Samsung will launch a Windows Mobile-based mobile phone that packs an 8GB hard disk drive, hitting European markets in the second half of 2006, the company said today.

The SGH-i310 is a 'chocolate bar' form-factor handset (long and straight) that looks similar to the i300 hard drive phone launched by Samsung last year. That phone was centred around mobile music, and the new handset also includes a music player in addition to dual speakers, an amplifier and Bluetooth stereo link. The music player supports the MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA, WAV and Ogg music file formats.

Other features include a 2Mp (megapixel) digital camera, Bluetooth printing and a video output connector.

The phone is Samsung's fourth model to include a hard drive. The company was the first in the world to show a mobile phone with embedded hard drive when it unveiled the SPH-V5400 clam-shell model in September 2004. That phone had a 1.5GB hard drive and was followed by two additional handsets, the SPH-V7900 and SGH-i300, that each had 3GB hard drives.

The number of mobile phones using hard drives is expected to climb over the next few years as more handsets pack functions that require a large storage capacity.

Cornice, a US-based maker of 1in drives that are used in portable music players and cell phones, expects the mobile phone disk drive market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 325 percent between 2004 and 2009.

It expects about 72 million mobile phones with embedded drives will be shipped in 2009 out of a global total of around one billion handsets. At that level the mobile phone market would be larger than the personal storage and portable audio player markets, which Cornice expects will stand at 10 million and 43 million shipments respectively in 2009.

Samsung plans to unveil the phone later this week at the Cebit show that begins on Thursday in Hannover, Germany. No pricing for the handset was announced.

The phone is compatible with GSM, GPRS and EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) technologies and runs the Windows Mobile 5.0 for Smartphone operating system. It measures 112x48x20mm and weighs 120g.