Recently at the Life Ball 2005, Versace teamed up with Nokia to announce a special edition of the Nokia 7270. While Nokia of the past few years has pushed the style vs. function envelope with their controversial handset shapes, it has never lost it’s ability to make headlines and work with the best in the industry. Remember Vertu? Similar to Ford, Nokia seems to have a “Luxury Division” where they cater handsets to the ultra elite. At 799 â‚¬, it seems to be inline buying Versace apparel.
You Are What You Carry
We’ve all seen the faceplates as an inexpensive way to customize our phone. Customizing your wallpaper, your ringtone, the color of your LEDs, neckchain, carrying case — all say a lot about who you are. Much like the shoes you sport or the threads you wear, mobile phones instantly label you. It’s inherent in our nature to create some sense of individuality, with the top two of three things that we take when we leave the house (the wallet or purse, being the other, while keys have yet to become a fashion statement).
Case in point. T-Mobile’s American advertising campaign of the Sidekick II. Paris Hilton, Wayne Newton, and Snoop Dogg are all sportin’ one. It’s hip, easy to use (Paris Hilton is 39 years younger than Wayne Newton!), and doesn’t everyone want to be like Paris and Snoop?
Constrast this with RIM’s Blackberry marketing. Advertisements in Businessweek and Airline In-Flight Magazines, not to mention the countless posters in airport terminals. All the venture capitalists, consultants, and executives I know all have one. “Crackberry” as the nickname goes.
If that doesn’t go far enough, my friend Adam (name changed to protect identity), has two mobile devices. He uses one for the work week, which mostly is just for voice. It’s a rather plain Nokia 3120. Doesn’t even take pics. Not to worry, on the weekends, clubbing and out and about, he sports Nokia 7270, with white face plates and all the latest ringtones. He takes a lot of pictures to documents his friends and stories that come about.
So perhaps mobile phones can cause split personalities? Like have a POS (piece of sh*t) commuter car during the week and the nice, always clean, waxed and polished convertible for Friday night and Sunday afternoons. I personally have about a dozen devices, most for application development and platform testing, but only actively use one phone for all my communication. So should there be a race to cram in as many features as possible? Stellar battery life, Bluetooth, 2+ MP (megapixel) camera, IrDA, expandable flash memory, USB port, large screen, intriguing design, easy to use dialpad, accurate predictive text, capable of reading email, SMS, MMS, and WAP, the list could go on and on.
I believe that all the vendors are taking the right approach. Find the device that meets your needs, maybe you’ll need two or three to meet your alter egos. I’m sure the handset makers would love that. That’s the beauty of using SIM cards. While I think of myself as a gadget-freak, I don’t think the “Swiss Army Knife” of mobile phones does everything well. In the meantime, Nokia will continue to partner and expand their product line, Samsung will continue to flood the market, while others carve away at their niche plays. And where is Microsoft in all this? Still trying to make a bad product better? While they have cash to burn, I still cannot get myself to own such an expensive device with a moody OS. Now only if Operators in the United States could change the model of uncoupling the handset from the service plan…perhaps in a future post.
Mobile Phone Shopping
On a recent trip to Beijing, I was walking around “Wang Fu Jing” which is the main shopping district in center of the city and saw this store.
What does this all mean? Retailers and established brands are always in search of providing more products and services to their customers to keep up with our changing demands. In December, 2004, ESPN announced a deal to offer their own service. Mobile phones are definitely here to stay and in 2005, it has never been easier to start your own MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) where all you need is cash to burn, strong marketing (remember the Virgin Mobile Naked campaign?) and a keen distribution channel. In 2.5 years, Virgin Mobile has achieved 3 million subscribers. Clever chap, Sir Richard Branson, has done it again.
Maybe Coca Cola, Marlboro, McDonalds, or Red Bull will get into the act. One thing is certain, mobile operators have gone the way of affinity credit cards.
About 15 mobile phones ago, was my very first Motorola “brick.” It was the beginning of what would become a neverending pursuit of finding the latest and coolest phone. After some time, I began to realize that the phone could be so much more.
Fast forward to 2005. Everywhere I go I am hearing mobile phones ringing with customized ringers. Most people still cannot believe that in 2004, this was a $4B business. That amounts to roughly 10% of the music industry. Everyone seems to be getting in on the piece of the action, from Russell Simmons of Def Jam Records to George Lucas of Lucasfilms and the Star Wars empire.
Other Content Types
New games, wallpapers and other digital content are springing up all over the place. Small mobile game companies are racing to snap up licensing rights for classic to blockbuster hits to catch all the low hanging fruit. I’m sure that I am not being all inclusive here, but the money is flowing and in a *big, big* way.
So what is the point of this blog? As I have been in the Mobile Wireless Data space for some time, I feel compelled to share my views and thoughts on what is going on the in the industry as I see it. Lots of things are going right, however, we still have a long way to go before some nirvana or eutopia in mobile phones and services are achieved. In the successive postings, I hope to talk about handsets, UI, mobile data services, mobile culture, and more. It is my sincere hope that I also provide some aspects of educating those who are eager to learn and want to go into the industry a resource. So I begin the long journey and see where it will take me.