Sun, Dec 28, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Tech Reviews

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

Camera phone models shown left to right are by OKWAP, LG, Nokia, Panasonic and Sony-Ericsson.

PHOTO: JULES QUARTLY, TAIPEI TIMES

Over the past six months, camera phones that send soundbytes, text and pictures via Multi Media Messaging (MMS) have become a top seller with young people in Taipei, according to staff at Asiaworld's Fnac, on Nanjing East Road.

Both men and women like the devices and the reason is that they're not just a gimmick. Sure, it's cool to take a picture when on holiday and send it to friends at home, but the camera phone already has uses in "vertical markets," where builders send photos to their supervisors and real-estate agents beam images of new homes on the market to the screens of their prospective purchasers. Even X-rays can be sent. One prediction is that there will be 100 million camera phones on the market within two years.

The outlook is certainly bright for the camera-phone market, but the full picture at present must account for the blurry, 0.1-megapixel quality images common to most of the devices now. Things can only get better, but for those itching to buy one immediately, the following are five of the best options on the market.

Weighing in at a light 81g and costing NT$10,000 is the OKWAP A265 from Taiwan, which has a sleek shape and feel and a pleasing silver finish. Clean lines, compact and convenient, my only quibble with it was the odd buttons. I didn't know quite where to put my fingers. The sales lady at Fnac said this model was one of the best-selling products in the store.

The OKWAP is loaded with features -- you can download games, add a Chinese-English dictionary, connect with a computer and download files. It has a Wireless Application Protocol, or WAP, browser and can MMS. There are also downloadable logos and ring tones and even a seven-color incoming call indicator. As well as a 110K resolution digital camera with zoom function.

This was the one of the cheapest and best-appointed camera phones of the lot. The only gripe would be the size of the screen, which was half the size of most of the others.

The black or silver LG G7100 from South Korea is a different kind of beast, coming in at NT$18,900. It has large buttons, a flush design and the camera lens in the swivel of the flip phone. It tips the scales at 91g and has a swiveling panel screen that rotates 180o. It can download Java games and ring tones and also has an Internet kit provided in its bundled software. Its best feature, though, is a built-in flash, which helps overcome the common problem of too little light for camera phones. Just don't expect heroics of the flash, it works best at about 30cm. I recently saw someone use this camera phone at a nightclub to take a picture of the DJ. It was quite sad, he kept taking the photo, the flash went off, and then he would look at the image, shake his head and do it again.

This model has some nice design features, but the camera mode is a bit clumsy to operate.

Mobile-phone leader Nokia has clearly seen another market niche that needs filling, with its weird-looking translucent machine, the cheap and magnificently developed Nokia 3200. The rules of ergonomics have clearly dictated the design of this camera phone, which means it has fewer buttons that do more things. It's compact in size and looks lighter than its 90g.

This NT$10,200 phone is packed with novel features, including a flashlight. It also has FM radio and a bundled set of earphones, a voice recorder and a micro browser for supporting JPEG images. The 0.1 megapixel camera is said by most reviewers to be one of the sharpest on the market.

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