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Cell phones keep getting smarter

Smartphones, from left: The Samsung Juke U470, the Palm Centro, and the HTC Shadow.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

KAI RYSSDAL: Tomorrow's a big day for European technophiles. The iPhone goes on sale in Germany and the U.K. We thought it might be illuminating to do a little smartphone tutorial for those who're in the market. So we've brought back Kevin Pereira from G4 Television. Kevin, good to see you again.

KEVIN PEREIRA: Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

RYSSDAL: Usually it's a one gizmo deal when you come to visit us, but I see one, two, three, four, five smartphones down there. One's the iPhone. We'll get to that later. But um, what have we?

PEREIRA: Uh, we have a cell phone rodeo today. There's two different types of phones on the table. Although some of them look completely similar and others look well very dissimilar. If you're hip and with it I've got two choices at different price points. And if you need a new smartphone to replace your aging Treo, I've got two other options, all brand new.

RYSSDAL: Let's talk about the smartphone market for just a second. I mean what are people looking for in a smartphone these days?

PEREIRA: Uh, typically they want a full Qwerty keyboard so that they can respond quickly to emails and texts. They need to have enterprise email service. You know the iPhone is not a smartphone because it doesn't have that. A lot of people discount it. They've got to be able to connect to their work emails, to multiple accounts, and be able to multi task. Good calendar functions, great synching, that is what makes a good smartphone.

RYSSDAL: Have these things become basically mass market devices. I mean it used to be $500 or $600 a pop for, you know, the top of the line Treo.

PEREIRA: Right, and yes. The quick answer is yes because all these devices here on the table typically $200 or less. One device which we'll get to, the Palm Centro, used to run you maybe 600 bucks, now it's $100.

RYSSDAL: Let's talk about that Centro for just a second. It obviously is the heir to the Treo legacy here. Right?

PEREIRA: Yeah, but take a look at it. You tell me.

RYSSDAL: As we step away from the microphone, this is a big no no on a radio show.

PEREIRA: I unbox this device and it's . . .

RYSSDAL: God look at how small those keys are? How am I supposed to . . .

PEREIRA: And that's the thing. It looks like a Fisher Price, "My First Treo."

RYSSDAL: Yeah.

PEREIRA: Right? Like it should come with a set of plastic keys and light up and you could dangle it above a baby and it would put it to sleep. It just doesn't look like your typical smartphone. The screen is smaller and the buttons, most importantly, they almost look like candy-coated gum drop buttons

RYSSDAL: They do. I actually have to use my fingernails. I can't even use the whole pad of my finger.

PEREIRA: Exactly, and that is the bain of this phone's existence.

RYSSDAL: Alright, let me ask you something though. I can get this Palm Centro, which is completely serviceable, although the keys are a little small. I can get it for 100 bucks?

PEREIRA: Yes.

RYSSDAL: Plus whatever the service plan is gonna cost me. I still have to pay, what is an iPhone now? $399 for an iPhone.

PEREIRA: That's correct.

RYSSDAL: So weigh those factors for me. What might make me go one way or the other.

PEREIRA: Can you afford it? I mean that's really the bottom line. If you can't you'd simply go with this. I think the reason I brought this particular smartphone is that I think it's an entry level smartphone. Not just because of the price point but because of the size and the features and the functionality. It's definitely designed for a youth market and as such, if you don't want to spend $400 on your youth, you get them the Centro.

RYSSDAL: I actually don't want to spend $400 apiece on my three youth. Take me up a level to the next sort of level of smartphone that's out there.

PEREIRA: Well, this is an interesting device. This one caught me by surprise. This is the TMobile HTC Shadow. And this device isn't out yet. It's coming out in a week or so.

RYSSDAL: I should say we'll have pictures of all these by the way on the website, "marketplace.org," anyway, coming out.

PEREIRA: Yes, immediately what are your thoughts when you pick it up?

RYSSDAL: It looks like the Iphone. Right?

PEREIRA: Yeah, I thought it was sleek and stylish. It feels very solid but slide it up and most people don't expect the phone to slide out and have . . .

RYSSDAL: Listen to this. Right there you go. That's cool.

PEREIRA: That's the sound of good design. But this, this guy right here, our last phone.

RYSSDAL: Another one yes what do we got

PEREIRA: This is a Juke for Verizon wireless. Almost a bite size candy bar style phone.

RYSSDAL: This is the swively thing.

PEREIRA: This was your hip tween youth market. If you like pop rocks and pet rocks there you go.

RYSSDAL: So this is much more a phone phone

PEREIRA: Absolutely. But that little tiny device that was in your hand is the only one with GPS built in, that can actually give you turn by turn directions.

RYSSDAL: So really they're a little bit conflicted, these manufacturers, as to what to try to cram into what particular form factor

PEREIRA: Right, what does the market want and how? And that's what they're still trying to figure out obviously.

RYSSDAL: Kevin Pereira from G4 Television, "Attack of the Show." Kevin thanks a lot

PEREIRA: It's my pleasure

RYSSDAL: These are fun man. I love that. Alright we gotta go.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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