Super Cell Phones
Has any product evolved as quickly as the cell phone? Three years ago, flip phones were cool. Today, a flip phone is also a digital camera, an e-mail device, and a PDA. With major service providers, including AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless, finally rolling out 3G service, cell phones are poised to become the ultimate do-it-all devices.
"[Mobile phones] will be more powerful, have better screens, provide longer battery life, and push more features," says Andy Abramson, an industry watcher who publishes a popular blog on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony. Expect to see phones that capture multimegapixel photos (such as
Cell phones equipped with tiny, 1-inch drives aren't far off, either. The first such phone, Samsung's SPH-V5400 with a 1.5GB drive, will be available in Korea soon, and analyst Jon Peddie expects that cell phones packing hard drives will appear in the United States in 2005. Drive capacities could go as high as 10GB, allowing users to store lots of MP3s, high-resolution images, and movies.
Shrinking chip sizes and costs will enable multiprotocol cell phones that can switch between digital cellular networks and local area Wi-Fi--and, later, wide area 802.16e WiMax and perhaps 802.20 networks. These new types of networks are designed to provide data rates of up to 1 mbps at ranges of 8 miles or more. Hybrid cellular/VoIP handsets, such as the Motorola CN620 Wi-Fi phone, will know what network is available, and will make the best choice to place the call at the lowest price, Abramson says. The bottleneck now: Carriers must work through complicated billing and network transfer issues for these agile devices.
Your cell phone will even take to the skies. Airbus recently completed tests of an onboard base station, called a picocell, that will enable cell phone users to make reliable in-flight connections with base stations that are located on the ground.
Of course, none of this will work without service providers getting a chance to charge for their piece of the action. Multiplayer online gaming will have users battling head-to-head over fast networks. In 2005, cell phones will become the largest user of GPS chips of any device. Integrated GPS chips already let some mobile phone users check their handset for directions, but users can expect more location-based services--and, alas, advertising.