A Reporter’s Notebook from CES — Day 1

by Reads (9,554)

Editor’s Note: The Consumer Electronics Show is going now in Las Vegas, and Brighthand’s Antoine Wright is there.

He has filed this report from last night’s Pepcom’s Digital Life event, where numerous companies were showing their latest products off.

Windows Mobile

I spoke to the Windows Mobile people at Pepcom’s event and got to play with a few devices there.

The first one to get some hand time was the recently released Pharos Windows Mobile device, which runs the Windows Mobile Pocket PC edition. Very thin and packing an Internet GPS antenna, the Pharos is a re-brand of the E-Ten Glofish.

The system performance and GPS performance of the demo device was very nice. I had some issues with how the buttons felt (they were stiff and and flush with the device) but overall this was a nice form factor.

After the Pharos I moved to the Palm Treo 750. Just announced for Cingular yesterday, there were quite a number of these at the Windows Mobile table. The Windows Mobile folks seemed very pleased with this smartphone.

I then took a quick touch of the Sprint version of the Motorola Q. It is not much different than the Verizon version of this smartphone, but there are a few changes in some themes, services, and the texture of the device. It has a similar rubberized paint to the Treo 750, but a little bit smoother. Other than that it was a Q.

Moved on next to the T-Mobile Dash. The representative that I spoke with told me that she uses the Dash and likes it a lot. I was impressed with the size of it (thin, and just wide enough), the layout of the buttons and keys (similar to the Treo 650) and the reported battery life when Wi-Fi is on (they mention that you can go a whole day easily with Wi-Fi on if you are not surfing a whole lot). All in all a very impressive device.

The last device that I played some with before leaving that booth was the MiTAC Mio 8380 Windows Mobile smartphone device. Like the Pharos, this device has a built-in GPS receiver, but this was possibly the best looking Windows Mobile device that was there.

The color of the Mio, the shape, and even the default theme all shared a common color scheme. I also liked the Today screen plug-ins that were on the Mio. Seemed like a very good device, but there was no indication that any carrier in the U.S. would be selling it anytime soon.

Nokia

Nokia had quite a number of its phones on display. Along with the newly released N93i, the N80 Internet Edition, and the new N800 Internet Tablet made their introductions as well. There were also several working N95 units on display but the Nokia representative assured me that they are not yet ready to release the N95 in the US yet.

Nokia N800 Internet Tablet
(view large image)

The N800 is the update to the popular 770 Internet Tablet. The entire device is new (processor, OS update, and slightly larger). On the demo device that was there I noticed snappy performance, and it was quite easy to get around the device. The N800 is clearly built around the person who wants/needs to take aspects of the Internet with them, but a smartphone is not the kind of device that they want to do that with.

The N93i is flat out a very nice phone. It is slightly thinner than the N93, the camera is better (sharper photos) and as a whole the device feels like a phone more than a camcorder.

RIM/BlackBerry

RIM did not show off anything new but they did have the 8100 (Pearl) on display. They had both the T-Mobile and Cingular versions.

In speaking with the RIM reps, they talked a lot about how the Pearl is doing extremely well in the consumer eye. Many of those getting the Pearl are those who are first time BlackBerry users as well. One rep showed me how themes worked with the Pearl and that was pretty neat.

The BlackBerry 8700 was also on display, but next to the Pearl, it just looked too business-like of a device.

MobiTV

I spent a little bit of time at the MobiTV booth. Aside from the very nice presentation materials, they had a demonstration of MobiTV on a Cingular handset. The MobiTV program/service allows you to watch near-live broadcasts of television programs on your mobile device.

This booth was one of the few places in the building where you could get a clear cellular signal, and mobiTV did not disappoint.

Cingular

Cingular had a very small presence at this event. Instead of showing off its offerings in terms of all of the phones that it has (it seems to have left that to the respective manufacturers), Cingular representatives concentrated on talking about the new Cingular Video Talk application that is coming out in most of this carrier’s 3G -enabled markets.

The LG phone that was used for the demo was for all intents and purposes a normal phone, but instead of just one camera, it had two. Cingular Video Talk can only be used on one-to-one calls, as there is not a conference call feature and there was no answer to if/when one would be available. However in the middle of a call, you could switch who was the one hosting the call.

Look for this to debut on Cingular in the coming weeks.

4Info

One of the biggest elements of presenters at Pepcom was the talking about on how mobile technology would fit into one’s life. 4Info is a mobile search company that has built a search engine that is pretty ingenious and quite easy to use.

Essentially, you text to 4Info a search term (like "eagles"), and you get the results in a text message (in this case "eagles 23 giants 20 – WHOOOHOO).

Right now, 4Info seems best used with vertical searching such has for sports, stocks, and weather. But there is a developer program (free) in which you can create and manage a 4Info search.

This service is current supported by ads, but there are varying degrees of that partnership depending on how much someone is using 4Info.

Six Apart

Six Apart was there to talk about its mobile blogging solution called Vox. This is both an application and a service. It is designed for personal bloggers that might have 20 to 50 viewers (think a family blog) versus TypePad that is made for the hundreds to thousands of users.

The Vox software debuted on the Nokia N93i (a smartphone that also debuted right before Pepcom) as a program built right into the Symbian OS as a near MMS-like feature. You take a picture, add a title and some text, and then click upload and your picture and text are then on your personal blog.

Your blog can be set up to only allow certain people to access it or or it can be available to the whole potential audience.

I found Vox extremely easy to use and think that it can be a major program, especially if other phone manufacturers and carriers pre-install it on phones.

The Six Apart folks did mention that Vox is coming soon to Windows Mobile and Palm OS handhelds as well, and to look for that fairly soon.

Shout Postcard

Next to the Palm booth was a company called Me, Inc, and its product Shout Postcard. The premise of the application is to share your life’s events while on the go. Essentially it is a SMS/MMS/email-like client. But the usability of it is even better than Palm’s own Messaging application on the Treo smartphones.

In the demonstration of this application, the rep showed me how easy it was to send someone an email message that contained a link to a photo and voice recording that he produced.

There is also some blog-like features to this where you could have people go to a page and see all of those messages that you delegate as public (I was told that a private feature is in the works so that only those you approve can view the content on web browser).

The most interesting aspect of Shout Postcard was getting the answer that this is something that we should expect to see on a future Palm OS device. In terms of current devices, it will be available in three weeks and does support the Treo 650, 680, and 700p models.

Energizer

AAAABy the time I got to the Energizer booth, my Treo was nearly out of power and so I wanted to know from them if (1) they could charge my Treo some, and (2) what’s new in batteries.

As for charging my Treo, Energizer has a quick charge solution for mobile devices. It is basically a battery driven charger. Small and easy to carry in one’s carry-on bag or purse, or leave in a glove compartment for emergencies, I can see this selling a lot. Of course, I asked Energizer if they would just bring out better batteries for mobile devices and they just looked at me with a blank stare as if saying "why would we do that?"

What is new in batteries is the new AAAA (yes, that is four A’s people). The quad-A battery is very small and designed to be used in mobile devices (phone chargers, MP3 players, etc.) that are just too small to accept a AAA battery. For as much as I am impressed with smaller devices, to see the AAA battery made me feel that we might have gone too small.

 

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