New handsets this week from several vendors, picture messaging looks to be gaining steam, and more...

Following on the heels of last week's announcement of their first quarterly profit, Sony Ericsson this week released the hotly anticipated successors to their popular P800 and T610 models, the P900 and the T630. The P900, which had been leaked and rumored for quite some time, didn't disappoint, with a fantastic look as well as a much-improved feature set. The T630 also looks impressive, with its 65,000-color screen at the top of the list of its refinements over the T610. Another Symbian device, the Nokia 6600, also went on sale this week, in Spain.

British manufacturer Sendo also announced its long-awaited Symbian/Series 60 handset, which they first announced they were working on in the acrimonious aftermath of their run-in with Microsoft. The creatively named X sports an impressive set of features, but what's got Sendo most excited is their "Sendo now!" screen, a customizable display that shows any current appointments, unread messages, and so on. Sound familiar?

Vodafone continued its push into corporate IT departments this week, inking a deal with Oracle to support Web services-based SMS services from some of the company's software onto their European and South Pacific networks. What used to take an expensive third-party SMS gateway can now be done quickly and easily by corporate application developers, allowing for much cheaper mobilization of many types of corporate data.

Picture messaging was big news this week, as TheFeature editor Eric looked to set the record on picture messaging in Japan straight, rebutting some stats he gave last week, and showing that half of those Japanese surveyed take pictures with their phone at least once a week, and 70 percent have e-mailed such photos. But Eric also wondered if carriers and manufacturers were missing the boat as far as picture messaging was concerned, by missing out on the moblogging phenomenon and having a rough time with billing. But somebody likes the way Eric thinks, as he completed the cycle by sharing news of some new carrier-based moblogging apps that look like a solid start.

Sticking with Japan, KDDI announced this week they would soon launch their speedy CDMA2000 1x EV-DO network, but would abandon their current per-packet billing system and charge users a flat monthly fee for data transmission. The Japanese carriers' 2G systems were designed to maximize the per-packet charges they collected, and featured generous revenue-sharing with content providers, so it will be interesting to see if this new system will change that mix.

Some of the first quantified data about the benefits of free Wi-Fi emerged this week, paralleling one reader's experiences. One US deli chain says the $8,000 yearly costs of offering free Wi-Fi at one of its restaurants generates about $100,000 in additional business, far more than it could hope to recoup by charging for the network.

Elsewhere on TheFeature this week, Kevin Werbach takes a look at ultra-wideband technology and the strange path -- following people's wishes -- the US FCC took with it, Mark Frauenfelder gives some tips on traveling with Wi-Fi, and Jeff Goldman reveals a growing trend in device user design -- zoomable user interfaces.