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Smartphone Shines in Barcelona Preview

BARCELONA -- I'm not sure I agree with the choice of names, but I think the people at Sony Ericsson may be on to something hot.

The handset maker has just introduced its Xperia X1 smartphone here at the Mobile World Congress. The phone itself is very, very cool.

The name Xperia reminds me too much of Expedia. So from now on I'm going to refer to it as the X1.

The new phone is a multiband world phone that operates on a big bunch of high-speed data networks around the world -- from the slow-speed GSM/GPRS offerings in North America to the higher-speed EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA and HSUPA available elsewhere.

It's a slider design with a touch screen and good-size QWERTY keyboard inside, plus all the necessary built-ins that a modern-day smartphone must have -- such as a 3.2 megapixel camera, FM radio, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, a microSD memory-card slot and USB connectivity.

The phone runs on Microsoft (MSFT)'s Windows Mobile platform, so it has all the programs that come with Windows Mobile -- such as portable versions of Word, Excel, Outlook as well as a media player.

But it's what's also running on the phone that's a big deal.

The X1 comes with its own graphical interface that presents you with nine small thumbnail windows of your favorite programs -- laid out like a tic-tac-toe board. Tap on the picture and the program opens. Or, you can change the screen to show you a cascading view of your nine favorite programs and search through them just by gliding your finger across the screen.

I can't wait to get my hands on an X1 to put it through its paces. But, I'll have to wait just like everyone else. The people at Sony Ericsson, which is co-owned by Sony (SNE) and Ericsson (ERIC), say we'll have to wait until later this year to see X1s in the marketplace. I'm hoping that their talks with U.S. carriers means we'll get to see X1s as soon as they're available.

Bringing TV to Your Cellphone

How about a simple way to receive all-digital television shows on your cell phone?

Not only on super-duper-expensive smartphones -- but on many cell phones already on the market. Even on portable video devices that don't have built-in cell phones -- like video iPods.

That's what the PacketVideo company has in mind with its Mobile Broadcast Receiver. It's a small, rechargeable standalone unit that decodes digital TV signals and processes it for use on your cell phone. It then rebroadcasts these digital TV stations, using patented protocols, to your handset via Wi-Fi.

There are versions of this device that work on every digital TV standard on the planet (TDtv, DVB-H, MediaFLO and WiMAX).

Expect these devices to be sold by wireless carriers who could bundle it with other services. Also expect to see this sort of PacketVideo technology on phones that will run on the Android operating system -- maybe even the highly anticipated Google (GOOG) phone.

I say that because PacketVideo is also a founding member of the Open Handset Alliance -- the people who are busy developing Android. Stay tuned.

Tracking Your Travel Needs

We also got to see a new software program that can turn your BlackBerry (and soon Windows Mobile) PDAs into PTAs -- Personal Travel Assistant devices.

WorldMate Live, from Los Angeles-based company MobileMate is an all- encompassing software program that allows your smartphone to keep track of all your travel needs.

While your phone is connected to MobileMate servers, WorldMate Live helps you make reservations and keeps track of your travel plans -- up to and including warning/informing you of up-to-the-minute airport delays and even displaying ways to get around those problems. All of this happens via MobileMate's real-time alert system.

It also incorporates your smartphone's mapping system to show you how to get to your hotel or an appointment. It even tells you what the weather will be when you get to your destination.

If this sounds interesting you can check out the system here .

With 34 years experience as a journalist -- the last 27 with NBC -- Gary Krakow has seen all the best and worst technology that's come along. Gary joined before it actually went online in July 1996. He produced and anchored the first live Webcast of a presidential election in November 1996. With a background as a gadget freak, audiophile and ham radio operator, Krakow started writing reviews for both Audio and Stereophile Magazines in the 80s. Once at, Krakow started writing a column to help feed his personal passion for playing with gadgets of all types, shapes and sizes. Within a short time, that column became a major force in many electronics industries -- audio, video, photography, GPS and cell phones. Readership soared, and manufacturers told him they had actual proof that a positive review in his column sold thousands of their products. Many electronics manufacturers have used quotes from his reviews in their sales literature as well as on their Web sites. There have also been a few awards too, including Emmys in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

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