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Last Updated: Monday, 12 February 2007, 10:10 GMT
Everything but the iPhone
By Rory Cellan-Jones
Technology correspondent, BBC News

iPhone
The mobile industry has iPhone in its sights
In Barcelona this week, you can see the future of mobile communications in all its forms - new handsets in every colour of the rainbow, new services to use on them, from mobile MySpace to Bollywood movies.

But there's one thing you won't see.

Apple's iPhone is not on show at 3GSM - despite the claim by Steve Jobs at the launch in January that this was a "magical device" that would "revolutionise the industry".

There again, Apple has a long record of keeping aloof from industry events like this - and in any case the company may not have had time to put together enough working handsets. The iPhone launches in June and many of its detailed specifications are still shrouded in mystery.

But if Apple's phone isn't here, it is certainly casting a long shadow over this event. The mobile industry is desperate to prove that it is already far ahead of anything that Steve Jobs might promise.

"No we're not frightened of Apple, companies here welcome the brand into the business," said Bill Gadja of the industry body, the GSM Association.

"All of those innovations that Apple talked about are already appearing on phones and we're going to see handsetsthat go way beyond that this week," he added.

Touchscreen controls

On the stand of the South Korean firm LG they were far too polite to suggest that Apple was a "Johnny-come-lately" as they unveiled their latest model, the Prada phone.

With its touchscreen controls and its sleek and slim black design, the Prada offers something rather similar to the iPhone.

"But we are first," said LG's Jae Hoon Bae with a big smile, before going on to stress how glad he is that Apple is coming to this market.
They can buy an expensive device from Apple - or use our service on just about any of the world's handsets and get their music wherever they want it
Rob Lewis, Omnifone

Another Korean firm Samsung is launching a new touchscreen phone here, and on the content side there are also plenty of people asking whether Apple has got something really new.

Omnifone, a London-based company which has been working secretly on a music service for the last four years, has come to Barcelona to launch Music Station.

It is a subscription service offering users unlimited access to a huge catalogue to download to their phones for 1.99 a week. It is attractive to the networks because it allows them to keep control of their music business rather than simply hand it over to Apple.

Transfer music

It looks as though the iPhone will not accept downloads, with users having to transfer their music from their computers.

Rob Lewis, Omnifone chief executive, said customers would now have a choice: "They can buy an expensive device from Apple - or use our service on just about any of the world's handsets and get their music wherever they want it."

Music Station will debut in Europe and Asia this year and Omnifone has said it has signed partnerships with 23 mobile network operators with a customer base of 690 million subscribers in 40 countries.

But one word of caution. A subscription service does not give you ownership of any music - stop paying, and it disappears.

In the past that's made similar services on PCs and for portable devices much less attractive than Apple's iTunes.

Barcelona will see plenty of glitzy launches and extravagant claims about compelling new mobile services.

None will generate quite the buzz which surrounded the iPhone launch but companies here are confident that their phones will sell better and prove more profitable than Apple's device.




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SEE ALSO
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Vodafone starts MySpace service
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30 Jan 07 |  Business
Mobile internet use 'increasing'
29 Jan 07 |  Technology
Apple's 'magical' iPhone unveiled
09 Jan 07 |  Technology

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