Tuesday, December 18, 2007

From the thinnest to the touch screen

The mobile phone may be the hottest selling commodity this century. In Indonesia, the mobile phone business has enjoyed rapid growth. Subscribers of fixed wireless access and cell phones have significantly increased in number, registering a growth of some 30 percent a year, while the operators are enjoying great fortune from this huge business.

In fact, besides operators, producers of cell phones also reap a huge profit from this very promising sector. The problem now is the inevitable competition. Only producers that make creative and innovative products will be successful. Further observation will show that successful producers, which are those among the big five, generally have their own product uniqueness and strengths. They keep abreast of technological developments, particularly in the hi-end class, which has 3.5G ready phones.

Sony Ericsson, for example, is consistent in style, particularly in its music-based products. Once noted for its walkman, Sony now has a music feature in its cell phones. One of these new products is the Sony Ericsson Walkman W380i, which will enter the market in the first quarter of 2008. This cell phone, designed for active music buffs, offers a combination of a unique folded design and a trendy music function. W380i also has Media Manager PC software, which makes it easy to transfer music, photographs and videos from a computer to the cell phone.

It is not enough for a cell phone to be categorized as a smart phone. Attractive design is a necessity. LG, for example, has launched the LG KE 850 Prada, following the production of its Chocolate series, which are phones with class. LG KE850 Prada is a smart phone with an attractive design and is the result of cooperation between LG and renowned Italian fashion house Prada. This slim handset with a touch screen has polyphonic ringtones and MP3 features. It has a 2 megapixel camera, a video, an FM radio, a voice recorder, a game viewer and other functions generally found in a cell phone.

Then there is the slim Motorola RAZR series, which may be said to be the most consistent since 2004. Although it has yet to take over Nokia's position as the top-selling cell phone globally, Motorola sells about two million of its RAZR series cell phones a day.

Motorola's success is attributable to its thin design, which was pioneered by Nokia, which has failed to make the most of this feature. Motorola strongly clings to its motto of "Don't change the winning team". It has adopted the very slim design for a long time, particularly with its RAZR V3, V3x, V3xx, which are only 14 mm thick.

Although it is not part of the RAZR family, Motorola's latest product, MOTO Q9h, which is only 11.8 mm thick, was released in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia early last month. This cell phone, called a life tool for Web 2.0 generation, is designed in such a way that it packs fun, functionality and high-speed connectivity in a svelte and sleek body. With the Q9h, users can remain in touch with friends and family anytime, anywhere through instant massaging (IM), e-mails, blogs or even Facebook, all the while enjoying their favorite music, photos and videos.

Within its lean form lies High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) technology for lightning-fast speed and quick downloads. "Too much of life happens online to leave it at home, so Motorola has created the MOTO Q9h precisely to let you take your virtual life with you wherever you go," said Mark Shockley, corporate vice president and general manager of Mobile Devices East Asia.

Of course Motorola is not alone in this business. Samsung has also invaded the market with its smart phone, the X820. This cell phone has a 2 megapixel camera and is only 6.9 mm thick, making it the thinnest cell phone in the world. This year, Samsung of Korea is again selling the Ultra II, another thin cell phone with 3.5G technology, as well as Samsung U700 (slide) and PDA i600.

It is becoming more and more interesting to observe how cell phone producers compete with each other in producing the thinnest cell phone. Market leader Nokia also has products in this particular market, namely the Nokia 6500 Classic series, which are only 9.5 mm thick. The next generations are Nokia 6300 and 6500.

Nokia has products in various categories. It has popularized cell phones with a global positioning system (GPS). The official release of the Nokia N82, for example, is highly anticipated. N82 has attracted as much attention as its predecessors in the N series, for example N95 and N1. This candy bar cell phone is complete as it has virtually all the features that today's cell phone can have. The N82 has a 5 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optic lenses, an auto focus and an Xenon flash light. This cell phone also has a strong Internet connection through a 3G network, HSDPA or Wi-Fi. And of course, the phone can also serve as a GPS instrument and has a digital map.

What makes the N82 all the more attractive is the fact that it has an accelerometer, just like an iPhone, to support automatic display rotation so that the screen can adjust the orientation of use automatically, with respect to either portrait or landscape.

However, the best device with a touch screen has to be the iPhone. This new generation Apple device has attracted attention and in just two months after its launch, one million units have been sold in the U.S. It has been named Gadget of the Year for 2007.

The iPhone has no buttons at all. All the navigation in the iPhone is based on touch-screen technology, which has been patented as multi-touch. Steve Jobbs of Apple claims this technology is superior to any touch screen on the market as it can ignore accidental touches. The success of this gadget has shown that it was not futile for Apple to acquire Fingerworks, which invented touch screen technology, in 2005.

This product will enter the Indonesian market in 2008 and has been designed to synchronize photos, music and video automatically through an online service of iTunes Music Store. The iPhone also provides synchronization of e-mails, web content and various digital content found in a computer. Besides being able to work on the four bands of the GSM network, the iPhone also has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and a GPS receiver. The touch of a touch screen is indeed amazing. Has it also touched your heart? (Burhan Abe)

The Jakarta Post, December 19, 2007

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