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Next-Gen Mobile Phones Strut Their Stuff In Barcelona

LG Electronics, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, and Nokia all unveiled new phones with touch screens.

Touch screens, navigation, high-end digital cameras, multimedia capabilities, and high-speed broadband support are the key features in the latest wave of mobile phones. This week's Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona served as the launchpad for many of these feature-rich phones, which will be hitting the market in the next couple of months.

So let's recap some of the highlights and the key devices introduced.

The iPhone revolutionized touch screens, not because it was the first touch screen phone but because it came in an attractive form factor and with a user interface that allows people to interact with the phone through touch, such as enlarging content, flipping through photos, and navigating through phone menus.

Nokia 6210 Navigator
(click image for larger view)

LG KF700

The LG KF700 combines three separate input methods: a touch screen, a Shortcut Dial on the back, and sliding alpha-numeric keypad.

view the smartphone image gallery

The new phone models launched at the Mobile World Congress followed a similar formula: stylish form factor and touch screens. LG Electronics, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, and Nokia all unveiled new phones with the capability. The most notable phone from LG is the KF700, which combines three separate input methods: a touch screen, a shortcut dial for switching between applications, and a sliding alphanumeric keypad. Other new LG models with touch screens include the KF600, KF510, KS20, and the Viewty.

Samsung introduced its flagship mobile phone called Soul, which is part of Samsung's Ultra Edition series of phones that offer a balance of design and features, the company said. The touch screen phone adapts to the application that is running through Magic Touch technology by changing the navigation indicators on the keypad. So when the phone is in music mode, music-related icons light up on the navigation indicators; in camera mode, camera-related icons light up, including zoom and brightness.

MultiMedia Intelligence predicts that the number of phones with touch screens will reach almost 200 million by 2011.

Phones are not simply just phones anymore. They've become personal navigation devices that can provide driving directions or even walking directions through the use of global positioning systems. GPS-enabled mobile phone shipments will increase from 109.6 million units in 2006 to 444 million units by 2011, according to research firm iSupply. By 2011, 29.6% of all mobile phones shipped will have GPS. As a comparison, only 11.1% of phones shipped in 2006 had GPS.

Nokia is one of the biggest proponents of GPS. Earlier this week, the phone maker introduced the Nokia 6210 Navigator with the next version of its mapping software, Maps 2.0. The GPS-enabled phone is the first to come with an integrated compass for pedestrian navigation. It also features a self-mount car kit for car navigation, assisted GPS for accessing satellite views, and local maps pre-loaded on the device's 1-GB memory card. Additionally, Nokia announced the 6220 classic, the N78, and the N96 -- all three phones have the latest version of Nokia Maps pre-loaded on them.

Sony Ericsson pleasantly surprised mobile professionals this week with the Xperia X1, a Windows Mobile smartphone with built-in GPS. It also has a touch screen overlay and a full QWERTY keyboard. Like Apple's iPhone, the X1 has a large home screen with a variety of panels that can be selected with the tap of a finger to access the Web, multimedia, and applications.

Also at the Mobile World Congress, Kodak showcased its new high-resolution image sensor that's expected to bring 5-megapixel cameras to more mobile phones. The sensor is designed for the mass market and will be used inside consumer devices, such as mobile phones. In fact, a high-end digital camera seems to be a popular feature in new phone models.

Sony Ericsson unveiled new phones -- the G900 and the C902 Cyber-shot -- that sport a 5-megapixel camera. LG's Viewty has a 5-megapixel camera and so do Samsung's Soul and Nokia's 6220 classic.

All these new phones support multimedia, such as music and video. In many cases the multimedia can be created directly on the phones and uploaded to social networking Web sites like MySpace or video-sharing Web sites like YouTube. Accordingly, the phones have built-in 3G technology to access data over high-speed cellular networks. Compared to the newer models, phones that use slower cellular technology seem outdated. Finally, mobile phones are reaching a level of sophistication that users have been waiting for.

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