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Friday, 23 March, 2001, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Industry's mobile hopes
Nokia's 8310 mobile phone BBC
Users decide whether to pay to read e-mails with Nokia's new phone
By BBC News Online's Ivan Noble in Hanover

On display at the CeBIT fair in Hanover are the new mobile phones which the industry hopes will save its profits.

With a stock market downturn following hard on the heels of massive spending on third generation network licences, mobile phone operators know that they need to whet consumers' appetites quickly.

But as Tapio Hedman, Vice President Communications Nokia Mobile, points out, phone users are less interested in new technology and more concerned with finding a cheap and reliable way of staying in touch.

So why should anyone put their hands in their pockets for a new phone right now?

Well, some of the latest handsets work with GPRS - the general packet radio service.

Mobile, always on

GPRS handsets maintain a constant link with the network, but users only pay for the packets of information transmitted.

Nokia's 6310 phone BBC
Bluetooth technology will do away with the need for wires and infrared links.
So for people who want to check their e-mail on the move, it is no longer necessary to log on to find out whether a message is waiting.

The network will tell the handset that the e-mail has arrived, and then the user decides whether to pay to read it.

And with transmission speeds higher than the current European GSM system, it is possible to download pictures, browse the internet or listen to streaming audio on the handset.

No more wires

Nokia's 6310 phone is GPRS compatible and supports Bluetooth, too.

The long-heralded Bluetooth technology promises to do away with wires and fiddly infrared links, connecting mobile handsets to laptops, personal digital assistants and information points. The 6310 is due out by the final quarter of this year, Nokia says.

Competitor Ericsson's forthcoming range includes the T39 - this is also GPRS and Bluetooth-enabled. Ericsson has recently decided to stop making its own mobile phones and is contracting out its manufacturing.

Bo Albertson, Ericsson Marketing Director Communication, explained why: "Our core business is research and development, design, marketing and distribution.

"We lost a hell of a lot of money last year and there are people who can make our products more flexibly and cheaply than we can," he told BBC News Online.

A few sniggers

Ericsson has ended some of its research projects and focused its efforts on making sure products are ready in time.

"There's not a need for too many products," Albertson said. "There's a need for the right products. We will make sure these products come out on time."

Hybrid phone/organisers are hitting the market, too. Mitsubishi Trium makes the Mondo, a product which caused a few sniggers among East German visitors to the fair who remembered the state-branded condoms of the same name.

The Mondo runs Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system and will be priced in Germany at around 600 without a contract. And market newcomer Sendo, from Birmingham, UK, was showing off its Z100 - the first smartphone to run Microsoft's Stinger operating system.

All in one

Stinger is tailor-made for mobile phones and the Z100 weighs a tiny 99 grams, despite offering Microsoft's Mobile Outlook and Internet Explorer.

It is due out by the end of the year and will be priced around the same as a high-end mobile phone, Sendo says.

And for those who shun the all-singing, all-dancing, combination device and prefer their PDA and phone separate, market leader Palm Computing was promoting its new m500 and m505 organisers.

Palm licensee Handspring showed its latest Visor Edge alongside a whole range of add-ons to turn it into a phone, a camera and even a fingerprint recogniser.

CeBIT runs until Wednesday, 28 March.

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