Cellphones become Mini-Computers

The New York Times writes about how cellphones are becoming bigger, more powerful and multi-functional:

The cellular industry’s long pursuit of ever-more minuscule phones has shifted into reverse, giving rise to bulkier wireless handsets with larger color screens and small versions of standard qwerty-style computer keyboards to send e-mail and instant messages.

The multifunction devices are beginning to find an audience beyond gadget lovers, according to cellular executives, who hope to put their digital wireless networks to use for more than voice traffic.

Cellular executives say they think that a market previously limited largely to business travelers and technology enthusiasts will broaden as networks add digital audio and video entertainment services to their offerings.

“This has been a niche but we have high hopes for a range of devices coming out right now,” said John Clelland, a senior vice president at T-Mobile, a cellular carrier with more than 13 million subscribers. The arrival of the qwerty-style cellphones, which allow users to enter text quickly, using their thumbs, can be traced in part to the arrival of faster digital networks and to the United States audience’s preference for computer keyboards, industry executives said.

Danger, based in Palo Alto, has created an online service to support its Sidekick handset. The company reports a significant increase in its customers’ use of digital Internet services.

Last week, the company – which now has about 200,000 subscribers, according to industry analysts – said that each day, its average user sends 182 instant messages, receives 25 e-mail messages, makes or receives 17 phone calls, sends 8 or 9 short text messages and browses 24 Web pages.

“We’ve proven that messaging is a key ingredient of communications,” said Hank Nothhaft, Danger’s chairman and chief executive.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.