CES - Living in a 3G world

With Cingular, Sprint, and Verizon all operating super-fast 3G networks, cell phone vendors are starting to design handsets that can make good use of the bandwidth -- and the carriers are rolling out services to help.

LG and Samsung both showed new 3G models at the International Consumer Electronics Show last week. And Palm and Verizon Wireless unveiled the first Windows Mobile Treo, the Treo 700w Smartphone, with support for Verizon's EvDO BroadbandConnect network.

Palm had previously pledged to ship the Treo 700w early in 2006, but the announcement on Wednesday that Verizon Wireless would actually start selling the device the following day was a bit of a surprise. The handset sports the best Treo camera yet -- a 1.3-megapixel model -- and modifications to its Windows Mobile 5 operating system such as the use of thumbnail photos for speed dial buttons.

Verizon followed up by announcing its V Cast Music service, which will offer over-the-air music downloads to supported phones starting January 16. At launch, the phones that will support V Cast are the LG VX8100 and the Samsung a950. Songs will cost $1.99; purchasers will also get a copy to play on their Windows PC.

Cingular, which only launched its HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) BroadbandConnect network a month ago, is already populating it with handsets. LG showed the CU-320, which features a 1.3-megapixel rotating camera, Bluetooth, and an MP3 player with stereo sound. Samsung, meanwhile, showed both a UMTS phone (UMTS is the slower technology underlying HSPDA), the zx10, and an HSDPA phone, the zx20.

3G is a telecom industry term for third-generation wireless data networks, which are expected to support DSL-like data speeds. Sprint and Verizon's 3G networks are based on Qualcomm's EvDO technology; Cingular's HSDPA is pegged at roughly the same speed -- about 400-700 kbps.

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