By Mark Sutton
The best new products and applications from the Mobile World Congress 2008
The mobile communications industry's annual gathering, Mobile World Congress, took place in Barcelona last week. The conference and exhibition, formerly known as 3GSM, attracted more than 55,000 visitors, and saw the launch of a host of new mobile technologies.
See our photo gallery of new handsets here.
Mobile leader Nokialaunched four new handsets, all featuring location based services, along with Nokia Maps 2.0, the company's location application. In addition to its car navigation system ‘Drive', Nokia added ‘Walk' to cater to pedestrians. The application gives turn-by-turn directions for pedestrians, including a direction pointed with compatible handsets, and will also include optional extra cityguides featuring video, audio and photos.
Nokia chief executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo also showed a new ‘recycled' mobile handset during his keynote speech. The phone, called ‘Remade' has casing and keypad made from recycled steel cans, with internal components based on some recycled materials and some organic materials, including polylactic acid plastics.
Toshibaaimed for the high end, with the new Portégé G910, a smart mobile device for mobile professionals. The Windows Mobile device includes a full suite of Microsoft Office solutions, biometric fingerprint security solution and built in GPS. The company also showed an new small form factor phone, the G450 which weighs just 57 grams, and forgoes a keypad in favour of two circular multifunction pads.
Sony-Ericssondebuted a new Windows Mobile handset, the XPERIA X1, that looks to be a direct challenge to the Nokia Communicator and iPhone, while Samsungand LGalso both showed iPhone-alike high-end consumer handsets.
iMateexpanded its Ultimate range, with two new handsets, the 9502 and 8502, for the road warrior market.
Mobile World Congress saw the first look at Google'smobile software platform, Android. Android prototypes were on show from ARM,Texas Instruments and Wind River. Nokia also announced that it would integrate Google search within its own mobile search, although T-Mobile said that it was dropping Google and going with Yahoo! instead.
Motorola'sphone line up included the ROKR E8 and MOTO Z10, both of which had been previously announced, but the company also introduced the TV DH01n, a mobile TV that also includes navigation capabilities.
Motorola also launched its first Femtocell customer premises equipment (CPE) devices, the 8000 series and the 8100 series. The Femtocells are access point base stations, that are designed for the home or SMB workplace, that connects to the mobile operator's network via broadband, meaning better quality signal at home, with cheaper call charges by using VoIP from a regular handset.
NECannounced that it has begun trials of its femtocell equipment with UK operator Telefonica O2 Europe. According to ABI Research the European femtocell market, which will constitute almost half of all global femtocell shipments, will be worth $4.2 billion by 2012.
There were innovations in other areas of mobile technology too. Overall Winner of the GSMA's Mobile Innovation Awards was GestureTek, for its EyeMobile Engine, which enables users to access almost any function on a handset by using gestures such as shaking or rolling the handset. The engine uses the existing camera on a handset, meaning the gesture activate interface can be integrated into camera phones without adding additional hardware.
For mobile email, Synchronica, announced the latest version of its Mobile Gateway 3.5, which will allow operators to offer mobile email on virtually any handset, via SMS. the company believes that the technology has great potential for emerging markets, where PC penetration is low but mobile phone use is growing.
Also in mobile email, Alcatel-Lucentannounced plans to develop and distribute a prepaid option to operators in the wireless market for use with the BlackBerry. The solution will integrate with the operators existing network, while allowing the user to track the minutes and data usage against their pre-paid account, so they can top-up when needed.
Location based services were also popular at the show. Seeker Wirelessannounced technology that will allow mobile advertising to be pushed to standard cellular handsets without the need for GPS. The SeekerZone Mobile Advertising Platform will allow operators to define advertising zones around specific locations, with accuracy down to tens of metres.
Gypsiiis integrating location with social networking, with a platform that will enable users to find people, places and events in their local area, as well as share photos, videos and audio files with their friends. The application allows mobile users to sit and connect with their social network while on the move, and to find out if any of their contacts are nearby. The company also announced that it has signed a contract with Broadway to launch its GyPSii Locations Based Advertising Solution into India.
If mobile social networking sounds like a potential hazard for younger users, then AdaptiveMobile'snew Policy Control Framework, developed for the Cisco Service Exchange Framework, will offer access controls to help parents control what children can access through mobiles. The solution will allow parents to completely block inappropriate sites, or to restrict access to selected sites, as well as limiting access to certain technologies like MySpace and Facebook, as well as blocking of unauthorized phone numbers.
The GSM Associationalso announced plans to combat child pornography on mobiles, with the launch of the Mobile Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Content. The alliance, which includes Hutchison 3G Europe, mobilkom austria, Orange FT Group, Telecom Italia, Telefonica/02, Telenor Group, TeliaSonera, T-Mobile Group, Vodafone Group and dotMobi will work on technologies to detect, block access to and report illegal content on mobiles.
Middle East vendors and operators were represented at the show. Zaintook over a whole restaurant near the exhibition centre, re-decorating it with Zain branding, to launch the company's brand internationally.
Orascom Telecomannounced that it had deployed a suite of roaming solutions from Roamware in several of its territories in North Africa, to cater to inbound roaming customers, as well as deploying solutions to improve services for Orascom customers while they are travelling overseas.
Jordan-based software provider, Eskadenia Software, launched its Short Message Service Centre (ESMS-C) a Java-based store-and-forward messaging system.