Phones of the future: a glimpse at 10 devices

So you decided to take the smart-phone plunge in 2008 and pick up an iPhone 3G or a T-Mobile G1, based on Google’s Android. That’s great. But consider yourself warned: You might soon feel a bit of buyer’s remorse.

Why? Next year’s crop of cell phones is right around the corner, and these shiny new models may have you wishing you had held out a little longer before signing a multiyear contract with a wireless carrier and snapping up a new handset.

What can you expect in 2009? You can look forward to smart phones that sport razor-sharp displays, lightning-fast processing speeds, and built-in videoconferencing capabilities, as well as phones with cameras that have the potential to put your point-and-shoot to shame.

I wouldn’t bet my iPod that absolutely all of the phones in this slide show will be available in 2009. Most will, but some may never make it. I selected only the phones I think have the best chance of surfacing in the United States in 2009. Read on for a peek at what’s on the way.

Sony Ericsson W705

Sony Ericsson’s upcoming Walkman W705 is a slider-style phone dedicated to music. The W705 comes with a 3.2-megapixel camera, an FM radio, integrated Wi-Fi, and an impressive 2.4-inch QVGA display capable of showing up to 256,000 colors.

The W705 picks up some nice features from other members of the Walkman family. It sports both Shake control (a motion sensor that lets you flick the phone to control games or to skip and shuffle between tracks) and SenseMe (which discovers music to match a particular mood and tempo). Though the phone will come with only 120MB of internal memory, a 4GB memory card will be included in the retail package.

The Sony Ericsson W705 can work on quad-band GSM networks and on dual-band (900/2100 MHz) 3G networks.

Asus P565

Asus’s P565, running on an 800-MHz processor, is dubbed the fastest phone in the world. Intended for business users, the P565 will run Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional and use Asus’s Glide touch-responsive interface.

The P565 can run fast on the Internet, as well, with support for HSDPA technology. Business travelers will appreciate the phone’s ability to run on EDGE/GPRS/GSM 900/1800/1900 networks–perfect for globe-trotting trips.

The Asus P565 also sports a 3-megapixel camera, a 2.8-inch VGA touch screen, GPS, and Wi-Fi; as an extra touch, the battery lid is lined with black synthetic leather.

HTC Max 4G

A follow-up to the HTC Touch HD, the Max 4G is the first GSM/WiMax phone to be announced. The Max 4G features a 3.8-inch, 800-by-480-pixel (WVGA) screen with 8GB of flash memory on board. It runs on triband EDGE speeds and, of course, WiMax.

The Max 4G is based on Windows Mobile OS, and uses the HTC TouchFlo 3D user interface. The handset has built-in support for FM radio, GPS, and Wi-Fi. It also boasts two cameras: a 3.2-megapixel one on the back and a VGA (640-by-480-pixel) one on the front for video calling.

Given that this phone runs on WiMax, Sprint could adopt this phone on its network, with a few modifications (such as a GSM antenna). Keep your fingers crossed.

Nokia 5800 Express Music

Many industry observers consider the Nokia 5800 Express Music to be the next major iPhone competitor. Comparisons are inevitable, thanks to the 5800’s big, beautiful, 3.2-inch touch-screen display with support for 16 million colors. The phone has a 3.2-megapixel camera, dual LED flash, and an 8GB memory card (expansion capabilities go up to 16GB).

Other notable features include a quad-band (850/900/1800/1900 Mhz) GSM/EDGE radio with 3G UMTS/HSDPA, GPS with support for picture geotagging, Wi-Fi, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a TV-out port.

Accompanying the 5800 will be the Comes With Music package, which will allow users to download an unlimited number of songs from the Nokia Music Store for a year after the purchase of this phone.

iRiver Wave W10

We’ve seen a few concepts of this phone before, but now the Wave W10 has been officially announced by hardware manufacturer iRiver. The W10 will feature a 3-inch, 480-by-272 touch-screen display, and it will support Wi-Fi and FM radio.

The W10’s built-in music and media player will support H.264-coded video (high-quality compressed video), Adobe Flash Lite, and SRS WOW HD audio enhancement. The handset comes with 4GB of internal memory and can be expanded with miniSD memory cards.

Other nice additions include GPS, access to the Bugs Music Service for online audio, e-book capability, and an electronic dictionary.

Samsung Pixon

If you’re a shutterbug, the Samsung Pixon is one phone to crave. A 3.2-inch, 240-by-400-pixel touch screen and an 8-megapixel camera with autofocus put this model at the top of our list of 2009 phones to long for.

Geared toward people with photography in mind, the Pixon delivers dual-power LED flash, advanced shake reduction, face detection, Smile Shot technology, face tagging, geotagging, and a photo browser with an accelerometer sensor (for tilt and flip).

The Pixon’s other media capabilities are not to be overlooked: It can record video at a resolution of 720 by 480 pixels at 30 frames per second, or 120 frames per second at QVGA (1280 by 960) quality, and it can decode SRS Virtual 5.1 audio.

To round things out, the 13.8mm-thick Samsung Pixon can also provide high-speed mobile Internet via its 7.2-mbps HSDPA connectivity.

Nokia Wahoo

Going head-to-head with RIM and its BlackBerry Pearl Flip, Nokia is apparently set to launch this half-QWERTY flip phone, dubbed the Nokia Wahoo. The handset features two displays (a 2.2-inch, 240-by-320-pixel internal screen and a 1.36-inch, 128-by-160-pixel external screen), and it can run on quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and on dual-band UMTS/HSDPA (850 MHz/1900 MHz).

The Wahoo can snap pictures with its 2-megapixel camera and flash. I’m disappointed, though, that the Wahoo has a proprietary 2.5mm headphone jack and lacks Wi-Fi (according to the specs sheet, at least).

A hybrid of Motorola’s Razr design and the Pearl Flip, the Wahoo also features Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP, a Micro USB port (for both charging and PC sync), and GPS.

Blackberry Curve 8900

If you’ve had second thoughts about the BlackBerry Bold, regarding it as chunky and slightly underequipped, take a look at the forthcoming Curve 8900. This phone comes with Wi-Fi, GPS, and a 3.2-megapixel autofocus camera with flash–and it’s the thinnest full-QWERTY BlackBerry ever, measuring only 13.5mm thick.

The Curve has an impressive 2.4-inch display with a resolution of 480 by 360 pixels, outranking even the BlackBerry Storm in pixel density. However, this phone has one big drawback: It offers no 3G connectivity, which could be a deal breaker. But the 8900 does retain the same user interface as the BlackBerry Bold, and the software capabilities are set to be equal.

Garmin Nuvifone

Garmin has been making GPS devices since way before Apple even started to work on the iPhone. Now that GPS is an expected feature in the iPhone and other handsets, Garmin has decided to get into the cell phone market.

Delayed to 2009, Garmin’s Nuvifone is expected to outperform most GPS-capable smart phones with standard and advanced capabilities such as turn-by-turn, voice-prompted navigation and a database with millions of points of interest. One nifty feature allows drivers to find their cars more easily in crowded parking lots by marking the position at which they detached the Nuvifone from the vehicle mount.

Though the complete spec sheet of Garmin’s Nuvifone hasn’t been made public yet, the device will reportedly work on quad-band GSM with HSDPA support and will have a full HTML Web browser, an instant messenger, a camera with geotagging, and a media player.

LG Prada II

LG’s Prada II phone updates its predecessor’s look with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard to accompany the 3-inch multitouch screen. That, plus plenty of bling, makes this phone one of LG’s top-of-the-line models.

The Prada II will sport a 5-megapixel camera and a secondary 0.3-megapixel camera for video calls; it will also offer Wi-Fi and FM radio, and will run on quad-band GSM with HSDPA (7.2 mbps).

Bundled with the phone will be a matching watch, which will be able to display your incoming calls and text messages–in addition to the time, of course.

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