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Mobile phones of future go on show

By Pia Turunen

3GSM visitors
Visitors to the Cannes congress get wired up to the future.

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CANNES, France (CNN) -- Mobile manufacturers have showcased their visions of the future -- new "smartphones" with cameras for multimedia messaging and always-on Web access.

The phones were being shown off on Friday at the end of the five-day 3GSM congress -- the annual fair for the mobile industry -- in the southern French resort of Cannes.

There was also a rash of futuristic technologies on display, including a James Bond-style wrist phone.

But it may be a while before the more advanced technology appears in shops. Improving existing technologies is the key to progress, according to Stacey Smith, from chip maker Intel.

He says devices will shrink in size once voice recognition technology becomes standard.

"Voice recognition technology will remove the clunky input devices, such as keyboards or number pads, and all commands will be done by just speaking. It could make these devices very very small.

"Your phone could be just a small button inside your ear which can be as powerful as today's desktop PC.

"These devices will become so small they can be built as part of an everyday device, such as car or fridge, and programmed to give detailed information on command, like road condition or fridge content," he said.

Craig Ehrlich, chairman of GSM Association which tracks developments in mobile technology, says the history of mobile phones is proof of the upcoming developments.

"The phone evolution from the 1980s portable brick weighing several kilos into the light, smart devices on the market today has moved at breathtaking speed. And it's unlikely to stop now."

Some analysts say the popularity of mobile phones shows people are hungry for more high-tech gadgets.

Rising phone sales support their claims. About 422 million mobile handsets were sold worldwide in 2002, according to figures by U.S. researchers Strategy Analysis.

In 2003 manufacturers are expected to ship about 448 million handsets to retailers and distributors, a six percent increase from 2002, Strategy says.

But Ehrlich warns that change may be slow. "The mobile phone has become entirely a consumer product with markets reaching nearly every corner of the globe and every age group.

But each stage of technology has taken time to get used to before it has been fully accepted."


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