A Glut of new phones

by rmtwrkr

So as the Mobile World Congress is getting underway in Barcelona, a huge amount of new phones are being outed. Nokia, LG, Samsung and Sony-Ericsson have all released details on their new phones. One particular handset is getting a lot of attention: SE’s Xperia X1. Technically, it’s a phone that has every standard on the market (Hsdpa 7.2mb, GPS, qwerty keyboard, touchscreen etc). But what is so funny is that a short video was released purporting to show the handset in action. Now, before I saw the video I read a lot of comments on various tech blogs. The general theme was along the lines of ‘WOW! This is awesome’ to ‘Goodbye iPhone!’ and ‘Teh best phone EVAR!’ to ‘iPHONE KILLER!!!’. Naturally I was excited to see what all the fuss was about, so I checked out the video.

And naturally I was shocked. At how uninspiring it looked. Imagine an interface designed to spin around, overlap itself, and generally look like you are trying to shuffle a deck of cards. Now put that ON TOP of….Windows Mobile. Yes. WinMob. Or FailMob depending on how you look at it. Now I am all for competition, but what SE has done is take an off-the-shelf rebranded HTC qwerty slider, paste some whizz-bang eye candy over WinMob. Add a dash of video-showing-spinny-things, and put in the press release words like ‘premiumness’ (???). What you have then is IPHONE KILLER. All this was done in just 30 seconds of showing a spinning interface, with no look underneath the spin.

What has happened is SE and also LG have recognized that to sell handsets, it must look like the iPhone. This is in the same vein as all the Chinese clones of the iPhone. What is more fscking strange is how people actually will BUY into this. Many commentators on these tech blogs will buy a physical clone of an iPhone: because it is cheaper. What this really shows is that a lot of people don’t really care if a phone actually works better than another in reality, they just want to look like they have the original. This disappoints me, and is one of the reasons why things progress so slowly: If manufacturers are content to offer ‘me too!!’ inspired handsets, and people buy them because they look like the real-deal, then I guess we get what we deserved. A stagnant mobile industry, with only a couple of innovators, that actually spend the money that they get from selling handsets on R&D budgets for the next evolution. The rest just sit and wait, see what takes off, then try to emulate it as much as possible.

If we though the latter part of last year was bad for handset manufacturers trying to emulate the iPhone, then this year is ground-zero. Mobile armageddon. Attack of the Clones.

And (probably) once again, Apple will keep it’s mouth shut, then when ready will launch the next wave of intuitive, well designed, easily usable software and hardware that once again will ‘shock and awe’ the industry.