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The short message service (SMS) of GSM phones has been a technology in search of a real use ... other than alerting roaming users outside the coverage of their provider's service coverage that there is a message waiting. Well,no more.

Philips has come up with a profoundly useless SMS service: the sending of what it calls "emotion icons". These icons, such as hearts, a frown, or a smiley face, can be sent -- but only to other users equipped with the Philips Savvy fun phone. It comes bundled with a biorhythm calendar game, which says it all really.

Philips has had some success with its pre-pay Diga GSM handset, marketed by Cellnet in the UK and Libertel in the Netherlands (and manufactured at Le Mans), which has now passed the million mark. It is estimated that the UK pre-pay market will account for 65 per cent of all UK mobile phone sales in 1999.

Another Philips entrant at Cebit was the dual-band Genie which can dial up to ten numbers by speech recognition. But alas the dual bands are the usual 900MHz and 1800MHz, and not 1800MHz and the US 1900MHz that users have been wanting for years (the US military bagged 1800MHz).

In the new ideas department, Philips has come up with a type III PC card that can act as an analog voice recorder. It has a microphone and loudspeaker built into the housing of the card. The 4MB of the Voice Tracer allows 16 minutes of dictation, and the files can then be sent as voice mail via the Internet. Philips is a member of the colour Windows CE club, despite flirting with Symbian, and will introduce its Nino 500 in Q2, with a MIPS-based RISC processor and 16 MB. ®

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