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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 March 2006, 11:35 GMT
Cebit rings mobile phone changes
By Mark Ward
Technology correspondent, BBC News website, in Hanover

If you wanted evidence that the mobile phone has evolved far beyond its humble origins then Cebit will provide you with plenty.

Sony Ericsson's W950 third-generation Walkman
Mobiles companies compete to keep up with consumer demands
Mobile phones are everywhere in Hanover - on huge billboards, in the hands of demonstrators, photographed by the journalists and cooed over by geeks and fashionistas alike.

When you go to the news conferences announcing the new models, listen to the demonstrators proclaim new features or watch promotional videos, you get a real sense that the mobile sits right in the middle of the digital convergence the industry is abuzz with.

Essentially convergence means we are doing more with technology but we want to use fewer gadgets to do it with.

Increasing numbers of us have e-mail addresses, IM accounts, digital picture collections, gigabytes of MP3 files, blogs, moblogs, video blogs and all the rest.

TV choice

And this is where the mobile industry comes in as it is rapidly producing handsets for any and every conceivable demand.

And what consumers seem to be demanding, if the launches and the show are any guide, is TV on their mobile phones.

At the Cebit trade fair Nokia showed off its N92, which is due to launch later this year, which has a DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting for Handhelds) tuner built in as well as access to an electronic programme guide so you can plan what you watch on your handset.

Similarly LG launched its V9000 TV playing mobile at Cebit that has a screen that can be swung around 90 degrees so it is the right shape to show TV programmes.

Other TV capable handsets were available from Benq-Mobile - which took over the mobile arm of German hi-tech giant Siemens - and Samsung.

Pics or music?

What is clear from Cebit is that not every mobile phone does everything and probably won't for a long time to come. Right now there are some compromises to be made.

A case in point are two of the new phones Samsung introduced at the show. Prominent among the bunch were the SGH i310 and SCH B600.

The SGH i310 has an eight gigabyte hard drive inside and has been designed to be a portable music player that can hold up to 2,000 tracks.

By contrast the SCH B600 has a 10 megapixel digital camera onboard and uses external MMC micro cards - the capacity of which is a maximum of 1GB.

Similarly Sony Ericsson seemed to be drawing a dividing line between those that want to take lots of pictures and those that prefer to load their phone with their favourite tracks.

It introduced the K800 and K790 camera phones that are the first to carry the "Cyber Shot" brand which ranks them as good as dedicated digital cameras when it comes to taking snaps. Both have 3.2 megapixel cameras onboard.

LG-U880, created by designer Roberto Cavalli
Fashion is becoming ever more popular

By contrast stands Sony Ericsson's W950 third-generation Walkman phone that has four gigabytes of flash storage on it for music but has no camera at all. The W950 is due to be available in late 2006.

There is also a segment of the market that has nothing to do with features and everything to do with fashion.

Motorola's Razr phone is hugely popular, despite missing several features that have been standard on many handsets for a long time.

Continuing the fashion theme, Motorola has updated the Razr V3 by adding a blue and pink version. Many other handset makers, including Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Benq, are following Motorola's lead and are racing to unveil the slimmest possible handset.

LG has gone the high-fashion route and at Cebit was touting a 3G handset, the LG U880, created by designer Roberto Cavalli. The styling may not be to everyone's taste but it shows just how much fashion is starting to matter.

Whatever they want to do, consumers face a tough choice deciding what they want to do with their phone, and picking one that matches their wants or style best.

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