HOME Technology 2003
Mobile phones with more
The handheld units 60 per cent of us now have as permanent traveling companions are now replacing personal digital assistants as the all-in-one communications and computing device.

There are a growing number of convincing reasons why old style analogue phone users should move up to digital including clarity, keeping in touch via text messages, browsing the web, taking photos and impressing people at the local café with the latest polyphonic ring tones.

The battle for content is now heating up. Vodafone Live! and Telecom Mobile Services are both battling to deliver a growing suite of information services with their own look and feel. These include increasingly sophisticated games and consumer services ranging from news and entertainment to sports and business data.

Txt and pxt addicts

As New Zealanders have flocked to the cellphone to stay in touch anywhere, anytime so the major networks have introduced faster, more capable networks, cellphone manufacturers have delivered phones with web browsers, keyboards and cameras.

We have become txt addicts. In November 1999 less than 60,000 txt messages were sent across Vodafone's network each day. Today an average of 1.8 million txt messages are sent daily. Increasing finding respectability across society is ‘pxting’, or the ability to send images is also helping to shift the image of the cellphone away from voice only – with 10s of thousands of images a day moving about the networks.

Telecom has 8800 Ericsson P60 phones in service which allow pxting but to day there’s no way images can be sent between 027 and 021 networks although a solution is being worked on

The New Zealand mobile phone business is estimated to be worth $NZ1.7 billion. Between December 1995 and June 2003 penetration grew from 9.5 per cent to 67.7 per cent with Vodafone and Telecom on a relatively equal footing sharing the 252,4000 connections as at 31 March 2003. Telecom has over 400,000 callers on its digital 027 network and the remainder on its analogue 025 network which will eventually be phased out. TelstraClear also has customers but for the moment uses Vodafones network.

The numbers don’t take into account those who upgraded their phones and perhaps have several not in use, or those who swapped networks in the constant churn of the cellular market.

Camera phones common

According to wireless industry analyst ARC Group, by the end of 2003 more than 55 million consumers worldwide will own camera-phone handsets, more than doubling from the 25 million mobile units sold in 2002. The growth will come from existing mobile phone users replacing their handsets with more feature-rich models, rather than first-time buyers.

ARC says 15 per cent of handsets worldwide now feature built-in cameras. It predicts that by 2005, 130 million handsets with camera capability will be shipped globally, and with the additional boost of 3G roll out, this figure is expected to increase to 210 million by 2008.

The handheld PDA and mobile market has declined 10 per cent year on year worldwide while smartphones have achieved 239 per cent growth in the data transmission area with Sony and Nokia leading the way.

Other phone providers vying for the same market include Kyocera, Sony-Ericsson, Samsung, Panasonic, Alcatel, Sharp, Motorola and Siemens some providing for both networks others specialising only on GSM. Prices range from around $200 for a basic phone capable of texting and email access to $300 - $1500 as you add colour screen, camera, organiser, voice dialling, WAP web browser and hands-free capabilities.

Parallel importation of brand name phones can shave about 30 per cent off mainstream prices of latest model phones. For some of the more advanced services a contract plan is required and you may get a better deal on the phone. For basic services you can just top up your phone or Sim card as you go.

The future promises better image sensors, more on-board memory for picture storage, longer battery life, and network improvements to make picture sharing easier with solid growth expected over the next five years when smartphones will be commonplace and camera phones ubiquitous and most likely integrated into smart phones.

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