CANNES, France (AP) _ With cell phones growing more powerful and wireless carriers eager to pay for their fast new networks, phone makers are cramming the devices with such features as the ability to download music videos, listen to baseball games or send digital pictures with the touch of a button.
This week at 3GSM, one of the wireless industry's largest gatherings, the main topic has been how to make cell phones, once considered a luxury, more of a necessity _ and one that can be personalized to fit a user's taste and style.
It's that sort of techno joy that has cell phone makers grinning.
The past two years have been decidedly sour times for the industry. The promise of third-generation networks, which offer faster delivery of data and pictures than current networks, has gone largely unfulfilled.
But boosters like Ian Freed, vice president of mobile products and services for Seattle-based RealNetworks, call mobile phones the next step in modern digital assistants.
Brandishing a Nokia 3650, the Finnish company's about-to-be-released camera phone, Freed showed off its ability to play stereo-quality music and digital video downloaded from the BBC.
``I showed it to my kids and they would not give me the phone back,'' he said.
The hipness factor is becoming a marketable quotient for cell phones and the companies that design applications for them.
One company, Trigenix, unveiled a suite of designs to let cell users personalize their phones beyond downloading ring tones or simple logos. The British company was touting personalized packages that featured an array of pictures, graphics and fonts that users can tailor to their styles. One featured girl group Atomic Kitten while another was redolent of ``Star Wars.''
Another company, Finland's Codetoys, showed off several games for wireless handhelds, including Hasbro's Trivial Pursuit and a mobile version of ``Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?''
That is a clear mark of how far cell phones have come. More than a billion have been sold in the past decade, and those original models, which featured nothing more than dialing without a cord, have become so much more.
In fact, analysts at the conference said some wireless carriers are telling handset makers they're essentially not interested in phones that don't have built-in cameras.
That trend is evident at 3GSM, expected to draw 28,000 people before its conclusion Friday in the resort city of Cannes. Nearly all of the attendees have phones _ with built-in cameras _ attached to their hands.
A group of German visitors clamored about the entrance, taking pictures of themselves with a Sony Ericsson P800. Amid the expo's four halls, phone makers like Motorola and Samsung showed off models boasting organizers and e-mail in addition to cameras.
Motorola, the world's second-biggest phone maker, unveiled its A760, a phone that uses the open-source Linux operating system, full color interface and camera.
Siemens showed off its latest variant, the SX1, most notable for its built-in video camera and its lack of a traditional keypad. Its designers decided instead on two columns down each side of its display.
The company also unveiled its A55 phone for the mass market, on top of its previously announced line of Xelibri fashion phones designed for people to match to their clothes as a statement.
Siemens used fashion designers to develop the Xelibris' look, and plans to sell them alongside watches and handbags. Siemens even said it would bring out two ``collections'' of the phones each year, coinciding with the fashion industry's output.
``Why do you have several shoes or handbags?'' asked Rudi Lamprecht, who oversees the German conglomerate's handset operation. ``Our aim is to make people view mobile phones as they view sunglasses, bags or watches.''