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CES: Will an Apple phone come too late?

An Apple phone: will it be too late?

Samsung Ultra Music

It's now T minus one day until the big Apple keynote, where everyone's expecting a new iPod phone to be announced (I'm still skeptical). But now that I've been at CES for a couple of days, I'm starting to wonder: is Apple too late?

At the very least, I've already gotten good looks at two cool form factors for music-playing phones. The first one is the Samsung Ultra Music, which is a phone on one side and an MP3 player on the other, and it's thinner than a Razr. Granted, it's sporting only 1GB of onboard capacity, but it's expandable via Micro SD, so fans of the Shuffle or other smaller-capacity flash players should be perfectly satisfied. Plus, the Samsung Ultra Music has a camera. Take that, not-yet-in-existence iPod phone!

Then there's the Nokia N95, otherwise known as the phone that does it all. It controls media playback using a line of buttons across the top--it's a slider phone that slides up to reveal the keypad and down to reveal the media control buttons. Slick design for media playback, although it does suffer from an almost complete lack of onboard storage. But if you're looking at the Nokia, you're also getting a 5-megapixel camera, smart phone functionality, video and music playback, and oh, yeah, it's a stand-alone GPS navigation unit.

I think it's possible that Apple already has some stiff competition for both industrial design (that Samsung is just so clever) and for features above and beyond iPod-like music playback. Of course, I guess none of this intelligent and insightful analysis will mean a thing if the iPod phone is actually announced tomorrow. Poor little Samsung and Nokia will be lost in the stampede.