This week sees LG and HTC join Samsung in unleashing touchscreen smartphones. Up next: BlackBerry ‘Thunder’ and Nokia’s ‘Tube’.
Say what you will about Apple – and both its devotees and detractors always have plenty
to say – there’s no denying that the company is a game-changer in almost every market it enters.
Last year it changed the rules of the mobile phone game by introducing a device with neither a keypad nor stylus. The notion of a touchscreen phone took off, buoyed by Apple’s sophisticated marketing, stylish product design and the pure ‘geek chic’ value of the iPhone.
Now the second-gen 3G iPhone is set to spread its tentacles to some 70 countries, beginning with almost two dozen as of July 11. But the iPhone, along with the HTC Touch and LG Prada, are just a sample of what’s in store for the touchphone revolution.
Samsung has already lifted the covers off its Omnia
, due for local release towards the end of August. This week – in fact tomorrow, which we may as well dub ‘touchscreen Tuesday’ – sees HTC and LG unveil their latest finger-friendly mobiles.
HTC will launch its Touch Diamond over lunch at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Arts, and once the chilly winter evening sets in LG will reveal its ‘Secret’ in downtown George Street. The Diamond continues the ‘TouchFLO’ line of phones which melds HTC’s own eye-catching UI layer (now with fancy-schmancy 3D effects) atop Windows Mobile 6.1, with a 2.8in screen, GPS, 3.2 megapixel camera and 4GB of flash memory. 3G users get 7.2Mbps HSDPA along with the almost obligatory Wi-Fi and FM radio.
slider, as we reported last week, combines a touchscreen UI with a keyboard. We got hands-on with the Secret (aka KF750) during last week’s CommunicAsia 2008 expo in Singapore, and it clearly takes its design cues from the Chocolate and Shine siblings in LG’s ‘Black Label’ series. This includes an allegedly scratch-proof front cast from tempered glass plus a solid feel to the slider and the the overall build, due in no small part to the carbon fibre backing.
Like the Omnia, a small dose of ‘haptic feedback’ sees the phone vibrate slightly when you tap a key on the 2.4in 240x320-pixel QVGA touchscreen (although it feels localised, the whole phone vibrates subtly). However, LG has gone one-up in the style stakes by adding a ripple of light which flows out from the button. LG has also partnered with Google to preload a ‘Google Mobile’ pack with built-in links for searching, maps, GMail and YouTube (with direct uploading of videos taken with the Secret to your YouTube account).
This week’s launch will no doubt make much of the motion-sensitive M-Toy suite, which enlists the phone’s accelerometer to create several Wii-like games such as fishing, darts and baseball. However, the fact that the controller and screen are in the same device makes it hard to see exactly what you’re doing during a wrist flick. More pleasing is the automatic ‘luminance’ control which adjusts the screen brightness to suit ambient light levels.
Key specs include 3.6Mbps on the 2.1GHz 3G band, a 5.0 megapixel camera and DiVX playback (which has been reported to be limited to DivX 5.0, not the current 6.x codec), MicroSD memory card slot and an FM radio.
After Samsung, HTC and LG, who is next to join the touchy-feely phone parade? Signs are that BlackBerry is set to unleash its touchscreen device, codenamed ‘Thunder’, by September. Spy photos circulating around the Web indicate a 3in screen with only the Send, End, Menu and Back keys on the front panel, while the overall design clearly shares the same DNA as the forthcoming Bold. Inside will be a quad-band radio with HSDPA on 2.1GHz and possibly 850MHz, in order to comply with AT&T’s 850MHz US-based network.
And while Nokia is late to the touchscreen table, the company intends to make up for lost time by introducing a touch-based UI on models scaling from budget to bling.
“Currently, the market for touchscreen products is a niche market” Senior Vice President of Nokia Markets, Anssi Vanjoki, told news agency Reuters in an interview last week. “We always aim for a situation where we can cover all the segments with all the options (and) we will introduce products from the very low segment to the highest one featuring this type of functionality.”
The first of these is codenamed ‘Tube’, which is rumoured to carry the 5800 series model and include a 3.2 megapixel camera and be based on the Symbian 60 OS. Like LG’s Secret and several HTC Touch models, the Tube (or one of its variants) could end up sporting a slide-out keypad in addition to a touchscreen.