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Megapixel camera phones and a "headset" choker vie for wireless show spotlight
Updated: 2004-03-24 15:27

The megapixel camera phones are coming, probably just in time for the arrival of speedier cellular technologies that can transmit higher-quality digital photos and even video.

Nearly every major cell phone maker at the annual wireless industry trade show unveiled a new handset with a built-in camera capable of snapping digital photos with more than three times the picture quality of existing camera phones.

Other notable gadgets on display this week at CTIA Wireless 2004 included a cell phone with FM radio, a ``headset'' that wraps around your neck, and a cellular replacement for a home or office phone.

The new generation of camera phones, due on the market later this year, all capture images with a resolution of about 1.28 megapixels _ or 1,280,000 pixels.

Most of the carriers round it to 1.3 megapixels, though for the sake of either honesty or legal paranoia, Motorola has chosen to round down to 1.2 megapixels. Either way, with the improved resolution, camera phones will take more photos of printable quality.

Among the flashiest models was the LG8000 from LG Mobile Phones, which is equipped with a next-generation wireless technology designed to provide Internet connections almost on par with wired broadband services such as DSL and cable modem.

The LG8000 also features a camera-like switch to toggle between close-up and panoramic shots, as well as 10 digital zoom settings. The ``EV-DO'' wireless technology will enable streaming video and music to be sent both to and from the phone, LG said.

While neither LG or the other handset makers were disclosing which wireless service providers might offer their new handsets, Verizon Wireless is a likely candidate for the LG8000 since the carrier has committed to the ``EV-DO'' technology in the phone.

The other megapixel-plus handsets displayed at the show included the Motorola V710 and A840; the Sony Ericsson S700; and the Nokia 7610.

With wireless service and coverage improving in recent years, there are already several million people in this country who use a cellular handset instead of a traditional wired telephone.

Telular Corp. takes that idea one step further with a cell phone that is the same shape and size as a traditional home or office phone.

The Phonecell SX5D ``fixed-wireless'' phone connects calls over a cellular network with an antennae on the back of the unit. There are also data ports on the side so the phone can operate as a wireless modem, with data speeds comparable to a traditional dial-up connection.

The device is designed to provide the same user experience as a regular phone, mimicking the dialtone that doesn't exist in the cell world, and connecting or finishing a call without requiring the dialer to hit ``send'' or ``end.''

Telular announced this week that AT&T Wireless has certified the Phonecell for its network, though the cell phone company is not selling the device. The user would buy the Phonecell through a wireless distributor and sign up for a normal AT&T Wireless service plan.

Every year at CTIA Wireless, there are dozens and dozens of new attempts to make headsets more comfortable for cell phone users, covering, wrapping around, and plugging into the ear from ever direction.

The ``Bodyset,'' designed by a subsidiary of stereo headphone maker Koss Corp., scraps that idea altogether.

The $59 device, due to hit the market in early summer through retailers and possibly cell phone companies, wraps around the back of the neck, not unlike some devices wrap over the top of the head. Instead of being placed near or in the ear, a speaker at neck level broadcasts the sound, and a microphone extends upward toward the mouth.

But because not all conversations are meant to be public, the speaker can be extended from its pod to hang over the ear.

A second version of the Bodyset, due later in the summer at $40 or $50, is designed with a rubberized ``Gumby'' like material instead of rigid plastic to enable a user to fit the device to the exact contours of the neck.

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