CES 2009 preview: Cell phones and smartphones

CNET tells you what to expect from the world of cell phones at CES 2009.

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
3 min read

As the holidays approach, we're thinking about more than gift shopping and spiking the eggnog; we're thinking about CES, which looms soon after New Year's Day. Though cell phones tend to play a supporting role at CES, I guarantee that we'll see a few new handsets debuting. Of course, Apple always shuns the event for its own Macworld--it runs the same week as CES--but most of the major players will be in Sin City. Since most announcements are shrouded in secrecy until the show opens, we don't have anything firm to report just yet. But if we had a crystal ball, this is what we would see:

Touch-screen phones
If there was a trend in 2008, it was touch-screen phones. Including the uberhyped iPhone, we saw a mass of touch models, particularly during the latter half of the year. They included smartphones like the Samsung Omnia and the LG Incite, but also mid-range phones like the Samsung Eternity and Behold. We suspect the touch-screen phenomenon will probably continue into the new year. We'll be hitting up all the major players at CES to see what they have up their sleeves, and you never know what might spring up.

Camera phones
Though camera phones have taken a back seat to music phones over the last couple of years, they're now back with a vengeance. Recently, we reviewed three high-end camera phones: the 5-megapixel Motorola ZN5, the Sony Ericsson C902, and the 8-megapixel Samsung Innov8. Only the ZN5 landed at a U.S. carrier. It offers integrated Wi-Fi for easy photo uploading. We expect to see camera phones get even better in 2009; and CES will be the beginning. And don't worry, music fans, as you should see some new handsets, too. The Motorola Rokr E8 was born at CES last year and it won our Best of CES award in the cell phones category.

Messaging phones
Messaging phones took off in a big way in late 2008. And when we say messaging phones, we're talking about handsets built for texting rather than complicated smartphones. Indeed, we saw eight such handsets this fall and we don't expect the trend to stop anytime soon. Look for more messaging phones at CES in a variety of styles.

With the releases of the T-Mobile G1, RIM BlackBerry Storm, Sony Ericsson Xperia X1, and other notable devices, 2008 was a big year for smartphones, so can it possibly be outdone? Of course. While we don't expect to see too many new models at CES 2009, we're looking forward to getting some hands-on time with the hot Nokia N97 to find out if it's really worth all the buzz.

On the Android front, Sony Ericsson just announced that it will be coming out with Google Android smartphones in summer 2009. In Las Vegas, we'll be picking the company's brain to see what it has in mind. We'll also talk with HTC, which plans to have a whole portfolio of Android devices by summer. We also should see developments with the Android platform itself, including new applications and features.

Bluetooth headsets
Due to the relatively recent hands-free driving laws sweeping the nation, we'll see even more Bluetooth accessories than ever. We'll see headsets of all shapes and sizes, and in-car speakerphones will take off, too. We also think stereo Bluetooth will be a standard in most, if not all, headsets.