London Calling, Hong Kong Calling, Tokyo Calling
American cell-phone carriers--most notably Verizon--are well known for their reluctance to adopt emerging mobile trends, so lots of lucky people around the world get to play with cutting-edge gadgets before we do.
Mainly as a result of differences in wireless technology between North America and the rest of the (GSM) world, we tend to get the most intriguing phones later than the Asian and European markets do--and in many instances, we never get them at all.
If you're planning a trip to Europe for later this year, you might want to examine this set of cool phones before you go. And if you aren't, you can relive the centuries-old experience of being a backward colonial all the more vividly by checking out these great pieces of tech.
An Ultrawidescreen Chocolate From LG
This month LG Electronics is introducing this month the BL40 Chocolate phone, only in Europe. If you happen to visit London anytime soon, you can pick up an unlocked BL40 with a gorgeous 4-inch ultrawidescreen glass-coated display (21:9 aspect ratio), a 5-megapixel camera, and 7.2-mbps UMTS/HSDPA connectivity (for use on AT&T or T-Mobile networks here) for around $650.
The BL40 Chocolate also sports Wi-Fi and GPS, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and an FM transmitter. Better start looking for a cheap flight now...
INQ's Invitation to Mobile Skype Envy
Wouldn't it be great if you could make unlimited free Skype calls from your phone, without having to use Wi-Fi? Callers in the UK have been playing around with this option for almost six months now, thanks to the INQ1 from INQ Mobile.
The only exceptional thing about the INQ1's hardware is the included 3.2-megapixel camera; but the phone shines with its Skype, Facebook, and Windows Live Messenger integration. You can see your friends' status updates and profile pictures in your address book, and you can make free unlimited Skype calls from the INQ1 via the 3G network.
This inexpensive slider phone reportedly has quite a short battery life, so we can pretend to disdain it until a domestic carrier decides to bring it stateside.
A Watch Phone Fit for James Bond
The LG Watch Phone (LG-GD910), besides being available only in the land of James Bond, carries a price you might associate with MI6 paraphernalia--the equivalent of $825.
British buyers of the Watch Phone also got stereo Bluetooth and even a VGA camera for video calling. Most of the phone's functions are voice-activated, and an on-screen keyboard lets you send text messages.
Each hand-made Watch Phone has a 1.43-inch wide display and comes one of eight watch-face designs. The Watch Phone works on GSM frequencies; so if you unlocked one, you could use it with AT&T or T-Mobile.
Touch-Typing on a Crystal Keypad
Unlike regular touchscreen smartphones, the LG Electronics Crystal GD900 provides an all-glass slide-out keyboard next to the unit's 3-inch multitouch display.
Again, residents of the UK got their hands on this phone first; and at this moment many are undoubtedly listening to music on it through its Dolby Mobile-enabled speakers. The Crystal GD900 packs 1.5GB of internal memory and steals the show with an 8-megapixel camera that includes autofocus and LED flash.
The Crystal GD900 even carries a secondary video call camera and FM radio as well. Still, this handset has far to go before its user interface catches up with that of the iPhone or of Google Android phones, but the clear glass keyboard definitely has charm.
Direct Mobile TV at No Extra Charge
With its 3-inch display, 3-megapixel camera, and Bluetooth capability, the Samsung B900 resembles other Samsung phones we've seen in recent months (like the Omnia II).
But the B900 has one distinctive feature: an integrated digital terrestrial DMB TV receiver for watching live TV on your phone without having to stream it through your wireless carrier or to pay extra for it.
The DMB TV receiver is nothing new to South Korea (the B900's destination); in fact, virtually all current-generation phones there have this feature. But the U.S. market won't see this phone anytime soon.
Android in an Advanced Galaxy
People in Europe have been playing with the Samsung Galaxy I7500 since last May, but somehow the lust-worthy handset didn't cross the pond.
The Galaxy I7500 has everything you might want from a Google Android phone--Google syncing, GPS, Wi-Fi, a 5-megapixel camera, and 8GB of built-in storage (expandable to 32GB via microSD). Other sharp specs include a 7.2-mbps transfer speed, HSDPA compatibility, and a gorgeous OLED touchscreen. At least we can hope that the Galaxy Lite version will grace our shores soon.
QWERTY Keyboarding on an Android Phone
LG Electronics’ first Android phone, the LG-GW620, won't reach the United States until next year at the earliest.
Meizu M8 Packs an Apple-Flavored Punch
China might be late to the iPhone party, but obviously it has been keeping an eye on Apple. The Meizu M8 sports a 3.4-inch display and looks for all the world like an iPhone knock-off.
Sold in either of two colors--black or white--the M8 comes configured with 8GB or 16GB of data storage space, a 3.2-megapixel camera, an accelerometer, an ambient light sensor, a distance infrared sensor, and a touch sensor--and it's unavailable outside China.
The Meizu M8 runs on a customized version on Windows CE 6.0 and costs around $293 (unlocked). This is one phone that has no chance of popping up in the U.S. market.