Microsoft next generation smartphones previewed

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I recently spent an afternoon being shown the latest and greatest smartphones and Pocket PC’s, with a view to finding out what exactly it was that Microsoft were so damn excited about.

Essentially, we’re now faced with more choices than ever before, as illustrated by the photo to the left. These are all the phones either currently in the UK, or expected to join us at some point this year.  All of them run of Windows Mobile 5.0, so have Push Email, and the ability to remotely wipe the device if it’s lost.

From bottom left – right:

Treo 700w: A controversial one, this. Palm have dumped the Palm OS in favour of the Windows Mobile platform, in a move that has incensed many die-hard Treo fans. Pictured is the US Verizon version, but the result of the recently announced partnering for the next UK Treo between Vodafone and Palm is not expected to be vastly different. The main addition to the keypad is predictably the Windows Start Menu button. As far as a launch date is concerned ‘coming soon’ was all we got.

T Mobile MDA Vario: This has been available in the UK for a while now. It features a slide-out QWERTY keypad, WiFi, GPRS, EDGE, although no 3G. In fact. it’s very similar to…

..The HTC Tytn: We reviewed this a few days ago. It’s one of the first Pocket PC brought to us by HTC, who have traditionally manufactured handsets for people like Orange and O2 to stick their name on. It features WiFi, 3G and a slide out QWERTY keyboard. We found it for £50 on an O2 contract, or over £500 SIM free. Available in the UK now.

HTC STRTrk: Confusingly, this is known as StarTrek and as the QTEK 850.  It’s a quadband EDGE phone, which features Bluetooth, an MP3 player, a 1.3 megapixel camera and a MicroSD card. This is a departure from the previous phones, since this is aimed squarely at the consumer market – no touchscreen or QWERTY keypad, but available in black, silver and pink. Despite this, it comes fully loaded with Windows Media 5.0 so you’ve still got all the Direct Push and Windows functionality.  Available in the UK now for £305 SIM free.

Top row left to right:

Samsung I320: This has recently launched in Italy and France, and we were told that a UK launch was planned. It’s extremely thin when you put it next to something like a Treo, despite featuring a full QWERTY keypad. It’s got 1.3 megapixel camera, Bluetooth and a MicroSD card, although no touchscreen.

HTC MTeoR: This is the more phone-centric offering from HTC. It’s 3G, with a 1.3 megapixel camera on the front, and another by the screen for video calls. Again, no QWERTY keypad, or touch screen, but this one is in a candy bar style. This is going to be available in the next 10 days from O2, by the looks of Expansys.

iPAQ HP 6900: This isn’t yet available in the UK, although it will be eventually (no definite dates yet, but we’ll keep you posted). It’s got both a QWERTY keypad and a touchscreen, WiFi, Bluetooth all built into a slim candybar handset. It’s been billed as the Treo killer, because of its combination of keypad and touch screen.

So, we’ve got the handsets. And from the looks of it, we’ve got the apps. For instance, Slingbox have announced SlingPlayer Mobile, which is already available in the US.  It’s exclusively for Windows Mobile based PDAs and smartphones, and allows you to watch your home TV wherever you are, via an internet connection (WiFi USB or Bluetooth). It’s not here yet, but watch this space. 

The next launch for Microsoft is with Windows Live, which is currently in Beta testing. It plots your position on the globe, down to the nearest mm or something equally exact, and then gives you all the information you could possibly desire – nearest restaurant, reviews of nearest restaurant, map to the nearest restaurant, cash machine nearest to restaurant, great-aunt Gertrude’s opinion of nearest restaurant, all seamlessly integrated with your phone functions. It’s not dissimilar to something like Vodafone’s Find and Seek service, but looks like it will be better integrated into the Windows Mobile ‘experience’.

They’re also keen to integrate Windows Media Centre into their devices. This to the right is the Toshiba Gigabeat S which features the Windows Media interface. It’s so far only been released in the US, but with 30GB or 60GB of storage, a sharp colour screen and both coming in cheaper than the Apple alternative, it’s a bit of a winner.  There aren’t currently any plans to bring it to the UK, but with previous models available here, all is not lost.

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