MacWorld
Apple via AP file
Apple's new iPhone was introduced by CEO Steve Jobs during keynote address at MacWorld Conference in San Francisco, Jan. 9, 2007.
By Columnist
msnbc.com
updated 3/28/2007 12:49:09 PM ET 2007-03-28T16:49:09

There are hundreds of companies exhibiting their wares here at the CTIA Wireless 2007 cellular industry expo. But the industry buzz is firmly focused on a product that's not even formally on the show floor.

All conversations on the show floor — and anywhere industry wags are gathering — eventually lead to heated discussions about Apple’s upcoming iPhone.

It’s as if many attending the show are going through the motions. There's plenty of other new devices at this year's CTIA, but everyone is busy speculating about iPhone. It's quickly turning out to be the industry’s 2,000 pound gorilla.

Apple doesn't have a booth here, but there have been a few confirmed iPhone sightings. Some showgoers whisper that Apple reps are showing early samples of the phone to very select people, and those lucky enough to have a viewing have been sworn to secrecy. Others say the man himself, Steve Jobs, has been sighted in Orlando this week.

Whether or not final versions of the iPhone will be a competent cellular device remains to be seen. But it doesn’t really matter. The iPhone is destined to be a gigantic hit. And I’m pretty sure Apple will see to it that the iPhone is not a dud.

Even before its official release, the iPhone's effect on the industry as a whole is massive.  According to other manufacturers, Apple will probably sell a slew of them — so many that the iPhone may turn out to be the best-selling cellular device of all time.

After the initial rush of Apple enthusiast purchases, it will be interesting to see whether consumers will continue to buy Apple’s cellular offerings. The prices — rumored to be quite steep — may be a factor. It will also be interesting to see whether the rest of the industry will rise to the occasion and be able to withstand the initial sales onslaught.

Image: Z750
Sony Ericsson
In person, the Z750 is absolutely stunning, although pictures do not do it justice.

Jewel of a phone
In the meantime, there’s one phone that I saw at the show that is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous — Sony Ericsson’s Z750.

The new Mirror Clamshell design hides a GSM/GPRS/EDGE and HSDPA/UMTS cell phone, a 2 MP camera, Bluetooth 2.0 stereo technology, a media player that handles MP3, AAC, and WMA files, plus a 2.2-inch interior screen and a 1.1-inch external display which hides behind the mirror finish when not in use. 

But the most compelling part of this handset is how it looks and feels.It’s available in Luster Black and an amazingly attractive Rose Pink. The Z750 also weighs less than you'd think by looking at it — a hair under 4 ounces.

Indoor cells
The number one complaint I hear from readers is that their cell phones don’t work inside their homes. It doesn’t matter where you live or what cellular service you subscribe to — making a cell phone call inside a building is usually a problem.

The reason for that is simple. Many buildings have a large amount of metal inside the walls that prevent radio frequencies from getting where they need to go  All the AC electrical wiring doesn’t help either.  

Usually, my best suggested solution is for reader to find an area where service is acceptable — even if that means walking outdoors. Not a great idea during a rainstorm or sub-zero temperatures.

zBoost YX510-PCS-CEL
Wi-Ex
The zBoost phone-boosting box lets you make cell-phone calls at home. What a concept!
That’s where the people at Wi-Ex come in. They have designed a line of devices to help with this exact problem. There are portable products for small areas, a new model for small areas ($99) and even your car. But I was intrigued by the top-of-the-line zBoost YX510-PCS-CEL - Dual Band cell phone boosting box. 

Instead of leaning out your window — you put the gain-boosting antenna outdoors and the device re-broadcasts the cellular signal throughout your home (up to 3,000 square feet).  This dual-band model works with most cellular carriers’ phones (except Nextel).

Boosted cellular connectivity doesn’t come cheap. This zBoost model retails for $399. 

More cellular TV
The people who make Slingbox, the clever television re-broadcasting devices that let you watch video on your computers and smart phones, have announced the release of public beta of their Sling Player Mobile software for the Palm Treo 700p. It’s available a free download on the Sling Media Website.

Image: My Blu
MSG Distributors
Can't wait for iPhone? This device lets you make and receive calls through your iPod.

Your Blu
Just can't wait for Apple's iPhone? MSG Digital is marketing My Blu — a device which lets you make and receive cell phone calls through your iPod.

My Blu physically attaches to your iPod via the headphone jack. You then plug your earplugs into the My Blu, which then acts as a remote control for your music playback as well as a conduit for your nearby Bluetooth-enabled cellular phone. 

My Blu retails for $89.99.

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