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Communication

 Cellular Phones About to Take

a Great Leap Forward on the Web

 ByScott McFarlane (scottmcfarlane@wwwiz.com)

        Imagine this scenario: you are at work on a Friday afternoon, trying to find a movie for you and friends to see after work. You press a button on your cellular phone and log on to the Web site of the local theater. You download a trailer of the movie you are interested in seeing and, finding it to your liking, you look into the phone's camera, making a video message stating your choice. Then, with a voice command, you e-mail the video message and the trailer along with some positive reviews of the film gleaned from the theater's Web site to your friends' phones, PCs and handheld computers.

         Although this scenario might seem a bit far-fetched at the present time, the odds are that in the next few years this leap in cell phone capabilities will become a reality. Right now, there are a number of cell phones in both the U.S. and overseas–such as the Sanyo SCP 4500 and SCP 5000 and the Motorola Timeport 270–that allow users to surf the wireless Web. The next wave of phones, however, will be much more powerful.

         The cell phones in circulation are classified as 2G–second generation–and offer Internet access through various standards as WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) and the Japanese i-mode, also known as information mode. Soon to come are 2.5G phones, an upgrade that is a halfway point between 2G and uses ``packet switching" technology that speeds service by taking data apart and putting it back together.

         The real fun will begin when 3G (third generation) phones make their appearance in American stores. These devices will literally be ``always online" and allow the user to access the Web instantly. Third-generation technology promises more ``souped up" functions for the cell phone, such as Web shopping and streaming audio and video, as well as very fast speeds.

             Third-generation phones will likely come equipped with Bluetooth, a wireless system that uses radio waves to communicate with other devices equipped with the same technology. For example, a Bluetooth phone will be able to scan a barcode of items in a shopping cart and be able to pay for them by aiming it toward the cash register in the checkout line.

         As amazing as this sounds, the final frontier of cell phones will be the 4G (fourth generation), likely to be a universal system that will be able to be used in any part of the world. These devices, expected by the end of the decade, will receive data several times faster than 3G phones and are shaping up to be portable entertainment centers, with predictions of video on demand and digital television broadcasts. Since we have a few more years yet to fully appreciate the full power of 3G, much less 4G, here are some of the phones that will soon provide a much faster access to the wireless Web.

Nokia Connections

         Nokia (http://www.nokia.com/main.html) has taken a bold step towards 3G, with a number of recently announced products that, for now, will only be available overseas. The Nokia 3330, one of these new phones, has a WAP browser to access the Internet as well as other interactive features, which will allow the user to participate in such activities as multi-player games. The 3330 will also include a ``chat" feature so people can talk to each other as in a regular chatroom and even send each other photographic images (http://www.nokia.com/phones/3330/index.html).

        The 6310 also has a WAP browser as well as GPRS (General Packet Radio Services), which allows for an always-online Internet service that charges the user for only the data received and sent. The 6310 has several other innovative and revolutionary features such as the WTAI (Wireless Telephony Application Interface) Public Library, a feature that many PC users of today would like to have. WTAI makes it possible for someone to make a phone call while still online without having to disconnect and then log on again. The 6310 (http://www.nokia.com/phones/6310/index.html) also stores cookies in the same manner as a regular PC browser would, making it possible for someone using WAP to find sites already visited.

         The Nokia 8310 ( http://www.nokia.com/phones/8310/index.html) is described on Nokia's Web site as ``the ultimate personal phone," and it in fact does live up to its billing with GPRS and its instant Internet access. Among its other features are an FM radio and a dual headset, which lets the user make or receive a call, play an online game of hearts with another opponent and surf the Web simultaneously, while listening to a favorite FM station.

         Another amazing device on the horizon is the Nokia 9210 Communicator (http://www.nokia.com/phones/9210/index.html), a kind of electronic jack-of-all-trades that basically merges the cellular phone with the handheld computer or PDA (personal digital assistant). At first glance it appears to be a cell phone, but it opens up like a laptop computer, displaying a keyboard and a full color display screen for access to the Web.

 Ericsson Options

        Ericsson (http://www.ericsson.com/) also has a number of products that promise to link the cellular phone to the Web in a much faster and easier manner. The phones (scheduled to be released in Europe now with American release perhaps sometime in the future) will also be using Bluetooth technology to communicate with other compatible machines and will all be much more powerful than present day ones. The R520 (http://www.ericsson.com/r520/) uses Bluetooth to connect with other similarly equipped machines (such as laptops) and will have a data speed of 44 kbps (more than 10 times faster than current rates) by 2002.

         The Ericsson T39 (http://www.ericsson.com/t39/), which is scheduled to be available in Europe, Asia and the Americas by the second quarter of 2001, has an always-on Internet and High Speed Data (HSCSD) system that will eventually allow the transfer of huge files between phones or between a phone and a PC, laptop or PDA. The T39's WAP browser also enables you to connect your laptop or PDA to the Internet, as well allowing you to visit any number of WAP Web sites.

 Other Ericsson models with Web access include the T68 (http://www.ericsson.com/t68/), scheduled to be available in the fourth quarter of 2001, and R380 (http://www.ericsson.com/r380/), which also use WAP. The Ericsson Communicam ( http://www.ericsson.com/communicam/) is a mobile camera that attaches to the end of any of the company's cell phones that have a modem and using it, you can look into the camera and send a ``snapshot" of yourself to someone in an e-mail or even store a number of the photos in an online album.

 Stinger Is Coming

        There are other companies that are working on phones with faster Web access time, such as Kyocera (http://www.kyocera.com/home.cfm), but perhaps the most anticipated cell phone development will come from Microsoft by late 2001. Microsoft is working on a new technology that was code-named ``Stinger" at press time. The so-called ``smartphones" that will use this technology will likely be more compact and much more powerful than anything currently for sale.

         The first model using Stinger applications is the Z100 Smartphone and will probably be capable of wireless or serial connectivity to a PC or laptop, use GPRS and, perhaps most impressively, have a full color screen with a resolution comparable to the best laptop computers. The Z100 will also likely have other Microsoft applications such as Outlook and Hotmail, along with a built-in MP3 player. Those waiting to use this or any other Stinger phone will once again have to make a trip overseas, since this application is meant to run at its best on GPRS networks, which will not become fully functional overseas until next year.

         With the Z100 Smartphone and other Stinger compatible devices the wireless Web will definitely become much more accessible to the average consumer in the next few years. While Americans may feel some frustration watching the future of cellular technology and Web-ready phones become a reality first in other nations, they should take some comfort in the realization that due to shrinking chips with increasing power, an amazing, seemingly limitless wireless world is within reach. We are but a button away from an always accessible, ever available, extremely portable source of communication, information and entertainment.

 More Phone 411

 1) For more information about the Sanyo SCP 4500 and 5000, visit their sites at http://www.sanyousa.com/consumer_electronics/pcs/scp-4500.html and

http://www.sanyousa.com/consumer_electronics/pcs/scp-5000.html.

2) To find out more about the Motorola Timeport 270c, go to

http://commerce.motorola.com/consumer/QWhtml/p206c.html

 3) There are some interesting sites on WAP at http://www.wap.com/ and

http://www.allnetdevices.com/faq/. To learn about i-mode, see http://www.nttdocomo.com/i/ and

http://nuke.eimode.com/.

 4) The Bluetooth wireless system is explained at http://www.motorola.com/bluetooth/.

5) Information about the Z100 Smartphone with Microsoft ``Stinger" can be found at:

http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/news/0,4586,2613506,00.html.

 6) Packet Video is a company that is working on improving wireless video. http://www.packetvideo.com/about/

 Scott McFarlane is a freelance writer living in Toronto, Canada. McFarlane, a graduate of the University of Toronto, has written a number of articles about the Internet and is an amateur songwriter.

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