THE SYMBIAN SMARTSHOW

The Smartphone Show is usually a pleasure for the hard-pressed trade journalist. Most industry get-togethers are busy and brash; this show is much calmer, probably because it’s much smaller.
With fewer than 5,000 people through the doors and around 150 stands, there’s usually ample time to talk to the people and check out the products. True, you have to pick your way around the nerds; but at least you don’t have to struggle past beaming blondes and buxom hotties toying with your user interface … Ah well, maybe next year.

Keynote
For 2006 Symbian CEO Nigel Clifford kicked off the Show with a keynote welcoming us to the "Smartphone Lifestyle". This will happen by default – a third of all phones shipped will be smartphones by 2010, and they will very shortly replace PCs as the normal way to access data and the internet.
Sony Ericsson chief technology officer Mats Lindoff agreed, saying that the world is moving from a computer on everyone’s desk to a computer in everyone’s pocket.
He did home in on one big technical issue – Moore’s Law will bring greater processing power for handheld devices, but developments in battery power won’t keep pace, leading to a greater need to save power in handsets.

Chimera
Two new Symbian-powered handsets were unveiled at the Show, both HSDPA and both running Symbian OS 9.2 with the Series 60 user interface. At least that’s what the bumf says: LG, which announced the JoY (yep, that’s the name and yep, that’s the spelling) was showing a single unit under a glass hood.
The bloke said it was only a dummy and he didn’t think he could bring us JoY until next Spring. And when we asked for an official comment, we were told "The reason LG Electronics is showing JoY at the Symbian Smartphone show is to show how an LG phone works on Symbian Operating System. The product itself (specs and design) is still under development and not yet finalised." So that’s a maybe, then.
For what it’s worth, it looks like a chunkier version of the existing KU800 3G phone.
The other phone was the Samsung i520, a slider that looks surprisingly similar to the LG work-in-progress – it too has touch-sensitive parts and appears to be styled on the E900.
This one is reportedly nearer production and seemed to be operational, but there’s still no word on a launch date.

Applications
Otherwise it was all about software, and especially applications.
On the eve of the Show Nokia announced the winners in the Forum Nokia S60 3rd Edition Challenge global developer competition, distributing E100,000 in prizes for the best new applications based on the S60 3rd Edition.
Best Enterprise Application was Quickoffice Premier 4. This is the latest version of the established mobile office document app, allowing smartphone users to open, view and edit Microsoft Office documents.
Quickoffice 4.0 also features an very impressive file manager for efficient folder navigation, allowing seamless and easy management of all the office documents maintained on a smartphone – whether received via email attachments, external memory cards, MMS messages or the phone’s memory.
Best Mobile Music Application was Music Finder from InfoTalk Corp. This one is also a bit special: it uses spoken commands rather than scrolling to search for music stored on a phone. It works, too.
Best Location-Aware Service/ Application went to a product we hadn’t heard of, Augmentra’s ViewRanger. It’s a unique satnav tool that mates conventional mapping and navigation with information about the immediate surroundings through a natural and intuitive display. It’s not geared for finding the nearest motel so much as yomping across the wilderness.


Timeshifters
On view at the Show were not one but two gismos that will stream TV signals from your TV set to wherever you happen to be, essentially smartphone versions of existing products.
LocationFree from Sony can now redirect signals to the P990; the even cleverer Sling Media SlingBox also works with a number of supported Symbian smartphones on S60 and UIQ.
Both need a base station that plugs into your TV or an existing home network. You then connect via your phone – over the Internet, via a WiFi hotspot, or using a 3G network. Sling seemed the better implementation in our cursory examination – you can view any program that can be watched at home, but also the SlingPlayer Mobile app lets you control a video recorder to watch recorded shows, pause, and rewind live TV or even queue new recordings.
Sling is expecting to launch here in Q4 at a price around £200 for the SlingBox; LocationFree is already available at around £275.

Other highlights
Visto is the first company to be accredited the ‘Symbian Approved’ mark for push email, having completed the Symbian Email Validation Program. Visto was also demonstrating a new Easy Setup wizard for phone users – very cool.
ALK announced a version of its award-winning CoPilot Live satnav system for Sony Ericsson’s UIQ-based smartphones – which initially means the M600i and P990. No new features, but it looks good on those big, rich displays and works very well.
Vision Objects, a French company which is becoming the leader in handwriting recognition and text input methods for pen-based user interfaces, announced that its support portfolio had reached of 70 languages – “We are now proud to provide the most accurate handwriting recognition technology for the largest range of languages on the market” said Stefan Knerr, CEO and founder. Good fun to use, too.
VQ Communications had a Video Conferencing system that claims to be scalable from one to thousands of users, enabling staff to video-conference using mobile phones as well as PCs. It runs either as a hosted service or a network server installation.
• And finally … Truphone had a beta version of its free VoIP download for Nokia’s N80. Truphone launched in September a download for the Eseries, but this one looks like a step change in mass appeal – no monthly fees, free calls to other Truphone users, free or cut-price calls to landlines in major countries. Does it work? We’re trying it and will let you know, but you can have a go yourself: text the word TRU to shortcode 60030.