The Most Convergent Category of All

The Most Convergent Category of All

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Name this gadget: it shoots video, allows you to order clips, lay down a music track and record a voiceover, logs onto the internet with the press of one button, and automatically uploads your fully-edited mini-movie to YouTube or a blog of your choice. What do you think…a fancy camcorder with Wi-Fi? An ultra-mobile PC with a webcam? Nope, in 2008, that device is a cell phone, the Z10 from Motorola.

Though very few new phones were announced at CES 2008, partly because the carriers are still in a major push to sell all the hot models that came out just before the holidays (like the second most talked-about handset of ‘07 after the cult-inspiring iPhone, LG’s dual-screened smartie, the Voyager) and partly because big announcements are being saved for CTIA in early April. Still, cell phone manufacturer booths were packed with conventioneers doing hands-on demo’s of the most convergent devices at CES: smartphones like Samsung’s BlackJack 2 or UTStarcom’s Sidekick LX.

Partnerships between manufacturers and content providers made news across product categories this year, but in the telecomm industry, those partnerships are allowing consumers a “lean back experience,” meaning that things which used to be confusing, like uploading a photo you just shot with your camera phone to your blog, are becoming way easier. A software service company called Shozu, for example, has partnered with companies like Motorola to, as a company spokesman said, “put your online social life in your pocket,” meaning it allows a cell-user to upload photos or video directly to Web 2.0 meeting places like Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, or Kodak EasyShare. Another new company, phonecasting.com, allows users to call a phone number, record a podcast from their phone, and then give out a phone number to friends and family so they can call in to hear that podcast for themselves without having to download a thing.

LG’s mobile communications VP, Ehtisham Rabbani, who saw his company’s share of the cell phone market rise to 20 percent in 2007, says smartphones have caught on with the American public, and not just early adopters who’ll drop hundreds of dollars for a music/camera/internet/e-mail feature set. “We are making full keyboards with QWERTY keypads accessible to the masses,” he says. “They are available now on phones that are retailing for under $50.”

A substantial cadre of pricey new cell phone accessories was also on display at this year’s CES, as manufacturers stress that even the most

convergent phones still need a little help. Iqua SUN introduced a solar-powered bluetooth headset that will work even on cloudy days.

Motorola reps say they’ve been having great success with what they call “DJ headsets,” full headphones that city kids are sporting these days for a more “hi fi experience” from music-phones like the Rokr K, also bluetooth-enabled, proving that the convergent world still has room for a little retro-styling.

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