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Hands on with Samsung's HSDPA mobile

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CES One of the most interesting exhibits in the whole of CES, from a UK perspective at least, is the HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Data Packet Access) mobile phone from Samsung. The SGH-ZX20 is a clamshell mobile that will be able to take advantage of the much faster data speeds (up to 3.6Mbps compared to 384kbps of 3G) of the new format.

As for the phone the interesting part is that Samsung told us today that the mobile is not for the US market, it is being lined up for Europe. Also that Samsung's first customer might not be Vodafone as has previously been reported, but Orange. Whether Orange has a more developed HSDPA network than Vodafone in the UK is a moot point, but it has certainly made more noise about the new format than its rival.

CES also marked the first time anyone had demonstrated a HSDPA phone running at speeds of 3.6Mbps, previous HSDPA demos had shown phones working at up to 1.8Mbps.

As for what consumers do with all that extra speed, well the phone can obviously link up with a laptop to act as a very, very fast modem. It will also enable really good quality video streaming – the clips we saw both on the phone’s screen and on a Pc monitor looked amazing, very steady and devoid of all the usual nasties like blurring that dog 3G video.

Apart from the HSDPA feature though the phone is a little disappointing. Sure it looks great – a very tidy clamshell, and yes it is very thin, but its line up of features is a little bit 2005. On the plus side it has great quality screen and large easy to use buttons. However it runs using a propietary operating system and has limited smartphone style applications. Worst of all it has a 1.3 mega pixel snapper, which seems poor show from the company that has a seven mega pixel camera phone on its books. Lastly it only has 256MB of internal storage, and again this from a company that has a phone with a three Gigabyte hard disk.

The Samsung rep also told us that the phone could come in several different guises, and there may even be different model numbers. This is because the chips sets required to reach the various HSDPA speeds (the first batch will be 1.8Mbps with later models reaching 3.6Mbps) are different.

Samsung does have a habit of parading products at exhibitions only for them to be quietly forgotten about as the year progresses. Nevertheless if it sticks to its promise of launching this handset in Europe this year – network wiling of course – it will have achieved a real European first. That is of course HTC doesn’t get there first.

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