Samsung develops Windows-based HDD cell phone

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has developed a cell phone that runs on Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Mobile operating system and includes a hard-disk drive. The new handset will be shown this week at the Cebit show in Hanover, Germany, the company said.

The SGH-I300 offers 3G bytes of storage space, which is considerably more than that available in any cell phone currently on the market, and is Samsung’s second phone to feature a hard-drive. The first phone, the SPH-V5400, was unveiled in September last year and offered 1.5G bytes of space. That handset was the first cell phone in the world to include a hard-disk drive.

Putting a hard-disk into a cell phone hadn’t been possible until recently when a new generation of compact, 1-inch drives with low power consumption came onto the market. The drives in the Samsung phones are similar to those used in some portable digital music players, such as Apple Computer Inc.’s iPod Mini, and the phone maker is employing them so that it can offer similar music player functions on the handsets.

“It’s a logical extension to add an MP3 player to a cell phone,” said Christian Collins, senior manager at Samsung’s mobile phone overseas marketing group, in an interview in Seoul last week. “The key is more memory and with a hard-disk drive it’s easier to do music.”

Unlike the previous phone, which was aimed at the South Korean market, the new phone is based on the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) standard used in most of the world, except South Korea and Japan. The tri-band phone features a 1.3-megapixel camera and support for a host of video and audio standards. Video support includes the MPEG4, H.263, H.264 and Windows Media Video standards while audio support extends to MP3, Windows Media Audio, AAC, AACplus and Ogg.

Users can store multimedia files on the phone’s hard-disk drive for playback on the device or use the storage space as a portable hard-disk for any type of file, said Samsung. The phone supports Bluetooth, IrDA infrared and USB connections.

The handset takes the candy bar form-factor and measures 113 millimeters (mm) by 48 mm by 20 mm. It weighs 130 grams.

No launch date or price for the handset has been decided, said Erin Lee, a spokeswoman for Samsung Electronics in Seoul.

The phone is the latest of a handful of phones from Samsung to run on the Microsoft operating system. Microsoft recently opened a research and development (R&D) center for mobile software and services in South Korea. The country’s domestic cellular market is one of the most advanced and sophisticated in the world and Microsoft hopes the center will help it tap into local expertise and also get closer to South Korean handset makers.

At present Samsung is the only Korean handset maker to use Microsoft software in some of its phones. Microsoft will invest US$30 million in the center over the next three years, it said.