Cellular companies ready ring tones, radio and more

At CTIA show, Cingular looks to "Star Wars," the BlackBerry goes Yahoo, and AOL tunes in radio stations. Photos: CTIA cell phones on parade

Ben Charny Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Ben Charny
covers Net telephony and the cellular industry.
Ben Charny
3 min read
Cell phone madness hits Bourbon Street this week, with wireless giants and newcomers alike vying for attention at a major industry gathering.

Below is a partial list of Monday's announcements, as CTIA Wireless 2005 kicks off in New Orleans.

• Luke, I am your cell phone. Cingular Wireless is making available Star Wars screen savers, games and ring tones. Two of Cingular's latest phones, the Ericsson S710 and Sony Ericsson Z500a, now come loaded with Star Wars paraphernalia, the operator said. Both phones are due April 5, with the S710 priced at $400 and the Z500a at $59 with two-year contracts.

Cell phones

• Federal Communications Commission pressure on wireless operators to keep porn off cell phones has several companies debuting filtering software. They include BCGI, which provides operators with billing services, and Bytemobile. Bytemobile is updating its "data booster," which accelerates notoriously slow cell phone browsers. It's also capable of acting as a content filter.

• BlackBerry maker Research In Motion plans to embed a version of Yahoo's instant-messaging software into future RIM phones. It will be the first time Yahoo has had the software into phones at the factories, Yahoo said. Yahoo Messenger is available through scores of operators, but subscribers have to pay extra to download it onto their phones.

• Yahoo competitor America Online is beefing up AIM, its instant-messaging software, with Instant Pictures, which lets AOL members and AIM users send photos from PC desktops to any cell phone, and lets recipients reply from their own photos. The company is also working on a mobile version of AIM that that lets a person initiate an Instant Picture message from a phone.

• AOL is also developing a mobile version of its Radio@AOL offering so that properly outfitted cell phones can listen to more than 200 online radio stations on their phones.

• No. 1 global handset maker Nokia plans to introduce three new phones for North America, where CDMA, the Qualcomm-created cell phone standard, dominates. Nokia is trying to expand its CDMA portfolio to capture more of the U.S. market.

• InnoPath Software, which operators use to remotely manage their subscribers' phones, has teamed with chip giant Intel and security specialist McAfee to guard against cell phone viruses and other maladies now making their way toward cell phones.

• A number of companies will be offering ways to fight spam on cell phones. According to a study published last month by the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, 80 percent of respondents to a survey received unwanted messages on their cell phones, and 83 percent of telecommunications professionals who took part in the study expected wireless spam to be a major problem in one to two years.

• Phillips Semiconductor has beefed up its lineup of cell phone chips by adding EDGE, a high-speed wireless standard that's compatible with GSM, the world's most popular cell phone standard. Philips is also unveiling low-cost cell phone chips that automatically roam between cell phone and Wi-Fi, which is a standard used in short-range wireless networks found in tens of thousands of U.S. locations, including transportation hubs, restaurants and cafes. A phone based on the chips is due out in the latter half of 2005.