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Last Updated: Friday, 25 February, 2005, 17:24 GMT
Mobile handsets get power of a PC
Dan Simmons
By Dan Simmons
Reporter, BBC Click Online

Some of us may be happy to have a mobile phone that just makes phone calls. But that will not stop manufacturers adding on everything from zoom lenses to fingerprint sensors.

Mobile phone
New mobile technology may be released, but will we buy it?
Globally, around one in five people now have a cell phone.

Half of those mobiles are less than a year old.

However, many are not choosing the latest third generation phones, partly because the handsets have not matched the hype.

So what can we expect in 2005?

Games

3D quality graphics are promised by nVidia, which has miniaturised the powerful graphics chips found in computers.

As the processors in our phones reach the power laptops had three years ago, the company says our mobiles will be able to run PlayStation One quality games and applications. The first handsets should be available this autumn.

The graphics are programmed in an animation language called Java, but there is another famous name entering the European mobile market after making it big in Japan.

Macromedia says their Flash system will make our phones more engaging and easier to use.

Macromedia's Stephen Elop uses the example of a website to explain.

"A purely textual website is often hard to navigate and understand. As you introduce graphics and animation, some sort of leading material to help you through a website, it becomes much easier to interact with.

"The same is true on a handset.

"I could show you the example of a recently announced Samsung phone where they've done the whole user interface with Flash.

"It's not just about content and animation, it's about how you work with the product."

Music and cameras

BBC Click Online reporter Dan Simmons
The boundary between mobiles and cameras is rapidly blurring

Support for multimedia applications is growing fast.

One forthcoming model features amplified dual speakers to go with its MP3 player, and 5.1 surround sound is also in development.

Some handsets are beginning to sport two cameras. One for video calling and a higher resolution one for snapshots.

Advances in lens design have given us the first camera phones with optical zoom.

A five megapixel camera was launched in South Korea earlier this month.

In six months time larger, cinema-shaped screens could be turning heads too.

Talk typing

Speech recognition has always been tricky to get right on a PC, let alone a mobile, so I was curious to see if a new system, by the people who brought us predictive texting, could overcome the fact that we all speak differently.

Its developer helped me put it to the test using a mapping application.

Having overcome the differences in our accents the demonstration stalled because I said "find" while the handset was listening for a "view" or "show" instruction.

But as storage capacity on our phones starts to rise the company plans to save more than 10,000 words and sounds on our handsets, so we would be able to speak rather than type our text messages.

Lisa Nathan, from Tegic Communications, says: "I think that we'll start to see full dictation applications built into the speech applications on the device toward the end of this year or definitely the first part of next year."

Secure access

Phone with fingerprint recognition
Fingerprint recognition should make our mobiles more secure
And once we have started talking to our phones, why not get in touch with them?

Small fingerprint sensors are being embedded into handsets to offer secure personal access to your phone.

Each finger can be used to launch and automatically log you in to websites needing your username and password.

The phones could also score well with gamers because the strip even detects the rotation of your finger, allowing for reactive game play.

Phones with intelligent touch control are due to be released in China in a few months, and Europe before the end of this year.

Integrating all these developments and making sure that they work is now the main priority for handset manufacturers.

Amer Husaini, from Motorola, explains what he hopes to deliver: "The ability to read your documents, get your e-mail. Moving forward there are going to be more devices about the convergence story that is happening in the market place between imaging, entertainment, multimedia and voice."

The mobile phone industry wants our handsets to do the sorts of things we currently do on our computers.

It is a strategy that has gone down well in the Far East, but it may have to do more to persuade the rest of us that we want the sort of services that our mobile phones can now provide.


Click Online is broadcast on BBC News 24: Saturday at 2030, Sunday at 0430 and 1630, and on Monday at 0030. A short version is also shown on BBC Two: Saturday at 0645 and BBC One: Sunday at 0730 . Also BBC World.



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