A cell phone that does it all.
New models to combine music player, Web access, higher-res camera, and PDA.

Cell phones have long wanted to emulate that other utilitarian godsend, the Swiss army knife, but there have been compromises aplenty along the way.

The cell phone may work fine, but the camera is puny. The organizer is smooth, but the music player, if there is one, has minimal capacity or sound quality. And when you get it all together, the size of the phone can border on the gigantic.

But there are signs that the true “Swiss army phone” is finally ready to emerge. In the coming year, new offerings from Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson are putting components together whose collective parts are not a wholesale list of compromises.

This next generation of hybrid phones will have cameras with up to 2 megapixels of resolution and music players offering up to 4 GB of storage — and it’s all on one phone no bigger than an Apple iPod. Throw in a digital assistant, wireless Internet capabilities and a game or two and all you’re missing is the tiny scissors.

Although the price may be steep initially for some — starting at $300, but possibly reaching up to $800 — industry leaders and analysts say mobile- phone companies are finally turning the corner in providing customers with the first credible utilitarian phone.

“This new generation of phones is in a sphere where they do everything at least well and some things potentially very well,” said analyst Andy Castonguay of the Yankee Group. “That’s a big breakthrough. It’s the first generation of phone that will be able to really handle the functions of a general PDA along with imaging and music functions.”

More here.