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Apple's Advantage Evident at Wireless Show

Lackluster show in Las Vegas points to an industry playing catch-up.

LAS VEGAS -- What a disappointment!

The CTIA Wireless 2008 show here was a bust as far as I'm concerned.

This was the first cell phone show I've ever covered where there were very few cell phones.

There were a few new items of note -- like the two smartphones from


, one which we might see in this country (the F480 Windows Mobile phone) and the


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-Samsung Instinct (a Java-based candidate for iPhone killer), which we'll see in the next two to three months.

But otherwise, there was very little for me to tell you about. Nothing to be found on the soon-to-be-legendary


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Gphone, or the upcoming Skype phone, the BlackBerry 9000 touch-screen phone or the


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nuvifone -- although Garmin was showing off what it said was a working sample. But, like in Barcelona, it was still being kept under a glass bell jar -- away from prying journalist fingers.

What does that leave us with?

An industry chasing


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iPhone with no real contender stepping up to the plate. And Apple isn't standing still. Expect a 3G version to be released very soon -- which could leave other cell phone makers even further behind.

CTIA is All About Apple

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The other disappointment here was WiMax technology. It wasn't actually here. It seems that demonstrations of the new high-speed wireless data technology weren't really based on WiMax. Companies at CTIA weren't given permission to use test transmissions -- so there was high-speed wireless but not really WiMax.

Also, there is the question of whether WiMax is the next big thing. A lot of companies were touting WiMax, but if you looked closely they were also talking about LTE -- a faster wireless protocol that may leapfrog into prominence.

Plus, what was once promised as a nationwide rollout, Sprint/Nextel has scaled back its early efforts. The premier target area will be the Northeast U.S. -- with the Washington D.C.-Baltimore area being first for testing sometime in the next few months.

Sprint has a lot riding on this technology. But, it seems that some of the companies involved in rolling out the system infrastructure could be hedging their bets. There were many signs at the show that companies are already busy working on other, faster modes of service.

The situation here at the CTIA show was so bad that there seemed to be little to write about in the daily industry-news magazine. After the first full day of the show, the top story in the magazine was a feature article about an April Fool's joke by Sir Richard Branson.

Nothing about new phones -- or hot new services -- just a story about a practical joke.

Actually, the hottest item we spotted at the show was a bunch of cell phone covers/holsters based on the super-popular


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plastic shoes. They are destined to be a big hit with children and adults alike.

It looks like this is shaping up as a very long year for the cellular industry -- and the people who cover it.

Gary Krakow is's senior technology correspondent.