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Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Samsung show off hard-drive based mobile

Samsung has unveiled a mobile phone with a 1-megapixel camera, two colour screens and a 1.5GB, 2.5cm hard-disk drive. It can be used to play MP3 files, display pictures and shoot videos.

The internal drive comes from Cornice. Other manufacturers will also come out with hard-drive phones and even video cameras with mini drives over the next year, said David Feller, vice-president of marketing at Cornice.

Meanwhile, other manufacturers have begun to integrate telescopic zoom lenses into their phones, said Bertrand Cambou, CEO of Spansion, the flash memory joint venture between AMD and Fujitsu. Holding a $700 phone that is now on the market in Seoul, Cambou showed how the lens collapses and expands to zoom in on a subject.

Flashes for indoor shooting will follow soon, he added.

While the hard-drive phone isn't out yet, and the phone with the telescopic lens is only available in Korea, both products portend what is coming for the rest of the world. New cell phone features are often tested first in Korea and Japan before being exported to the rest of the world.

Next year, for instance, Samsung, LG Electronics, Sanyo and others will release phones capable of receiving satellite TV so you can watch a number of channels relatively cheaply on the go.

The ability for handsets to incorporate these features is partly the result of Moore's Law, which dictates that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every eighteen months. More transistors mean more capabilities or greater performance for the same or less money.

In mobiles, increasing transistor budgets have meant that the amount of flash memory used to store applications or MP3 files has been doubling about every 15 months. Some high-end phones come with two processors, which speeds up performance and can reduce power consumption.

By the second quarter of next year, high-end phones will have 3-megapixel cameras, video and MP3 players, Cambou said. By the end of 2005, they will have 5-megapixel cameras and 2GB of flash memory for storing entertainment files. Hard-drive phones will have even more storage capacity.

The capabilities on phones are growing so fast that during the next two years, phones will take over much of the low-end of the digital-camera market, according to Shyam Nagrani, an analyst at iSuppli.

Flash memory manufacturers and hard-drive makers will increasingly compete directly against each other. Although flash makers can more directly take advantage of Moore's Law, hard-drive makers can tweak their own technological knobs and will likely continue to be able to offer more capacity for less money, Cornice's Feller said.

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