by Caroline Gabriel, ReThink Wireless
The large mobile operators are keen to have greater control over the design and software experience of their phones, and some see the Mobile Linux systems as a way to achieve this. Vodafone has been spreading its favours between the two main flavours, Android and LiMo, but in Barcelona, made the biggest splash with the Google system. The operator announced the HTC Magic, an exclusive device for Vodafone, initially launching in the UK, Spain, Germany and France, and non-exclusively in Italy, later this spring.
HTC is still the only phonemaker of any size with a device in the market, and like the original G1, the Magic shows it working closely with operator brands.
The new phone has a 3.2-inch QVGA touchscreen display, trackball and navigational buttons plus the usual integrated Google applications such as Mail, Maps, Search and GoogleTalk. It features the Webkit browser as well as integrated YouTube support.
In other handset news, LiMo scored some smaller wins too, with NEC and Panasonic announcing nine models between them, which will clearly be focused mainly on Japan. The only other handset maker with commercial LiMo phones is Motorola, though Samsung, LG and others are members, and the two Koreans showed prototypes. The LiMo Foundation also announced a second wave of new members for 2009, adding Aromasoft, CasioHitachi, Marvell, Opera Software and Swisscom.
Meanwhile, Acer unveiled no fewer than five smartphones, and set out an ambitious target to be in the smartphone top five by 2014. All the new devices are Windows-based – Windows Mobile 6.1 on those shipping before mid-year, and 6.5 on those shipping in the second half of 2009. They feature a widget-based user interface, with a new version expected in the fall. There are currently eight models in production, and the company said it was considering using other operating systems in the future.