This month’s International CTIA Wireless 2009 event in Las Vegas showcased the mobile handset’s industry increasing focus on smart phones, as illustrated by prevalence of announcements related to touch-screen technology, according to iSuppli Corp.

“With overall mobile handset shipments expected to decline in 2009, smart phones represent a precious growth opportunity for the wireless supply chain,” said Tina Teng, Senior Analyst, Wireless Communications. “Because of this, wireless firms are focusing on enabling technology and services for smart phones, including touch screens, mobile content and location-based applications.”

iSuppli's optimistic forecast for global smart phone unit shipments calls for 192.3 million units in 2009, up 11.1 percent from 173.6 million in 2008.

“Interest in touch screens for smart phones has been spurred by Apple Inc.’s popular iPhone,” Teng added. “Competitors throughout the wireless business have offered or are preparing alternative products—the so-called ‘iPhone killers,’ which employ touch-screen technology.” The majority of these iPhone killers are employing resistive touch-screen technology, as opposed to the projected-capacitive solution used in the iPhone.

As the world’s largest wireless event, as CTIA bills itself, announcements at the occasion can serve as an indicator of future market trends, according to iSuppli.

Leading the touch-screen parade at CTIA was the showing of a prototype version of the Idou smart phone from Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB. The Idou features a 3.5-inch, 16-by-9 ratio 360-by-640 pixel format resistive touch screen. Along with voice communications, the Idou combines music and video playback and a 12-megapixel camera.

“The Idou can be described as eyebrow raising because of its extensive feature set and slick user interface,” Teng said.

Samsung, the world’s second-largest mobile handset maker, dedicated a significant portion of its CTIA press conference to the subject of its TouchWiz user interface. TouchWiz uses resistive touch screen technology.

Samsung further unveiled a WiMAX-based Mobile Internet Device, dubbed Mondi, which also employs the company’s TouchWiz technology. Although Mondi supports Wi-Fi, the first generation Mondi is not compatible with SprintNextel’s EVDO network.

At its analyst briefing, Kyocera Wireless demonstrated its determination to refresh its brand image, with the announcement of its plan to release a Google Android operating-system-based touch screen product, and highlighted its intuitive and customizable user interface. The phone, expected to be released in early 2010, possibly uses resistive touch-screen technology.

In other news from CTIA, several exhibitors presented mobile content, applications stores and services for smart phones. Applications stores highlighted at the event included Nokia’s Ovi Store, Research in Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry App World and Microsoft’s Windows Marketplace for Mobile.

Each application store provides a centralized location for application downloads, including games, music, videos, user interfaces and various utility programs.

The BlackBerry App World and Widows Marketplace for Mobile have similar business models in terms of revenue recognition. For Windows Marketplace, developers must pay $99 for registration and in return get paid 70 percent of applications sales revenue. RIM BlackBerry App World developers pay $200 for participation and receive an 80 percent split of application sales revenue.

With the rising consumer awareness of GPS services provided by operators and the prevalence of portable navigation systems, Location-Based Services (LBS) and applications were hot topics at CTIA. Systems shown at the event included A-GPS, Cell ID or triangulation using connectivity to improve indoor coverage. However, support for indoor elevation was still missing from the show floor.

GPS-related demonstrations and announcements at the event included the Garmin-Asus dual-branded Nüvifone, an extension of the map-data partnership between NAVTEQ and TeleNav, Nokia’s Point & Find service and NTT DoCoMo’s fleet tracking service.