Top 10 Mobile Phone Screwups
Los Angeles (CA) – Mobile phone engineering and marketing is all about compromises, but sometimes these compromises turn the phone into a very expensive paper weight. Sure, you can’t exactly cram every feature under the known Universe into a phone, but at least give us the features that we want.
iPhone: sealed batteries
It’s remarkable that the iPhone succeeded at all with so many weaknesses, but what’s remarkable is that it managed to get away with a non-user-replaceable battery. I mean, how many phones with sealed batteries can you count? But that’s not all, the iPhone battery replacement program slaps you with a $79 service fee for the replacement battery, plus $6.95 for shipping. Now you know why Apple likes iPhone batteries sealed. What’s next? Cars with sealed reservoirs that can be refueled only at Shell gas stations?
Android G: no headphone jack
The first Android-powered Google phone is an excellent device at first sight. On a closer inspection, however, compromises and weird design choices start to show. We were tempted to pick G1’s plasticky appearance and the aesthetics that surely won’t win any beauty contest, but it is the lack of headphone jack that truly amazes us. It’s beyond comprehension how collective design minds of Google, HTC and T-Mobile came to such design. It’s almost as if Apple made cool new iPod with a tiny mono speaker and no headphone jack.
Blackberry Touch: I am the iPhone lookalike
The first Blackberry touch-based smartphone reminds me of Steve Ballmer in this “I am a PC!” video. Touch screams “I am an iPhone lookalike (and proud of it)” and we’re sure that it will do really great e-mail. That’s about it, really, thanks to practically lack of any form of marketing from Blackberry. Underselling itself is the biggest blunder of Blackberry Touch. If you want to compete with iPhone, you just don’t keep your mouth shut.
Garmin Nuvifone: another propriatory operating system
Garmin Nuvifone came out of nowhere. We admit, we are sold on the idea of the GPS focused mobile phone from a compan specialized in GPS navigation systems. Unfortunately, this indicates Nuvifone could suck as a mobile phone. Not that it is short on specifications – on the contrary – but all that hardware is useless without elegant software. Instead for choosing, for example, Android or Windows Mobile, Garmin decided to power Nuvifone with its own operating system used in their GPS gadgets. Now, everyone who has used Garmin’s navigation equipment knows that it comes short of sleek graphics, smooth animation and desktop-like features. It’s the software, stupid!
Motorola Z1: kick-arse kick-slider causes back-bending
Motorola didn’t learn a thing from last year’s problems that plagued Z8 slider-phone. The Symbian-powered Z10 is take-two for the kick-slider concept that hinges the phone as it opens into a curved shape. And what is the reasoning behind this wizardry? It allegedly improves call quality by bringing the microphone closer to the mouth. It wasn’t really necessary to tank the otherwise great handset that has excellent video recording capabilities juts for the sake of wow effect when you kick-slide it open. Do it too many times and you risk back-bending.
Nokia N96: feature beast for geeks
Expected to arrive during the quarter, Nokia N96 is by any measure a feature monster that has it all. But top-notch hardware has no match in software and the end result is actually a concept phone that proves how much can be crammed into a handset. N96 is not perfectly balanced product, although it could have been. It is too heavy, looks bulky and if its predecessor is any indication, clunky user interface and unreliable navigation button will appeal only to geeks. If only we could have the iPhone with N96 hardware.
Nokia Tube: boring, commodity “lifestyle” phone
Finnish mobile phone leader will bring a plethora of touch screen-based devices to the market by year’s end and one of them is going to be called Tube. The device will be aimed at “volume market”, which most likely means a lot of compromises. Why is it taking Nokia so long to come up with a product that can take the iPhone head-to-head? Tube is the biggest blunder because it looks like to be typical underwhelming, cheap phone aimed at average consumers who really doesn’t but the lifestyle that Nokia serves in ads.
Palm Treo Pro: tiny, narrow physical keyboard
I don’t get it… With 50% of Americans with sausage fingers, Palm makes this touchscreen phone with a narrow physical QWERTY keyboard below the screen. Guys, if you bothered to make a real keyboard it’s either landscape-oriented QWERTY keyboard that slides-out beneath the screen or nothing. If Treo Pro had slide-out keyboard like G1, it would have actually been much more interesting smartphone than G1 is. Bar the narrow keyboard, Treo Pro is pretty capable Windows Mobile smartphone.
Samsung Instinct: bad marketing cripples a great product
The only iPhone challenger this summer, Instinct sells for $129 with a 2-year Sprint service contract. It’s a great handset with some features that the iPhone 3G lacks, such as camcorder camera, live TV and music downloads over the cellular network and touchscreen that also works with a stylus. Instinct is also a prime example how bad marketing cripples a great product. Samsung was so confident in Instinct that it made ads that pitched key Instinct features against the iPhone, with both handsets shown side-by-side. As if providing free advertising for the iPhone wasn’t enough, the ads became irrelevant when iPhone 3G came out soon thereafter, but it took Samsung weeks to remove videos from Instinct site. Next phase brought trailers and scenes from an imaginary high-tech spy movie starring Instinct, but they were later removed, too. Makes you wonder who exactly is a target customer for Instinct if not a 13-years old kid?
SonyEricsson Xperia X1: comes too late
If SonyEricsson launched Xperia X1 this summer, it could have become a huge hit and practically the only viable challenger to the iPhone 3G. But man is this phone way too late… With G1’s release and other smartphones scheduled to arrive in the coming weeks, Xperia doesn’t look so groundbreaking anymore – its mojo wore off by now. As if bad timing wasn’t enough, SonyEricsson will initially launch the phone across Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, but not in the U.S. where it is expected to come possibly by year’s end.