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What's Hip for Mobile Users

Minimalist designs and advanced features make up the cell phone craze.

November 29, 2001|ELIZABETH DOUGLASS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There are plenty of great mobile phones in the world today, but there are always a few standouts--the cell phones that have instant appeal, the ones that scream "cool."

Early next year, the spotlight will be on the long-awaited Nokia 9290 communicator, a full-featured smart phone that already is a hit in Europe, and on the Handspring Treo, a combination phone/Palm device that seems destined to be a high-end hot seller.

But the here and now is what matters most. So here's a sampling of today's hippest mobiles:

Sanyo SCP-6000: Sold by Sprint PCS, the $300 digital unit is touted as "America's thinnest phone," and few would argue the point. The phone is good-looking, weighs a mere 2.3 ounces and is nicknamed the Hershey bar phone because of its 0.39-inch thickness.

It doesn't have all the features that other phones include, but the SCP-6000 has the essentials, plus voice-activated dialing, voice memo, downloadable ring tones and pictures to use as a kind of picture caller ID. It also can receive (but not send) text and numeric messages and retrieve stripped-down Internet sites.

However, the phone's wispy size and weight means there are a few sacrifices. The SCP-6000 works almost exclusively on Sprint's digital network, with no analog capabilities for backup. In addition, the battery life suffers a bit, giving users about 2.25 hours of talk time and 160 hours in standby mode.

Samsung SPH-I300. This $500 unit is the newest entry in the race to find the perfect melding of phone functions and personal digital assistant capabilities. It's sold by Sprint PCS.

The "wow" in this device is its striking design, color touch screen and compact frame, which has tapered sides for easier handling and weighs 6 ounces. Inside, there's the familiar Palm operating system and its components, with 8megabytes of memory, infrared port and built-in stylus.

Samsung's phone smarts show in the voice quality and the attention to niceties such as inclusion of both analog and digital modes, voice-dialing, speakerphone and a selection of ring tones. To save space, Samsung opted against a traditional phone keypad, so the I300 displays numbers on its touch screen instead--a potential drawback in the ease-of-use category.

Motorola V60c: A stylish and compact folding phone weighing only 3.8 ounces, the $350 to $400 V60c is packed full of features. Extras include voice-dialing, voice memo, short messaging, an FM stereo radio and an external caller ID display that identifies callers without requiring users to flip open the phone.

The screen inside is ample enough to display three lines of text. The V60c comes with a respectable four hours of talk time (in digital mode) or 240 hours of standby time.

The V60c works in digital and analog mode and comes in blue or gray. Verizon Wireless, MCI WorldCom and others sell the phone.

Siemens S40: Despite being a hard-to-find newcomer to the U.S. mobile phone market, the Siemens S40 is winning fans with its minimalist blue-and-silver design and its 3.4-ounce weight.

It's a straight-up phone with an international bent, with text available in 18 languages and the ability to work in Europe and other countries as well as in the United States (though only in digital mode). Battery life is a stellar six hours of talk time or 260 hours on standby.

The tiny blue screen is a big part of the S40's charm, but don't expect to read your calendar or do much Web browsing, even though those functions are built in. Siemens sells the phone on its Web site for $279, but the price can go as low as $150 with a service plan from Cingular Wireless.

LG InfoComm TM910: The phone is not yet on store shelves, but LG InfoComm has promised to start selling its TM910 smart phone before year's end. Although it doesn't use the Palm or Pocket PC platforms, the TM910 ably performs all the basic functions of a personal digital assistant and integrated phone.

In addition, the TM910 will have several advanced technologies built in, including Bluetooth (for wireless connections to headsets and the like), high-speed data (up to 144 kilobits per second once the networks are up to it) and the ability to handle e-mail with images.

LG improved on its earlier smart phone by adding analog capabilities as a coverage backup for digital networks. Sprint PCS is expected to sell the TM910, but the price and release date have not been set.

*

Elizabeth Douglass covers telecommunications. She can be reached at elizabeth.douglass@latimes.com.

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