LAS VEGAS -- The CTIA Wireless conference here this week brought in larger crowds and more vendors than last year's event, but that probably isn't saying much, considering the recession had begun to hit hard in early 2009.
The uptick pleased vendors exhibiting at the event, especially some of the smaller, lesser-known companies that sometimes offer the most interesting products, even if they never go gangbusters with the public.
"We've had plenty of booth traffic, definitely more than a year ago, said Kristin Proctor, a spokeswoman for Kempler & Strauss. The big attraction at the San Diego-based company's booth was the W PhoneWatch, a wearable GSM phone and wristwatch that is sold unlocked for $199 and includes a SIM card to be activated with service from AT&T, T-Mobile USA or another GMS provider.
The W PhoneWatch includes a touch-screen interface, still and video cameras, an MP3 player and productivity applications that can be backed up on a 2GB micro SD card. It includes Bluetooth connectivity for use with in-car and in-ear devices.
Proctor demonstrated the ability to type and send a text message, although the device has no Web connectivity. LG offers a wristwatch phone, but not in the U.S.
The W PhoneWatch became available in February, and sales have hit 4,000 via the Kempler & Strauss Web site; the company considers that figure to be encouraging.
Kempler & Strauss was expecting to show off a Billionaire-7 smartphone, which is based on Windows Phone 7 Series, but the prototype was not ready to demonstrate, Proctor said. She described it as having a touch screen and full physical keyboard.
Elsewhere, a Philadelphia-based start-up called Connectify showed off software that's designed to turn a Windows 7 laptop into a Wi-Fi hot spot, which a user's friends or co-workers in the vicinity can use to connect to the Internet.
Connectify CEO Alexander Gizis said in an interview that he is considering offering a $10 enterprise version of the software, which has already been downloaded by 300,000 users.
"Why buy a separate Wi-Fi router when you can turn your laptop into one?" Gizis asked.
Gizis joined several other entrepreneurs, mostly from smaller companies, who demonstrated their wares at the Wireless Innovators Dinner, which was timed in conjunction with CTIA but is sponsored by MobileTrax, an industry research firm headed by well-known analyst Gerry Purdy.
Also at the Innovators event, executives from a Finnish start-up named Aava Mobile described their reference design for a fully open mobile device that can be customized by manufacturers and wireless carriers.