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Last Updated: Friday, 2 January, 2004, 08:53 GMT
Gadgets galore for 2004
The SonyEricsson Z1010, SonyEricsson
Third-generation phone networks could be big in '04
The coming year looks like it will be a very good year for gadget lovers.

A whole slew of new products in 2004 will debut as more third-generation phone networks start taking on customers.

As net-based music services go from strength to strength, players that let you take your music files on the move are likely to become more popular and cheaper.

And competition between the makers of mobile phones and handheld computers makers will intensify, meaning devices with even more functions onboard than at present.

Handheld helpers

Many gadgeteers look east to find out which devices will be landing on European shores during the next year or so.

Camera phones have been a huge hit in Japan and South Korea and 2004 looks like it will see the appearance of handsets with megapixel cameras onboard that can take much sharper pictures.

Devices are also appearing with flashes to aid night shoots and with zoom lenses to get close to your subject.

Companies such as Sharp, Casio and SonyEricsson have already unveiled megapixel handsets for Asian markets and other manufacturers such as Nokia and Motorola are likely to produce versions for Europe in 2004.

But it is not just handsets that are growing up. Smartphones, essentially cut-down handheld computers, look set to increase in numbers in the coming year.

Microsoft has big ambitions for its gadgets and late 2003 saw the debut of a model made by mobile phone giant Motorola which lends much needed credibility to Microsoft's plans.

Apple iPod close-up, Apple
Lots of gadgets let you take your music with you
Competition among handset makers could be boosted by the consumer debut of so-called third-generation networks that boost the data handling abilities of mobile networks.

Third-generation networks make it possible to do video telephony, stream video and music clips and make it much easier to get at online data via the phone.

In the UK 3 is the only third-generation network with paying customers onboard but the UK's other mobile phone firms are likely to start offering services to customers in 2004.

One of the more coveted 3G phones will probably be the SonyEricsson Z1010. This sleek clamshell handset has all the usual features onboard as well as slots for memory sticks.

Mobile music

All handsets are evolving into devices that can be used for a huge number of tasks.

But they will feel competition from the makers of dedicated handheld computers, such as Palm and HP who are putting phone functions into their devices.

Palm has worked hard to licence the software for its handhelds to other firms which could result in a few gadgets that use the familiar interface.

The Tapwave Zodiac is one of the first products to emerge that is a handheld game console as well as video and music player and PDA.

But it could face competition from the Sony PSP (Playstation Portable) that is due to debut at the end of 2004.

This gaming gadget will be able to play PSone games ported to the device as well as titles developed especially for it.

Also debuting at the end of the year are devices from GPS maker Garmin that include a personal digital assistant in the familiar location finder package.

The growing popularity of online music services looks likely to drive increased interest in mobile music players.

The market for MP3 players is already crowded by devices from firms such as Dell, Creative, Sonic Blue and Panasonic but Apple's iPod looks likely to be the one to beat for some time to come.

The gadget is proving hugely popular this Christmas and its popularity will continue well into 2004.

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