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2010 cell phones preview

CNET offers a previews of coming cell phone attractions at CES 2010.

The Pre: the king of CES 2009. Corinne Schulze/CNET

With the tech industry's biggest gadget bonanza less than a month away, we're already thinking of what will go down in Las Vegas for cell phones and smartphones. Though mobile is just a small part of the Consumer Electronics Show, the category has won a lot of attention over the last two years. Just consider that the Palm Pre swept CES in 2009 and went on to win the Best of CES Award. And with the Macworld Expo no longer competing for the wireless world's attention in early January, we expect that phones will fill a big and visible role at the 2010 show.

Google Android was supposed to feature prominently at the 2009 CES, but the show came and went without an Android handset announcement. In 2010, however, we expect that Android will be everywhere in Sin City. After a steady flow of new Android phones since September, we see no reason why the deluge won't continue. And considering Palm has shown that CES can be a great place to launch a new cell phone, we doubt that manufacturers and carriers will wait for the GSMA World Congress in February or the CTIA show in March. Look for new Android phones from HTC, Motorola, and possibly LG. And we hope to catch our first hands-on with the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10.

Expect more from him.

Also in smartphones
Perhaps we'll see some new Windows Mobile 6.5 smartphone devices. Nokia will be at CES and we hope to get a glimpse of its latest North American handsets, such as the Nokia E72, and learn more about its strategy for the new year. Along the same lines, we'd like to see what's going on with Samsung Bada, which is a mystery to many. And who knows...perhaps Palm will celebrate the anniversary of the Pre launch with a new WebOS device? We know that the Pixi won't be the last of its kind.

Messaging and more
In our text-happy culture, we know that we'll see more messaging phones. Remember that these aren't true smartphones--they don't have a third-party OS and they are equipped more for text and IM than for corporate e-mail. Over the least year we've seen a wave of messaging handsets in various designs. Look for Samsung and LG to offer the most models. As for other features, we should see phones with GPS, 3G, Wi-Fi, and cameras with more megapixels. Sure, these features are nothing, but manufacturers will continue to highlight them. And on the same note, touch screens will continue to trickle down into midrange devices.

More Moto should be on the way. Josh Miller/CNET

A Moto comeback?
Though Moto has made a decent showing at CES before, just a few months ago some tech watchers were counting Motorola's last days. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral. Moto pumped out two excellent Android phones. The Cliq landed at T-Mobile and the Droid arrived to huge fanfare at Verizon Wireless. We know that Moto has more phones up its sleeve, and CES would be an ideal forum to show the new models off.

And what about Apple? As we mentioned, Macworld will be a very different event in 2010. In the wake of Apple's decision to stop appearing at the annual show, Macworld's organizers moved the 2010 dates to February. So will January pass by without an iPhone announcement (Apple unveiled the first iPhone at the 2007 Macworld)? That question has led some to speculate that Apple will exhibit at CES. We think that an apple presence in Vegas is unlikely, but you never know. On the other hand, Apple could again steal the CES spotlight by dropping a new iPhone without a Steve Jobs keynote.

Bluetooth headsets will continue to proliferate the accessory market, and we expect more of them to be stereo Bluetooth headsets rather than mono versions. We did see a few notable ones in 2009, like the Samsung SBH-600 and the Sony Ericsson HBH-IS800, but neither of them blew us away. We're hoping to see a truly outstanding stereo Bluetooth headset in 2010.