Page last updated at 17:25 GMT, Friday, 20 February 2009

Finding a fix for phone frustration

By Dan Simmons
Reporter, BBC Click

Mobile phones may be great but few would claim that the gadgets have reached a state of perfection. Dan Simmons roamed the show floor at this year's Mobile World Congress to find solutions to many nagging problems.

The Barcelona conference is the highlight of the mobile industry calendar and is the place where phone makers show off their latest technologies.


Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset
The Snapdragon chipset by Qualcomm powers hi-res graphics

First on the list of common annoyances are underpowered smartphones that take too long to perform tasks or crash when more than two applications are open.

One potential answer could be Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipset which its makers claim is about 50% more powerful than those in current smartphones.

The first versions of the chipset run at 1Ghz and help to power hi-res graphics, new user interfaces, while running Windows Mobile.The Toshiba TG01 is the first handset to sport it.

Qualcomm is working on a version that runs at 1.5Ghz - which, it claims, will be broadly equivalent to the processors found in most netbooks.

Enrico Salvatori, vice president at Qualcomm, said the chipset's ability to support applications is what makes "the mobile internet user experience compelling".

"The Snapdragon is delivering high performance in terms of multimedia, video, high definition, encoding and decoding, and supporting of a camera", he said.

Qualcomm has also developed Mirasol screens that draw their inspiration from structures found in nature. The screens use tiny amounts of battery power and can be seen in bright daylight.

Reflective properties on the device's screen produce brighter images outdoors, according to Cheryl Goodman-Schwarzman from Qualcomm MEMS.

"Colour comes in to the display, and it reflects back out colour. The brighter the light, the clearer the display," she said.


810-F handset by i-mate
The 810-F handset by i-mate survived being driven over by Dan

Putting your life in your handset is risky, especially if you kill it. But at the 2009 MWC, i-mate showed off a handset that can take much more punishment than most.

Named after a US military spec, the 810-F can be dropped from three metres (10 feet), works in temperatures ranging from sub-zero to 60 degrees Celsius, is dustproof, and water resistant.

Dan put its toughness to the test by driving over it in a car.

It stayed in one piece and even its touchscreen was still working.

If you prepared to splash out £600 on this handset when it comes out in April, then you too could impress your friends.

One of its useful features is that your data can be protected if you lose it.

"If this device is lost or stolen, you can log in at any place and set a lock, an alarm, and even wipe the data located on the phone at any time," said Michael Cavey, sales director at i-mate. "And if it is damaged we'll replace it."


Dianne Canham from CelleBrite
Dianne Canham said new tech means "over the air" back ups

What makes smashing or losing a mobile phone such a pain is the fact that few phone owners sync or back up their contacts, images and songs stored on the gadget.

Some mobile stores now use transfer devices that allow customers to walk away with their contacts and media on a USB stick, or to transfer everything when upgrading.

But increasingly, mobile apps are able to do "over the air" back ups of contacts, diaries, and data to remote storage servers.

"That means that when you leave the store, all of your mobile content is automatically backed up," said Dianne Canham from mobile synchronization firm CelleBrite.

"The user doesn't actually have to instigate anything like going on the internet, or download anything, as this happens automatically," she said.


Femtocells device
Femtocells devices create a mobile phone signal via broadband

If you have trouble receiving calls at home or in the office, there is now technology that gives you a mobile signal in places without one.

Femtocells are mini phone masts which can piggy back on your broadband connection to send the call to a mobile operator.

Steve Lightley from NEC Europe reckons they are coming to your home soon.

"They've been deployed in Japan and trials are ongoing in UK and Europe," he said.

To use them a mobile does not need to have wi-fi and it is expected that some home routers will have the technology built in later this year.

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