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Mobile products to watch in 2008, part 1

G3 video iPhone 2.0 on the way

As tempting as Apple's iPhone and Amazon.com's Kindle are, I've refrained from buying them. Why? Because I'm certain these first-generation products will be significantly better in their second iterations.

Several intriguing products debuted or were announced in 2007. Here's a look back at some of them - as well as a look forward at what's likely to be their second-generation models.

Apple's iPhone

I had my reasons for not buying the first iPhone. Price was one - the £269 cost for the 8GB model felt like extortion. In the US, Apple lowered the price from US$599 to $399 about two months after the iPhone's introduction, which prompted some justifiable outrage. That incident alone is an excellent example of why you should think twice about buying a first-gen product.

Other turn-offs for me: The iPhone uses the slow EDGE network for mobile wireless Internet connections, as opposed to the company's faster 3G network; it has only 8GB of storage, which is a lot for a phone, but not much for a portable media player; there's a paucity of third-party applications; the device can't record video recording; and O2 is the sole iPhone provider in the UK.

A second-gen iPhone, expected in 2008, is likely to address many of these concerns. US carrier AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson has already announced that a 3G iPhone would be forthcoming in 2008, though he didn't give a specific date.

It stands to reason the next iPhone will also offer more storage capacity. And some rumours are circulating online that Apple will refresh the first-gen iPhone during the first half of 2008 with more memory.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has already announced the company will release a software developer's kit in February 2008, to encourage third parties to develop native apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

As for video recording, there's been no official word. But several unofficial efforts are already under way to add this feature to current iPhones.

Regarding the iPhone's ties to O2, Apple reportedly signed a multi-year exclusivity agreement with the wireless carrier, so we aren't likely to see iPhones for Vodaphone, Orange and T-Mobile anytime soon. But the iPhone has aroused consumer unrest around the whole business of mobile phone companies locking devices to work only on their own networks.

Meanwhile, Google - a champion of "open access" networks - is developing a mobile phone platform to compete with Apple's. Google is also expected to bid on blocks of the wireless 700MHz spectrum that the FCC is auctioning beginning on January 24. According to the FCC's rules, whoever licenses this spectrum must allow any devices to connect to their network.

Apple iPhone: the definitive UK review

22 tips to get more from Apple's iPhone

Amazon.com's Kindle

Amazon.com took a leap forward with its $399 Kindle e-book reader. The device, introduced in November, allows you to wirelessly download e-books from Amazon.com using Sprint's 3G network. No contracts or charges are required to use the network. You can also pay to subscribe to Kindle-compatible versions of newspapers, magazines, and blogs, which are automatically downloaded to the device.

The Kindle has much to recommend, says our reviewer, Melissa J. Perenson. But there are some design flaws that, if Amazon.com is smart, will disappear in the second-gen device. Among them: The Kindle can be slow to respond to button presses, such as when you flip ahead several pages; it has a monochrome-only screen; and the navigation software is straightforward has some search limitations.

For its second act, I'm hoping the Kindle will offer a colour screen, a lower price ($250 to $300 for an e-book reader feels more reasonable), and faster response to buttons. Also, some reviewers have complained it's too easy to accidentally press the page-forward and back buttons - another design issue that should be addressed.

Amazon Kindle: hands-on first impressions

Read more on PDAs and phones at Mobile Advisor


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