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CTIA Wireless 2004

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Audiovox introduced several new clamshell-style CDMA phones at CTIA this year. All three new models are in the 8000 series, indicating Curitel is the original manufacturer. In the past, Audiovox has also offered phones from Toshiba and Sharp. No new phones from those companies were shown, which is probably because Curitel is currently in talks to acquire Audiovox Communications.

The CDM-8610 is the entry-level phone of the bunch. It will be exclusive to Virgin Mobile, although a very similar 8615 model will be available to other carriers. What makes the 8610 unique is single-mode CDMA 1900, (vs. tri-mode on the 8615,) and special shortcut keys and menus, plus of course Virgin-specific ringtones and graphics.

The special shortcuts are the most interesting. For example, holding down the up key on the direction pad links to a "top-up" feature that makes it easier to buy new prepaid minutes.

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Like most new entry-level phones at CTIA this year, the 8610 has several features that last year were found only on much higher-end phones. On the 8610, this includes a 65,000-color display, a full-duplex speakerphone, and real-music-clip ringtones (essentially MP3 ringtones).

While a lot of companies were showing off their first megapixel camera phone at CTIA, Audiovox was one of only two companies showing off two megapixel models (the other being Motorola).

The CDM-8920 may be the first of the two to reach the market. Most of the specs are fairly impressive, including the switchable macro lens, LED flash, dual TFT displays, (both showing an impressive 262,000 colors,) and speakerphone.

So for the most part, it's pretty solid. It does have two downsides, however. First, it's the only megapixel phone I've heard of that does not have video capabilities. That may be a non-issue for a lot of people, but it is unusual nonetheless.

Second, it doesn't have much memory for a megapixel phone. It can only hold about 20 megapixel photos, which probably means it has around 6MB of memory. However, all live photos of the phone to date (at CES, CTIA, and in FCC documents) show the phone with a Sprint logo. Since Sprint camera phones all have an easy-to-use bulk-upload feature, the relatively low memory may be less of an issue than it would be with other carriers.

Next is the CDM-8930 - Audiovox's first phone with a twisting display. Unlike the 8920, this one does feature video recording and playback. The megapixel camera also has an LED flash. Like all of Audiovox's new models, full-duplex speakerphone is included. Stereo speakers and 64-chord polyphonic ringtones round out the audio side of things.

While the twisting display is not a new concept, there is one aspect of it that is unique. According to Audiovox, they're working on adding an additional speaker near the hinge, so that it can be used to take calls with the top half closed, display facing out. This will make it practical to use the main display as a caller-ID display - you won't have to do a tricky twisting routine just to answer the phone, like you do with the Samsung A600 or A610.

The downside of the 8390 is the awkward camera angle - it faces up - toward the top of the phone. This means to take photos using the display as a viewfinder, you either have to hold it in a really awkward way, where you wrist is twisted and the keys are difficult to see and operate, or you hold it at stomach level and look down at it, which may not be the best height to take most photos from.

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