Feb 11, 2008, 1:03 AM by Eric M. Zeman and Rich Brome
updated Feb 13, 2008, 9:48 AM
On the scene at Mobile World Congress. Hands-On with new Samsung finger-touch phones, Modu, Google Android, S60 3.2, S60 Touch, plus new phones from Sony Ericsson, Nokia, LG, and more.
Sony Ericsson pulled out all the stops at this year's show. Most of their new phones were major announcements, and there were a lot of them.
The G-series is all-new for Sony Ericsson. It represents an interesting direction for Sony Ericsson and the UIQ platform these phones use.
First, these phones mark the long-promised move of UIQ into Sony Ericsson's mainstream consumer phones. These phones look and work like normal bar-style phones with normal keypads, unlike SE's past UIQ smartphones, which were more specialty devices.
Second, SE has added support for finger-touch navigation in a few key areas. It's not quite on the level of the iPhone or LG's Prada and Viewty, but it's a decent first step for UIQ, a platform that has sometimes been slow to evolve.
The UI has a top layer that can be operated completely with your fingers. Much like the easy-to-use UI that sits on top of Windows Mobile on T-Mobile's Shadow, this new finger-touch UI on the Sony Ericsson's G-series only goes one or two levels deep. If you want to do anything beyond the basics, you're knee-deep in the traditonal UIQ interface.
There are some exceptions: the camera and gallery applications have been tuned for finger use, for example. There's also a new "notes" application that emulates sticky notes, essentially. You'd typically use the stylus to create them and you can toggle between drawing and handwriting recognition modes. It's a neat app, although having to break out the stylus feels like a step backward, since smartphone technology in general seems to be moving decidedly away from stylus input.
The G900 is just like the G700, but steps up from a 3.2 megapixel camera to an auto-focus 5 megapixel unit. The G900 also has a really neat feature that lets you touch the part of the scene you want the auto-focus lens to focus on.
Last but certainly not least is the Xperia X1, Sony Ericsson's first Windows Mobile phone. The X1 is the first in a series of Xperia devices from the company.
There have been rumors of a Windows Mobile phone from Sony Ericsson in recent weeks, but most of us in the industry took them with a grain of salt, since Sony Ericsson has always been so closely tied the competing UIQ platform that the idea of a Windows Mobile phone from SE seemed almost... blasphemous.
The X1 is no "toe in the water", either. Sony Ericsson is diving right in and making their first Windows Mobile device a powerhouse that puts even most everything-but-the-kitchen-sink HTC devices to shame. The impressive list of features includes quad-band GSM, quad-band 3G with HSDPA (850/1700/1900/2100 MHz), 3-inch WVGA touch screen (800 x 480 pixels), GPS, Wi-Fi, and all of the standard features you'd expect like stereo Bluetooth, microSD memory card slot, etc. The camera is 3.2 megapixel with auto-focus, and it can record VGA video at 30 fps. An optical joystick also provides an alternative to the stylus for web browsing.
The design is slick, with metal components and a QWERTY keyboard that slides out in an "arc" motion, so the display is tilted up slightly when using the keyboard. It's not tiny, but it's actually surprisingly small for what's on board. In terms of size, it will compete very well against phones like the Nokia E90 and Tilt from HTC.
Sony Ericsson tried very hard to tout the "Xperia Panels" feature. In fact, it's the only part of the interface they would let anyone look at on the demo units.
The Xperia Panels feature looks neat enough, although it's not really clear what it does, exactly. Every time we asked a rep about specifics, we got different answers. They were decidedly shady about it.
The basic concept is that you can have up to 100 different custom "panels" - with nine active at any one time - that are each a shortcut to a different "experience", such as email or music.
What those "experiences" actually are is less clear, however.
One rep explained it as a switcher for Today screens (interactive home screen themes). As the T-Mobile Shadow shows, home screens on top of Windows Mobile can be very powerful, so this is an interesting concept.
A different rep explained Xperia Panels as a "virtual desktop" feature, like "Spaces" in the new Mac OS X. Each panel would therefore be a separate instance of the Windows Mobile UI.
Yet a third rep described it more like simple shortcuts to your favorite applications and bookmarks.
I'm still not entirely sure what Xepria Panels are, and perhaps Sony Ericsson isn't sure yet, either.
It is pretty, though. It switches between vertical and landscape mode when you open or close the keyboard. A neat animation goes with that, and the orientation of the content in each little panel changes, too. There are both grid and fan options for viewing the panels.
Be sure to check out the video to see the sliding design and animated Xperia Panels graphics. You can also hear the SE rep say at the end that Windows Mobile is just "one of" the Xperia Panels. I don't think that's right, but then again I heard a lot of conflicting things about Xperia Panels that night.
Our coverage of THE big US cell phone show. Hands-on with new phones from Samsung, Kyocera, Nokia, LG, Sanyo, Motorola, Playboy, Sharper Image, Clarity, HTC, ZTE, Velocity, Sony Ericsson, and a tour of Windows Mobile 6.1.
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Where's the Garmin Nuvifone??
Why hasn't Phonescoop reported on the Garmin Nuvifone? Get on it. 🙂
We did make sure to check it out at MWC, but "it" was just a plastic dummy phone in a glass jar. Seriously.
We'll let you know when they have a real phone to show off, that ...
Samsung p960 / g400?
Where is the Soul going to land?
why can't we......
Toshiba Portege G450???
N78 for AT&T??
lately at&t's smartphone line has been full qwerty devices.
no love for us oldschool s60 fans.
Modu.. where have you been all my life?
Does anyone else think this has the possibility to revolutionize the phone market?
the moment i saw this modu, i thought what a wasteful fad.
a year or two from now, people are going to have jackets all over their junk drawers.
not for me.
i'd get an iphone b4 th...
f490 coming to Sprint (m800)
Kinda nice, but doesn't have slide out keyboard of u940 for verizon. There's also an ultra slim 3mp flip coming, seems more interesting than this.