This year, phone technology continued to develop in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. The serious questions were about operating systems, enterprise connectivity, security and other functions.
But alongside that, there's a world of invention going on, adding features to the humble phone, some of them headed for commercial success, others apparently exist only for people like us to laugh at them. This list has been compiled with some help from the Engadget and Gizmodo blogs.
Some sniffed that (like Apple's MP3 players and computers) it wasn't as revolutionary as all that, it wasn't such a fast seller as predicted, and it's not enterprise ready. Despite that, the iPhone looks like achieving some notable things.
- touchscreens without a stylus
- making web browsing more useful on a phone
- making mobile operators share their handset revenues (at a time when that revenue is under stress)
Retro brick phones
The Mini-Mob looks like a 1980s brickphone, apart from the size (11cm by 3.5) and the inclusion of a camera and music player.
Normal phones are quite capable of sending the sound of a kiss. The kiss phone takes this a step further with a pair of actual built in lips that "detects percussion speed, pressure, temperature, and sucking force of the lips, when you kiss it," according to the inventor. "An artificial mouth on the kissphone receptor can reproduces same parameters."
Thankfully, this one is still at the concept stage, but the concept already sports heart shaped buttons in pastel shades.
LG already did the Prada phone, and is working on a Rolex phone. Samsung did phones with Armani and the leather-cased Serenata with Bang & Olufsen.
Leader of this pack is still Vertu, a Nokia division famed for phones like the $25,000 Vertu phone. Completely disappointing to gadget fans, these rarely have advanced features. Strangely, most vendors never actually quote a price for these phones…
The Australians seem to have demonstrated why, despite continued appearances with the likes of James Bond and Dick Tracy, no one else has actually made a wristwatch phone. The video for the M500 shows a watch that's big and ugly, apparently still too small and fiddly to use except on a flat surface with a tiny two inch stylus.
The phone sends texts and plays MP3s and MP4s, and has a calendar.
The video seems to tacitly acknowledge defeat, as well as showing Australian subtlety, starting off with a pair of gratuitous clothed breasts.
By contrast, a sci-fi application that could be really useful, but has so far needed a lot of horsepower, is the translation phone. NEC says it has a system that can translate 50,000 Japanese words into English, which can be built into a cellphone.
Tying in with a current movie and bringing the case-mod craze to phones, an anonymous project on a Taiwanese site shows a Motorola E6 phone that has been turned into a Transformer robot - and apparently still works as a phone. Not available commercially.
Rocket in your pocket
Also from Taiwan, but apparently on sale, there#s the Rocket Phone, a USB-connected cameraphone tricked out as an overlarge red rocket.
Only for Japan's NTT DoCoMo, Sony Ericsson has made a scented mobile, the D8000iDS, which releases odours you choose from a scented sheet, according to Gizmodo.
We don't expect to see it from mobile operators - if the phone doesn't eventually break, how would they persuade people to upgrade? - but Sonim's XP1 rugged phone should be useful for mobile staff and (let's face it) pretty much anyone.
With old phones making up a hefty contribution to waste, Nokia jumped on the green bandwagon with the Evolve, a fairly ordinary phone with three claims to fame. Its fascias are made of fifty perent renewable material, it's delivered in a 60-percent recycled box, and its charger is 94% more efficient than the Energy Star rules ask.
Philippe Kahn's company FullPower is promising to create an interface based on gesture, shaking a phone to open emails and answer calls. With the Wii breaking records in the game world, this can't be too far off in phones.
Trust Sony Ericsson to take a different route to gesture control. The company has a patent out for gesture control by hand-waving at the camera
The Google phone
Not actually in existence yet, Google's Android platform looks like being a shot in the arm for mobile Linux - previously terminally fractured. But it's still not at all clear to us how Google's ad-based model will translate to a tiny screen where people won't want any space wasted on extra text and banners. Or how the much-hyped location-based advertising is going to be anything but clumsy, intrusive, less effective and less reliable than actually asking a person where the nearest pizza joint is.
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