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Ben Charny

Staff Writer, CNET

South Korean electronics giant Samsung has unveiled two cell phones that translate speech into text, representing the latest attempt to make it easier for cell phones to surf the Web or send text messages.

Rather than typing, users just speak into the phone, telling it the e-mail address and the content of the message. The phone does the rest.

For now, the technology is meant for text messages. But Yankee Group analyst John Jackson said it’s just a short step from there to using the same software, provided by VoiceSignal Technologies, to “type” in a Web address and more easily surf the Web.

The two Samsung phones–prices and availability were not disclosed–also use a VoiceSignal Technologies application called QuickPhrase, which lets you send pre-programmed short messages like “call me” or “will call you later” by simply speaking the words.

“It’s a much, much more elegant way of doing things,” Jackson said.

Anyone who’s tried to hunt and peck a text message on a phone’s dozen keys or on miniature versions of QWERTY keypads, knows the inherent frustration, not to mention thumb strain. Especially in the United States, Jackson said, the irritation is a primary reason for the tepid, albeit growing, use of new data-oriented cell phone services–which operators are counting on to bring in new revenue.

The development, unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, is sure to boost the prospects for Samsung, which recently became the world’s second largest cell phone maker by overtaking struggling Motorola. Samsung’s market share is 13.8 percent while Motorola’s is at 13.4 percent. Market leader Nokia dominates with a 30.9 percent share.