As you already know, CES is the major showcase for the entire electronics industry, even though there are other, smaller shows during the year for some types of devices, such as cell phones. That show is called CTIA, and the next one isn't until March.
That’s why the announcement made by Verizon Wireless officials at CES is such a big deal.
Yesterday, Verizon announced the rollout of true 3G network capabilities for cell phones and 3G wireless multi-media services to match. I’ve been playing with one of their 3G phones and I have to tell you, I’m really impressed.
The service is called VCAST. Verizon claims it’s capable of delivering high-quality video, 3-D games and music straight to new handsets that run on their broadband EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) network. I’ve told you about that network as it applied to Verizon’s Wireless Broadband service for laptops — I consistently connect at DSL speeds at home and on the road.
Back to the cell phone. Verizon’s new phone, the VX8000 made by LG, looks like any other modern-day cell phone from the outside. It is sliver, sleek and sports a 1.3 megapixel camera to handle the stills/videos you need to shoot while on the run.
But this phone is all about high-speed data access. Take, for instance, its video streaming capabilities. After getting used to the phone’s navigation system (all phones require this step) I found the video-on-demand section. I couldn’t wait to view one of the news videos from NBC Mobile.
I’ve seen these video clips on other phones. Usually they take 30 seconds or so to load. When they play, sound quality ranges from horrible to acceptable and the video looks like early video streaming on the Internet — sometimes simulating glorified stills rather than moving video. With all that said, it’s still pretty impressive. Or so I thought.
On the Verizon 3G phone I pressed the button and waited. And waited. It took something like a minute and a half for the video to load. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt — testing a new wireless service in Las Vegas during CES is not fair. There are way too many people using their phones at any given time to make a fair conclusion.
Worth the wait
But when the phone finally started playing the video the long wait was completely forgotten. The video quality is almost perfect. Very little jump or lag. Same for the sound quality — crystal clear. Overall, the presentation was (and is still) amazing. It really looks like TV.
I’m taking the phone back to New York to play with it a little more. I want to see what else it can do. But, if my first impression is any indication, this phone and service is currently in a league of its own. The VCAST service will sell for $15 per month. That’s in addition to your monthly voice charges.
Verizon’s EVDO networks are available in 32 markets (about one-third of its customers), with more locations being added each week.
A do-everything Nokia
I also got to see a very impressive, soon-to-be-released PDA phone from Nokia. The 7710 has a huge (640 by 320 pixel) color screen and reminds me of their 9300 phone without the clamshell keyboard.
This GSM/GPRS/EGPRS/HSCSD world phone has a megapixel camera, handwriting recognition, FM radio, MP3 player and voice recorder. It also sports full PDA functions. And yes, it makes and receives phone calls.
Nokia plans to release the 7710 toward the middle of the year first in Europe and then, hopefully, everywhere else.