@ CTIA: The Top 10 Coolest Things At CTIA 2008
Monday, April 7, 2008; 10:00 PM
Every year at CTIA, I cruise the show floor to see the coolest things?from applications to handsets. By no means can this be a comprehensive list, after all in Las Vegas this year, there were more than 1,200 vendors and 400,000-square-feet of floor space. Feel free to tell me what stood out to you at the show...in no particular order, here's what I ran into during my interviews and a few of the contestants from CTIA's Emerging Technology Awards:
1. Bonfire Media: This isn't exactly rocket science, but I can see this being great for settling bets on the go or disagreements in the bar. Bonfire has created Wikimobile, which sounds exactly like what you would think?Wikipedia for mobile. The app is currently available on AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ).
2. Mobile Banking: Blaze Mobile has developed a mobile application to allow you to track bank accounts and debit and credit cards from several banks and services. It allows you to make "contactless" payments using near-field communications. If your phone doesn't have NFC, you can sign up for a pre-paid Mastercard through Blaze that gives you a NFC sticker to make payments. The app costs $4.99 a month.
3. Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) OneSearch: Yahoo relaunched its search application to incorporate voice-recognition. In its second version, Yahoo will also open up its APIs, so content companies can create more in-depth results, so a user gets helpful information on the results page, rather than getting a list of links. For instance, when searching for a restaurant, results would include Yelp reviews. When searching for a person, you might get a Wikipedia page, or his or her Facebook or LinkedIn page. We'll see how much content companies take Yahoo up on the offer.
4. Gametrax: Available on MSN Mobile, the application lets you keep track of sports games when away from the TV by getting player stats, scores, and play-by-play. Of course this is already available on a carrier's deck in some instances, but would be a nice off-deck alternative.
5. Sprint (NYSE: S) Nextel push-to-talk: The company didn't make big news by announcing a partnership with Clearwire (NSDQ: CLWR) or new investors, but it did relaunch the walkie-talkie service for its CDMA network, which up until now has been synonymous with Nextel. The company launched a handful of good-looking phones for the service, which is a nice change from the industrial and large iDEN phones that were historically only available through Motorola (NYSE: MOT). Sprint is using Qualcomm (NSDQ: QCOM) QChat technology, and could provide away to hold on to dissatisfied Nextel customers who still want the push-to-talk service. In addition, new QChat users would have access to high-speed data services on the phones because they are using the CDMA network. In the future, you'll see new features on the push-to-x system, like sending photos, and other content.
6. Nokia: Launched the new Nokia (NYSE: NOK) Internet Tablet called the 810. The tablet will have Wi-Fi and WiMax radios, allowing it to connect on emerging networks being built by Sprint Nextel and Clearwire going forward. Maybe it wasn't the device, but the press conference that made it seem cool. Nokia lifted reporters up using a crane to demonstrate that internet access can be available anywhere. I didn't go up on the crane, but the user interface of the device, which included a Google (NSDQ: GOOG) search bar, and a news ticker, seemed pretty handy.
7. Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) Surface: AT&T said it will be rolling out Microsoft Surface consoles in its retail stores starting this year. The technology allows customers to put phones on a table and receive a side-by-side comparison of the two. It also allows users to see coverage areas. Eventually, the table is supposed to be used for mobile content, allowing people to download ringtones, or organize their photos. The table's surface is sorta like the iPhone, where people can use their fingers to pull apart a photo to make it larger, or pinch to make it smaller. We'll see if it takes off as a customer service replacement or not.
8. Sony (NYSE: SNE) Ericsson (NSDQ: ERIC) Xperia X1: I was able to hold and use the Xperia when I ran into one of Sony Ericsson's main employees leading the project. The phone will be Sony Ericsson's first professional device that has a full Qwerty keyboard. The company's other phones are mostly consumer-focused with an emphasis on music and other multimedia. The phone is attractive and made out of stainless steel. It uses the Microsoft operating 6.1 system, but gives its own take on the UI, by allowing people to adjust the homescreen to include an analog clock, a calendar or other features. The different screens are available in a widget-like experience it calls panels. One cool screensaver looks like a fishbowl, which has a goldfish swimming around. If you put your finger on the screen, the fish will all swim over. When you have a missed call, an additional fish will enter the bowl. It's these subtle design elements that make the phone fun and cool.
9. AT&T's MediaFLO: The company announced that it will be launching the mobile TV service in May. It will cost $15 a month, and there will be two phones, the LG (SEO: 066570) Vu and the Samsung Access. The LG Vu is particularly cool. It's based on the LG Prada that only launched in Europe. The phone is amazingly slim. An antenna is raised in order to get good TV reception on the 3-inch diagonal screen.
10. Motorola X9 Slider: Motorola was sort of a bust at the show. Everyone wanted the struggling company to come out with a slew of new phones that would resurrect the company's position in the handset business. By no means, did the company release a reinvigorating line-up, but the Z9 did accomplish a new first. It will be the first time AT&T is offering a feature phone with applications such as navigation and GPS. In order for these applications to become mainstream, they will have to make it on the mid-tier handsets.