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New Cell Phone Raises The Bar

CBSNews.com technology analyst Larry Magid is currently attending the CeBIT Technology Fair in Germany.



There is nothing new about being able to use a cell phone to take pictures or listen to music as long as you're willing to make some compromises. Most of today's "camera" phones have sensors that give you a much lower resolution picture than what you'll get with even low-cost stand-alone digital cameras. And phones that can store and play music generally have a paltry amount of storage compared iPods and other digital music players.

Samsung wants to change the equation and is using its booth at the CeBIT Technology Fair in Hanover, Germany to show off super high-resolution camera phones along with a "music" player phone with an 8-gigabyte hard drive — twice the storage of the high-end iPod Nano.

Samsung says that its new i310 phone is the world's first mobile phone equipped with such a large hard drive. The "Smartphone" comes with Windows Mobile 5.0 which includes a version of the Windows Media player for audio and video as well as productivity applications for keeping track of personal information. It also has a USB port that not only lets users transfer data between a PC and the phone but also use the phone as a removable hard disk drive. Bluetooth stereo allows users to play music on wireless speakers or headphones.

I listened to music on this phone and it sounded at least as good as an iPod. Of course, with an 8-gigabyte drive the phone won't be cheap — it's estimated to sell for about $700, but that price will depend on cell phone carrier rebates.

Apple continues to dominate the digital music market, but products like this that feature Microsoft's media player will put pressure on Apple and could, ultimately, help reduce that company's market share.

The phone also has a 2-megapixel camera which is enough for decent quality 4-by-6 prints. It has a 2-inch color screen and stereo speakers but fits well in the hand, measuring 4.4 inches long, 1.9 inches wide and .77 inch thick. It weighs 4.3 ounces.

The company also introduced a 10-megapixel camera phone. To put that into context, most consumer digital cameras record 3, 4 or 5 megapixels so the SCBH-600 has at twice the resolution of most stand-alone cameras. Of course, the lenses may not be as good as what you get in a stand-alone camera, but it is a good indication of how multifunction devices tend to evolve over time. Like the components in those early combination printers/scanners/fax machines, the cameras in the first and second generation of digital camera phones were nowhere near as good as what you get in a stand-alone camera, but that's starting to change. It wouldn't surprise me if camera phones eventually replaced most consumer digital cameras, though there will always be a market for high-end stand-alone cameras.

By Larry Magid

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