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CES 2007: Mobile phone preview

CES is the biggest consumer electronics show in the world, and at the 2007 show, we expect to see a lot of mobile phones. Read our mobile phone preview to find out what technology and trends we expect to see at CES.

CES is the biggest consumer electronics show in the world, and at the 2007 show, we expect to see some mobile phones. Read our mobile phone preview to find out what technology and trends we expect to see at CES.

Another year has passed, and CES is upon us again. Unlike shows like CommunicAsia, where mobile phones rule, CES is a technology hodgepodge, with hundreds of gadgets crowding the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center. As a result, mobile phones have to scream for attention in the crowd of cameras, MP3 players, and flat-screen televisions. But as the kickoff tech show of the year, CES does set the stage for the year's mobile phone trends, and in 2007 we expect to see a few developments.

Multimedia
Although mobile phones first and foremost are about making calls, they haven't deviated from a steady march toward integration. But unlike in past years, we're finally seeing camera phones and music phones that are more than just novelties. The Sony Ericsson W810i remains one of our favourite music phones, not only because it is easy to use but also because it offers fantastic performance. We expect to see improved music phones that are so cool they may entice you to leave your iPod at home (at least for short trips). Nokia has already pushed the limit of phone storage space with the N91 Music Edition, which offers 8GB of space -- the same as the highest capacity Nano -- for music and file. SanDisk will continue to increase the capacity of its tiny memory cards, too.

On the camera phone side, both the Sony Ericsson K800i and Nokia N73 blew away most competing mobile shooters. Outstanding picture quality and cool features such as autofocus made these handsets winners. At CES we expect to see camera phones that will top 5-megapixels and will include nifty services for printing your shots. Whether we'll see these this year in Australia, however, is another matter.

Of course, we can't forget 3G. With the HSDPA-enabled networks launched last year paving the way for high-speed wireless services, more souped up devices are hitting store shelves every month.

Thin is still in
Although the Motorola RAZR is now two years old (a lifetime in the mobile phone world), the thin phones remain a hot commodity. Samsung will show more slim devices, while Motorola continues to build on the Razr's success with devices such as the previously announced KRZR and RIZR. Speaking of the Rizr, look for more slider designs as well.

Better Bluetooth
One of the most exciting developments of 2006 was that stereo Bluetooth was finally breaking into carrier-supported mobile phones. Handsets like the Nokia 6288 allow you to ditch wires altogether, and the trend will continue at CES with Nokia showing more handsets that support the feature. Jabra should show a headset that alternates between mono and stereo modes, while we'll also see such design innovations as a headset with a slider design, a shoulder-mounted model, and headsets that mimic the form factors of popular phones.

Smart phones in all shapes and sizes
It's been a big year for smart phones, as 2006 saw the launch of a number of highly-anticipated devices, such as the RIM BlackBerry Pearl, LG Chocolate and the Palm Treo 680. So is there anything left to look forward to at CES 2007? Of course. Design continues to be a driving force with all mobiles, so we expect to see more slim and compact smart phones to sashay down the runway. Also, HTC's Dopod brand will continue to make its presence know in Australia with low-cost smart phones.

Reaching a mass audience
With the launch of the user-friendly Treo 680 and BlackBerry Pearl, it's also clear that smart phone manufacturers want to reach a broader audience than just business users. Multimedia has played a big role, as these gadgets are more than tools for business: They can play music and video, take photos, and entertain as well. We'll be watching Nokia in particular, as that company has led the charge in this space with its N series.

CNET.com.au's Jeremy Roche contributed to this report.