First solar-powered phone goes on display
The device is to be launched initially in Europe in the second half of 2009 but is likely to be out of the price range of a worker in the developing world.
Barcelona -- Samsung unveiled the world's first solar-powered mobile phone at an industry show in Spain earlier this week, where the sector is showcasing the new technology it hopes will drive demand through the economic crisis.
The South Korean manufacturer put its "Blue Earth" phone on display in front of curious crowds at Mobile World Congress, with industry insiders keen to see the mini solar panels located on the back of the phone.
"This type of device would be ideal for developing markets where workers have long hours and don't have access to electricity," commented Nick Lane, chief researcher at consultancy Direct2 Mobile. "It would also interest consumers with an eye on the 'green' aspects, or companies and their CSR (corporate social responsibility) programs."
The device is to be launched initially in Europe in the second half of 2009 but is likely to be out of the price range of a worker in the developing world. A Samsung representative said it would be a mid- to high-end handset.
A full charge, which takes about 10 to 14 hours in the sun, offers about four hours of talk time. The phone can also be plugged in to charge, with the solar panels used to top up the battery to extend its power.
Fellow South Korean manufacturer LG Electronics also put a prototype solar-powered phone on display, although the handset is not ready for market.
LG also showcased a mobile phone-enabled watch, which it said was a world first.
The Mobile World Congress, which runs from Monday to Thursday, is the world's biggest mobile phone show and is set to bring together 60,000 industry insiders from 1,200 companies, according to the organizers, the GSM Association.
As well as the launches and new industry initiatives, the economic crisis has cast a pall over the gathering with cost-cutting the new concern of an industry that has become accustomed to constant growth.
Nevertheless, the chief executive of Russia's Vimpelcom operator, Alexander Izosimov, sought to stress the rosy future of the industry as a whole despite the morose economic climate.
"We are dealing with something that is absolutely guaranteed to expand in the future," he told reporters. "Our growth (as an industry) is absolutely secured."
The chief executive of China Mobile, the biggest Chinese network operator, said that his company had felt the impact of the financial crisis, but he underlined the recession-resistant nature of providing phone connections.
"Even in difficult times, people need to use their mobile phones," CEO Wang Jianzhou told reporters.
All the major network operators such as Vodafone, MTN or Telefonica were present, as well as the major handset makers -- including new entrant Acer, a Taiwanese manufacturer better known for making computers.
Acer unveiled its first range of phones, with the first four high-end models set to go on sale in March or April and another six handsets to follow, marketing manager Sylvia Pan told AFP.
The touch-screen phones shown were mostly black, with a design that resembles the top-selling Apple iPhone.
The move illustrates two trends in the mobile phone industry: the growing attractiveness of the high-end market for "smart phones" and the arrival of traditional laptop computer makers in this segment.
Software giant Microsoft and Finnish handset maker Nokia also announced their responses to the phenomenal success of Apple's AppStore.
Apple launched the AppStore last July, enabling users of its high-end iPhone to download new applications for their devices. The 500,000th download was celebrated at the end of January.
Microsoft hit back with its "Windows Marketplace for Mobile," while Nokia unveiled its "Ovi Store." Both offer the same service as the AppStore, which allows users to personalize their phones with tailored applications.
Like Apple, Microsoft and Nokia will allow outside developers to write applications that can be downloaded on their sites.
In other news Monday, Google got a boost when Chinese manufacturer Huawei revealed only the second mobile phone to integrate the American company's mobile phone operating system called Android.
Rival developers are battling to create the dominant operating system for mobile phones, with Google competing with Microsoft, Nokia and an open-source Linux-based project.
The first phone to use Android was launched last year in October, the G1, made by Taiwan-based group HTC in partnership with German network operator T-Mobile.