Smartphones to Look Forward To

Barcelona was somewhat blah this year. Here are some products that stood out.
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If one can surmise anything from the first two electronics industry trade shows of 2009, it's that this is shaping up to be a very slow year. Last January, the Consumer Electronics Show seemed light on hot new items to report. To be honest, it also seemed light on attendees as well. Same for last week's cell-phone expo in Barcelona, Spain.

This month's 2009 Mobile World Congress was disappointing in many ways. First of all, attendance. If you subscribe to the "Krakow Taxi Cab Waiting Line" measurement yardstick, then you will realize that "less than 60 seconds' wait" means far fewer show attendees were queuing up for rides. My other method of gauging attendance is the perceived level of pushing and shoving by other attendees on the show floor. This year's "Roller Derby" quotient was amazingly low.

Also low were the numbers of new and interesting items introduced at last week's show. You know you're in trouble when you can count the cool new phones on one hand, especially when you're talking about the premiere cell-phone show on the planet.

Kudos to the companies that came with enough new goodies to make the trip overseas worth the trouble:

First Look: Garmin Nuvifone

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Garmin-Asus nuvifone

. Actually, two

Garmin

(GRMN) - Get Report

nuvifones: the 3.5G, GSMGPRS/HSDPA/GPS model S60 (formerly the "cell phone under glass") that we were promised a year ago, and one of the big surprises of the show, the

M20 GPS smartphone

. The M in the handset's name stands for

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

and its Windows Mobile operating system. This is a small, very pocketable device that is loaded with features. Garmin won't say when or if we'll see these new devices in the U.S., only that it's busy working on marketing deals.

Because of the international cellular frequencies that Garmin is using, AT&T would be the only real choice for releasing its phones here, unless special models are produced for

Verizon

(VZ) - Get Report

,

Sprint

(S) - Get Report

or

T-Mobile

(DT) - Get Report

.

Windows Mobile 6.5

.

Mostly a face lift

as opposed to major surgery for Microsoft's

(MSFT) - Get Report

mobile device operating system. Microsoft is promising the next major overhaul, Windows Mobile 7.0, for 2010. By the way, phones running the Windows Mobile operating system will now be known as Windows Phones. Microsoft also announced a mobile app store.

Nokia's new phones

.

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

, the No. 1 cell-phone maker on the planet, is reeling like every other manufacturer during these hard times. But that didn't stop the Finnish firm from using the show to announce some terrific-looking new designs, including the latest evolutionary step in the company's slide-out-keyboard smartphone: the E75. I still have a working Nokia 9000iL Communicator that now looks like a "before" contestant on

The Biggest Loser

when compared with its modern-day sibling. Nokia also had a few E97 touch-screen smartphones on hand for people to play with. We're expecting to see these and other new designs sometime mid-year. Nokia also announced a mobile app store.

Toshiba TG01

. Out of nowhere

Toshiba introduced

one of the hottest smartphones ever. The TG01 is a Windows Mobile phone with a huge, 4.1-inch screen; it runs on the soon-to-be-famous 1GHz, Snapdragon processor made by

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

. That chip is capable of some amazing three-dimensional stuff. Although the first models will go on sale in Europe midyear, we're praying that Toshiba makes a version for North American carriers. This could be a real

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

iPhone killer.

SDXc memory cards

.

They come in three sizes

, but most consumers know large SD (Secure Digital) and super-tiny microSD cards. The latest twist adds extra capacity (Xc) -- a lot more extra capacity. We're talking as much as 2 terabytes on a card, even on a microSD within five years. Expect

SanDisk

(SNDK)

and all the others to be getting these to market as soon as possible. Just think, 2TB of storage on your smartphone. Who will want to carry big laptops around with them?

Gary Krakow is TheStreet.com's senior technology correspondent.