CTIA 2009: Live Report

Hello from Vegas! It is finally April 1 and the CTIA 2009 Wireless trade show has just gotten on the road. Of course, we are here to check out on the phones that we have all been biting our nails about. You can be sure that we will keep tabs on everything that might be of interest, so stay tuned as our live coverage will be constantly updated with live photos and hands-on impressions. While we don´t expect the manufacturers to bawl us over with unexpectedly advanced phones for well-known reasons , still the leading names of the industry are here, so we can at least get an idea of what is ahead. Nokia, Samsung, LG, HTC, BlackBerry, Motorola - no matter what these guys have never let us down, so let's dive deeper into the future of cell phones and all the interesting news hidden in store!


Samsung Instinct S30 (Sprint)

Let’s us start by saying “Thank you” to the anonymous tipster for the heads up about the official name of the new versions of the Instinct. When the rumors about it started to float around, most people were calling it the Instinct Mini, which turned out to be far from the correct name. We came out with an exclusive news post indicating the correct name, the Instinct S30 a month ago.

The phone is definitely not a successor to the original Instinct, but is rather a different version. The size is almost the same, while the round- edges make it look far more up-to-date. It definitely looks sleeker, but this is hardly a reason to go for it instead of its predecessor. The in-hand feel and build quality are very good indeed.

The specs are practically the same, with the main difference being the lack of EV-DO Rev.A. We cannot think of any good reason as to why this has been done, except for nice marketing people getting in the way of progress. If the S30 does have Rev.A, why would people still opt for the original Instinct? The S30 also has increased maximum memory card capacity of up to 32GB (from 16GB).

The other differences are software updates.The S30 comes preloaded with Opera Mini 4.2, calendar synchronization and instant messaging right out of the box.

The developer community will be pleased (and eventually the consumers) to hear about the new Java APIs, which allow them to create better applications. The original Instinct is to get OTA and will eventually support them as well.

Despite considered merely prototypes, the units we have tested during the expo performed admirably. The interface is snappy and pretty much the same as on the first Instinct.

In a nutshell: A better design, but lacks Rev.A.

The Instinct S30 is expected to hit the Sprint stores on April 19th as we figured and will cost $129.99 after a $70 instant discount, a $100 mail-in rebate, and your signature on a two-year pact.

Samsung Instinct S30 Specifications

Samsung Propel Pro (AT&T)

It seems that adding a “Pro” to a popular model name seems to be all the rage these days – the Touch Pro from HTC, Matrix Pro from Pantech and now, the Propel Pro from Samsung. The second Propel has the same slide-to-have-a –QWERTY form-factor as the texting phone, but its design language has a more “professional” feel to it, with metal like finish and color. The display is 2.55” instead of 2.2 in the non-smart phone and features a not so stunning resolution of 320x320, which should be OK for reading emails. On the other hand navigation keys are smaller, although there is plenty of space to have been done as large as on the previous Propel. The joystick is not really our cup of tea and we would rather it had a standard D-pad.

Although wider than the average phone, the Propel Pro is rather narrow for a full QWERTY handset. Of course, this comes at the price of smaller keys, but we are happy to find out they are not awfully implemented, and typing feels comfy enough.

This is not the case with the screen though; in order to give it that glossy appearance when off, Samsung has used some “crappy” glass that simply loves reflections and it is rather hard to discern the picture even indoors, we can´t quite figure what using it on a bright sunny day would be like..

All told, we are pleased with the Propel Pro. It is a decent smart phone. We are looking forward to reviewing it!

Samsung Propel Pro Specifications

Samsung Impression (AT&T)

Those who enjoy making memorable impressions on others pulling all the rage gadgets out of their pockets should be on the look for the Impression. The device will be the first carrier dependent device to hit the US market that features AMOLED display, in fact it is an OLED technology that delivers greater contrast and colors depth alongside of the regular TFT displays. The Samsung OMNIA HD, announced at the MWC, utilizes the same screen technology, but its quality is far better. Still, we are happy as puppies to see AMOLED going mainstream.

With its 5.30 oz. The Impression is a little bit overweighed for our taste, , but holding it in your hand it feels solid. The main sales pitch of the device will be the mix of a large a 3.2 touch-screen and full fledged QWERTY keyboard for those prone to texting to excess.

As seen in the pictures we have posted, the keys are large, spaced out and offer good tactile feedback – the chatter’s dream.

The interface features Samsung´s latest version of the TouchWiz, which looks pretty much the same as the previous one.

All told, the Impression is nothing really out of this world, but overall a great offer from Samsung and AT&T. Currently, the only touch-screen, full fledged QWERTY devices being offered by the carrier are the smartphones FUZE, EPIX and Centro.

Samsung Impression Specifications

Samsung Mondi

Don’t ask what the Mondi is about – like the Advantage X7510 and the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet, it is not a phone replacement (actually, it doesn’t even have a phone module at all) but is a personal internet handheld device. It is a WiMax gismo that utilizes Clearwire’s Clear service, but has also got Wi-Fi functionality to allow use local hot spots. Despite a Windows Mobile Professional device, it comes with a preloaded Opera Mobile 9.5 for a hassle free user-friendly internet browsing. The software pack includes Route 66 for GPS navigation, Fring multi-IM client and Gypsii. Still, being a Windows Mobile device, lots of different apps can be downloaded later.

We are not huge fans of the Mondi idea, as its functionality is far from being superior to any WM professional smart phone, the only thing going for it is its display and keyboard are bigger. Since it is rather huge, you cannot simply carry it around in your pocket and you better put it onto a table if you feel like typing, well, not quite what we think a mobile device should be like.

Samsung Magnet (AT&T)

Your teen kid has been after you for a BlackBerry? Well, “How about chatting on a different device? Why don´t you get them a Magnet instead? With its cool black over orange color theme and a patter on the Back (very Rumor-ish). It doesn’t have the most handy keyboard out there, because it is rather small, but Magnet is a very pocket friendly handset. Unfortunately, Samsung has only showcased early prototypes (some keys didn’t even work at all) so we won’t comment on its quality. Just keep in mind we have never been big with the D-pad design. Magnet will most probably fail to become a magnet to hi-tech junkies, but may come to be a decent rival to the Pantech Slate.

Samsung Magnet Preliminary Specifications

Samsung Finesse (MetroPCS)

And the winner is… MetroPCS! That’s right – the slim touch-sensitive Samsung Finesse will go to MetroPCS users. The handset feels really nice in your hand and it is obvious that Samsung has not gridged every cent when it comes to quality materials here. In addition, a rubber-like coating has been used for the back to ensure a better grip. The touch screen left us with quite positive impressions, the image quality is stunning.

The only thing that bothers us is that it takes some time to respond to menu commands. However, what we saw here is a far cry from a retail unit so we are unwilling to jump to any conclusions about the otherwise nice interface.

Samsung Finesse Specifications

Samsung Glyde Refresh (Verizon)

Remember the Samsung Glyde that came out almost a year ago? Most of the people, including us, have had issues with the capacitive touchscreen, but finally a new version of the phone has hits the shelves, by Verizon Wireless. Just like the Versa and Dare, it has got a resistive display and we are happy as clams to report that it is very responsive with only very light touches being  unrecognized. Moreover, the new Glyde also comes with an extra home screen shortcut launcher– press the icon on your right and it will take you to the shortcuts menu, where up to 9 icons can be placed. You can choose any shortcut on the Widget-like launcher.

Neither Verizon Wireless nor Samsung have announced this phone officially yet. As far as we know, Big Red will carry on with the old ones until they have cleaned out their stockpile before actually getting around  to the refreshed version. If you are on the lookout for  a Glyde, we advise that you make sure you are getting the new model.

Samsung Glyde Specifications | Review

LG Crystal

LG has co-operated with Swarovski to make the Crystal GD900… we’re kidding, but they could have said they did and we would´ve bought it. Unlike the PRADA II, the Crystal doesn’t feature a fashionable Italian brand name, but is a real head-turner. We can almost imagine pulling it out of our pocket, sliding it down and then everybody in the club going like “Oh my, its transparent!!!” – yes, it is transparent, the world’s first. The keyboard is eye catching, as its module is hollow – you can squeeze the soft plastic. Isn´t this too fragile we wonder? What happens if you drop it onto the dance floor?

Pretty is by no means dumb when it comes to the LG’s fashion toy. The keypad is touch sensitive: scroll on it, use it as handwriting area for text input, or slide your finger in a circular pattern to control the volume of the music player for example. Unfortunately, if you are using the touch screen to navigate with the phone open, you may accidentally press on it, so you’ll have to keep it closed when you aren´t using it.

Speaking of the screen, it won’t be boring to play with either. The GD900 features the S-Class 3D UI we first saw on the ARENA at MWC in February. It is … smooth! The new UI looks great, runs well and these transition animations are eye-catching. We like the multi-page home screen, the colorful main menu that can be displayed in both portrait and landscape mode and everything else about the phone.

LG has definitely come out with an attractive model here. It not only has an unique design, but also comes bundled with great features and UI. We are wondering if the gesture control and handwriting will turn out really usable, or just another show-off feature. We are definitely dying to test it!

LG Crystal Preliminary Specifications

LG Banter (U.S. Cellular)

The LG Banter is identical to the Rumor2 (Sprint) with minor design differences. It is a on-the-budget messaging phone and although the Rumor2 looks OK, the Banter unit we tested feels very cheap with the slider slightly wobbling while using the numeric keypad on the front. You can check our complete review on the Rumor2 here.

LG Banter Specifications

LG Xenon (AT&T)

So, we finally got a chance to check out the side-sliding Xenon (which was known as the Zenon for some time). It got us somewhat puzzled the first time we got our hands on it. The handset practically gives the word “small” a whole new meaning. It is a kind of thing that you actually take for a toy at first and not a real wireless device. The Xenon’s design isn’t as dazzling as you may imagine, but we like its round edges and the metal-like trim around the edges. Sadly, we discovered that the back side of the showcased unit was in scratches all over, which makes us think quality materials haven´t been exactly a vital priority for LG while designing the Xenon.

We are disappointed to find out that the side-sliding QWERTY is something that LG has obviously whipped up. Pressing the keys doesn’t feel nice at all. Besides, the top key row is way too close to the other part of the slider, so our fingers constantly pushed against the edge.

The touch interface (identical to the one on the Vu) features some good-looking icons, but nothing too fancy. The manufacturer has decided in favor of a neat and simple, yet pleasant interface. Having said that, there are no significant delays or lagging, but it isn’t lightning fast either.

Well, we have to admit that we´ve got mixed feelings about it at the moment. The cheap feel to the phone is something you can live with, but the keyboard looks rather rough-cut and lacks finish, although it is supposed to be a key feature. As a whole, we would rather go for a higher class phone, say something like the Samsung Impression.

LG Xenon Preliminary Specifications

LG Neon (AT&T)

The Neon is the other LG phone that fits the pattern of the young generation (the other one being the Xenon). It is colorful, cheery and fresh and with its toy-like appearance it should appeal to younger users. Do not expect something too classy though – after all, it is supposed to come with an affordable price-tag.

We were glad to find out that the manufacturer has paid attention to the side-sliding keyboard here, alongside of what we saw on the Xenon. Opening and closing the slider feels smooth, using its keys is more comfy and they provide a better feedback.

Unfortunately, just like the European version of the device (the KS360), the touch-sensitive screen can only be used only to dial numbers, which is so not cool at all.

However, we shouldn’t expect too much from teen-oriented phones, such as the Neon and the Xenon. After all, these shouldn’t impress with an incredible feel or functionality, but reliability, and that is something we hope they are able to deliver.

LG Neon Specifications

Motorola Evoke QA4 (Cricket)

Finally, a decent Moto phone! It isn’t the new RAZR, but definitely looks nice with this round shape. The large 2.8” touchscreen is OK and it features a sliding numeric keypad for these of you, who feel like typing in a number or short message the old-fashioned way. It has got pretty large buttons with huge letters on them. The back side has a rubber finish for an easier grip.

The software also doesn’t disappoint. The home screen has 7-pages, each one visualizing a single widget in full-screen mode. Slide a finger horizontally to change between pages. The cool thing is that the widgets are constantly updated, so you always see the latest information, instead of having to wait for a refresh. You´ve got widgets for the weather forecast, web browser, RSS feeds, YouTube, USA Today and MySpace (what about my Facebook, Moto?). We hope Motorola gets to offer the option to download additional ones.

Overall, we do like what we see and guess that many people will say “Hello MOTO” when the Evoke is launched.

Motorola Evoke QA4 Specifications

Motorola ZN300

You don’t expect miracles here, do you? The ZN300 is yet another phone that doesn’t stand out of the crowd, not that there´s something wrong with it. It has a retro look we quite like, but we are a bit disappointed with the build quality of the prototype unit – the slider wobbles as if the phone was a bargain-basement knockoff. Another drawback regards the keypad, which has a rather short travel, rendering it quite unpleasant for extended  messages. Unfortunately, the software is not identical with the one found on the Evoke QA4, but is what you find on all last year’s MOTO phones.  Still, the preloaded applications, along with the 3.1MP camera should be more than enough to meet the needs of people, who just want to quickly access their favorite online communities and share some photos.

Motorola ZN300 Specifications

Most of the phones we have seen at the CTIA 2009 so far happen to be on the budget models. Kyocera is showcasing three phones (two of them branded as Kyocera and the other as Sanyo), all of them in the low-cost segment.

Sanyo SCP-2700 (Sprint)

The SCP-2700 is the one we liked the best. It will be available with Sprint and is Sanyo’s first phone with a QWERTY keyboard and it shows. The keys are not separated well enough and since they are small, we think many people will be hitting the wrong ones way too often. On the other hand, the navigation keys are good sized – look how large they are.

All in all, the 2700 isn’t something that hit us right between the eyes, but we are positive about it. It has got decent features and good quality for a low-priced model and comes in cool colors – either blue or pink flower pattern.

Sanyo SCP-2700 Specifications

Kyocera G2GO M2000 (Virgin Mobile)

The Kyocera G2GO (Good to Go) M2000 is an ugly phone, really. It is yet another side-slider, but why the slider movement is that short we will never know. If it was like typical, it could have had a 4-row keyboard and you know – the more, the better. This explains away the rather small sized keys. In addition, they are also somewhat hard to press and without feedback, which makes for a rather uncomfy keyboard– Kyocera, shame on you! Another funny thing is that the numeric key characters are vertically aligned, so you won’t be able to read them easily while you hold the phone with its shorter side up or type any text.

We are not huge fans of front keys either. The D-pad looks OK but the other six keys are packed like sardines. The music buttons above the display are also rather small.

Finally, the build quality is below par even for a budget model – one can easily feel the slider moving sideways once it is opened. We hope Kyocera gets this fixed and comes up with a better keypad before its -not-so-Good-to-Go phone as of now phone hits the market.

Kyocera G2GO M2000 Specifications

Kyocera Laylo M1400

We are also disappointed with the built quality of Laylo M1400– its body wobbles plus if you push the slider downward it locks instead of opening. On the other hand it is a nice phone, with good quality display, decent size and design. While we don’t like that the navigation keys are too low, the numeric ones didn’t give us any trouble. Once again, we hope the final units have better build quality.

Kyocera Laylo M1400 Specifications

HTC Snap

The T-Mobile Dash (known as Excalibur in Europe) went over with a bang and we’ve always wondered why HTC hasn´t used this form factor in more of its models. Now, the new Snap (S522 in the States) will feature it, for these who want to have a QWERTY at at hand all the time. And it isn’t just a keyboard, but an excellent one – HTC knows how to make high-quality phones. Kudos to the Taiwanese manufacturer for the large characters onto the buttons as well, the special characters are really easy to find. The build quality is also exceptional and the phone looks solid, although it is less than a half inch thick and its weight is decent. We also like the metal strip between the display and the QWERTY, which is just a petty detail but gives to its overall look. The rubber covered back isn’t too pretty, but is a welcome feature in such phone.

HTC doesn´t plan on putting the Snap forward as an all inclusive device,  – you won’t find a fancy camera or extra multimedia features. Still, it has what its target audience calls for – it is fast, has got great battery life (8.5 hours of talk time), GPS, Wi-Fi and 3G. It is the first model to come out with HTC’s Inner Circle feature. It allows you to bring emails from a selected group of people at the top of the email client with but a click of a button. This allows to set your mailbox priorities in snap and see the messages you deem most important first.

Well done HTC, thumbs up for the Snap!

HTC Snap Specifications
HTC S522 Specifications


Nokia E71x (AT&T)

Here it is - the much-anticipated and not that elusive Nokia smart phone, the E71x. The handset is an AT&T variety of the standard E71, only slightly modified. It has a darket color to begin with plus the camera for video conversations is now missing. AT&T has left its mark as well, since you are to find all the standard goodies of the carrier here.

It’s not that it isn’t nice, but we just aren’t too excited over the E71x’s timing, maybe because of its rather untimely market appearance (has not happened yet). It is smart, it is thin, but there is nothing really special about it. As we have come to think of it, it´s far more exciting to watch on the leaked photos than in reality, really.

Nokia E71x Specifications | E71 Review

Nokia 1661 (T-Mobile)

In a nutshell – the Nokia 1661 is a entry level candy-bar phone with a small display and a standard numeric keypad. First, what is the  most conservative form-factor that comes to mind? Second, take its unusually small display, given the today’s standards, then throw a traditional numeric keypad into the deal and what you get is called the Nokia 1661. If you think this isn’t enough for the average user – Nokia doesn’t. And who needs a camera anyway?!

Now seriously, ultra-low-end handsets do need to be available in the catalogue of every manufacturer. The 1661 is exactly this kind of device.

Nokia 1661 US Specifications
Nokia 1661 Specifications

Sony Ericsson T707

Well, we have actually come to the event licking our lips at the opportunity to get our hangs on the Sony Ericsson’s future camera phones about to hit the US market. We encountered the T707 clamshell instead, also known as Maria Sharapova’s toy. While Maria is really one of our favorite tennis stars, the T707 has actually failed to make us feel the same way. However, aside from being a lucky phone (one of the luckiest we know of), there is hardly anything about it that hits like a ton of bricks. Still, the handset looks good and delivers a fresh and youthful appearance. The external screen is far from being all cut-and-dried though, since it blends with the front side almost perfectly. The keypad has a nice design and pressing the keys feels great and typing comes as easy as an apple pie. All in all, this is a decent phone by Sony Ericsson that features nothing out of the ordinary.

Sony Ericsson T707 Specifications

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