Spring is in the air and here at CNET we turn to thoughts of cell phones. Every year in early spring the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) throws its premier cell phone trade show of the year. As the biggest (and we mean big) mobile gathering in the United States the CTIA show bursts at the seams with the latest and greatest in cell phones, smart phones, accessories, and services. And this year CTIA returns to the South with a show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, March 27-29. I'll be there along with CNET editors Bonnie Cha and Nicole Lee to scour the show floor for the latest trends in the cellular world. So be sure to check back starting March 26 for full coverage with slide shows, videos, blogs, and reviews. Mickey Mouse won't be there, though ex-Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush are scheduled to drop by.
Though Apple's iPhone won't be showing at CTIA, music cell phones will be a big theme in Orlando. In fact, the music focus may even outweigh a push for higher-resolution camera phones. We expect to see new music phones from Sony Ericsson, Kyocera, and Nokia and a much welcome proliferation of handsets with stereo Bluetooth. Also, rumors persist that Sprint will at long last pick up a U.S. version of the Samsung Ultra Music, which we first saw two months ago at CES. Sprint is mum on the issue, so stay tuned as we find out more. And though it's not strictly music, we also should see Verizon Wireless roll out its other V Cast TV phone, the LG VX9400.
Looks do matter
On the design side, thin continues to be in over two years after the Razr took the mobile world by storm. Motorola continues to knock us over the head with new Rizr, Krzr, and Slvr models. I think Moto is beginning to wear out its welcome with Razr-inspired designs, but the company shows no signs of slacking off the trend. Samsung also is suffering from a thin phone obsession; the company plans to show again the SGH-A727 that it first debuted at CES. It's also rumored that even Kyocera is getting into the slim game, though we won't know specifics until next week. The slider form factor also remains trendy and I expect to see more midrange handsets with full QWERTY keyboards.
While we'll definitely have our eye on such cell phone stalwarts as Nokia, Samsung, and Motorola we'll also be looking for phones from new and original players in the U.S. cell phone landscape. Pantech should have a gallery of new models, while telecomm giant Alcatel is arriving in Orlando ready to plant a footprint in North America. The company is partnering with a company called Cellatel to manufacture a broad line of low-end and mid-range candybar handsets.
Smart phones: the next generation
According to IT research firm Gartner, smart phone sales increased by a whopping 75.5 percent in 2006 and we're not in the least bit surprised. The year saw the arrival of a wide range of hot models, such as the RIM BlackBerry Pearl, Samsung BlackJack, and Cingular 8525, that satisfied the needs of mobile professionals and caught the attention of many consumers. Will 2007 deliver the same? We think so, and CTIA is a good place to start.
With the release of the Windows Mobile 6 operating system back in February, we expect to see phone manufacturers churning out their next-generation products. In fact, we already got a bit of a preview at 3GSM World Congress where the Motorola Q q9 and the HTC Vox were unveiled. We'll also be scouring the show floor for Nokia's N and E series of smart phones, and hopefully, get more information on the U.S. availability of the much-craved Nokia N95 and Nokia E65. And while Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and Symbian smart phones take off, we're curious to see how the aging Palm will respond. Finally, we'll take a look at the increasing trend of location-based services for smart phones and cell phones.