Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Best Looking Handsets

In the early years of mobile telephony, handset manufacturers were clambering over each other to load on as much technology as possible. Handset design was generally 'functional' to say the least, which lead to phones like my old favourite, the Motorola Graphite. Mmmm... retro.

Nokia were the first to really crack the concept that a cute-looking mobile with features such as snake and an genuinely intuitive menu system - pictures, anyone?

Nowadays, ugly handsets are the exception rather than the rule. True beauty, on the other hand, is rare. I have recently highlighted the Apple and Prada phones: two shining (and shiny) examples of handsome handsets.

Here are a couple of other lookers currently doing the rounds.

LG Chocolate (Black Label daaaahling)

So stylish it can only be carried in £1000+ handbags by supermodels, the LG Chocolate Black Label is half 2001 A Space Oddessy and half the way Silk Cut adverts used to look before those meanies banned fun ads from telly. LG's populist Chocolate is a big seller and a particularly handsome handset. The Black Label editions are something a little special to look at. The pictured handset is a Black Label Platinum, which glows with sexy red buttons when it gets the signal or you touch it right. Phwoar.

Sony Ericsson z750

One for the Americans, this is. A hot little number from the Swedish/Japanese partnership, the Z750 is superbly understated and rather reminiscent of a post-surgery Motorola Pebble. It is heavy on technology too, with great compatability (it offers 3G service in the States and the rest of the world). The thinking man's crumpet.

Nokia 8800 Sirocco

Nokia have come up with this little beauty. While the original 8800 was a handsome, high end handset, it was rather limited by its terrible battery life. It was similar to a Lambourghini Diablo if you like - more status symbol than practical tool. The Sirocco edition, on the other hand, is more Audi S6 - stylish and powerful. The steel slider is a beauty when closed up, which wouldn't look at all out of place on the passenger seat of a supercar as it whipped along the Monte Carlo coastline to the casino.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Polymer Vision Readius

Kicking back, cup of tea in hand, around December time in 2005, a feature on Channel 5's rather wonderful 'Gadget Show' caught my attention. The presenters were at a technology convention (can't remember which, through the foggy haze of time) and had a representative of Philips keen to show off a brand new development. The Dutch tinkermeisters had a working model of an almost paper-thin screen which could be used with mobile phones. It operated using 'electronic ink' and could fold in on itself, making it very space-efficient. The disadvantage, if I remember rightly, was that the screen was not backlit and couldn't deal with much in the way of detail.

Fast forward a year (and a bit) and the mobile phone market is dominated by Apple's vision of a touchscreen handset. To my mind, the fuss about the iPhone and similar Prada Phone overshadows the most influential portable electronic device released this year, which is the Polymer Vision Readius. Don't get me wrong, the Apple will sell thousands of times as many units as the Polymer Vision device, but this little beauty represents the future.

The device is not a phone (although it is EDGE and UMTS compatible) but this technology is bound to transfer into the mobile market in coming years. The screen is also not up to the demands of the modern mobile consumer, but this very new technology can't be expected to match the image quality of its clunkier bretheren just yet. The screen is slow to update and cannot handle moving images. Yet.

The prospect of folding screens is a fascinating one. In years to come, how would you feel about reading an electronic newspaper that folded out from your mobile phone, or perhaps watching the football on a decent sized-screen which weighed less than a pair of shinpads?

Interesting developments indeed...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Fujitsu F703i - a waterproof phone

There are not many gimmicks which haven't been explored in the world of mobile phones. We have had the drunk-proof handset. We have had an ungodly selection of pink phones, including Hello Kitty phones.

We have business phones, designer-branded handsets, cheap, almost desposible phones for the developing markets and hundreds of mid-market options.

What more could we possibly need?

What can be done that has never been done before.

Fujitsu think answer is a waterproof mobile phone.

Yes, that's right. The Fujitsu F703i can survive being under 1m of water for up to 30 minutes, if the claims of the manufacturer are to be believed. This raises some (reasonably obvious) questions, first and foremost... why?

Now, with only a relatively poor grasp of human biology, as conferred upon me by the English state education system and its fine GSCE double science qualification, I am in no position to comment upon what the human body is capable of, but talking underwater seems like a stretch. I mean really, most things in life are considerably more difficult when attempted underwater, which is probably why we evolved from sea creatures over many millions of years (I learnt that from a Guiness advert).

Interestingly, this handset manages to cling on to stylistic sensibilities. Check out the lovely 'chequered' effect, for example, and the futuristic clock facade. This is a departure from previous 'gimmick' phones which have always placed function over form and have looked rather rough as a result. On the other hand, who is going to see you when you are making calls underwater?

The mind boggles...