Why we hate the modern mobile phone

Phone fury (and carrier cringes)

I've got to admit I care very little for Apple and I don't like the "hip" reputation that snobbish fops associate with it. Unfortunately I also happen to simply hate mobile phones and the total rip-off that comes with the little blighters. I have a very conventional mind, some might even qualify me as boring. So be it, but I am still part of a market, and nobody is targeting me.

I prefer my books on paperback, my TV on the couch, comfortably installed in my stereo living room in front of my widescreen 80" set, and my Internet at my home desk, with a proper keyboard, mouse, 21" screen and 8Mbps connection. Guess what I ask of a portable phone ? Yep, that the thing PHONES, has an address book that is practical and can store all my numbers, and that doesn't cost €15 a month to just sit there and wait for calls. I don't care about SMS, or MMS, or, Heaven forbid, surfing a midget web on a measely 2" screen. If I need some info fast, I'm pretty sure I can just phone a collegue and have him Google it properly. I'll still get the right info faster than the stupid 3G-whatever can. Oh, and I set the phone to buzzer. Don't need no stinkin' ringtone to annoy everyone in a bus with.

Yeah, I'm old-fashioned. So sue me.

Pascal Monett

Interesting article - but I'm not sure you hit the key points. One of the key things at the moment about the mobile markets is that the operators have sunk vast amounts of capital into 3G, with no real idea how to exploit it. Not only have they spent a fortune upgrading the network, for the second time in 10 years, but they have also spent a fortune on licenses (daylight robbery by governments). They are then pressuring the manufacturers to come up with cool things to use the new data services - but no-one knows how to monetize these services.

Video calls - few people use video calls when they have high bandwidth, high quality services on the desktop. I can't see people walking down the street holding their phone in front of them trying to have a video call. MMS - yes people seem to be willing to send the odd funny pic to each other - but I can count on fingers and toes the total number of MMS I've received ever. E-mail - this is a tough one. E-mail at work is going through the roof, but everyone uses blackberries at work anyway, at home, I can't see people sending lots of data to mobiles - especially since home mailboxes get 10 times more spam than normal mail.

The iPhone seems to me to be doomed to failure. Too expensive (even for apple freaks), tied to one provider, and gimmicky. Don't forget, the famed apple ability to make good products is largely marketing hype. They have only ever produced 1 product that got large market share - the iPod. Its hard to deny that the iPod is great - but I can't think of any other apple product that fits that category. Actually, if I want a phone that does all the basics well - I'll just go for a Nokia 6300 or something like that. A good all-round phone with none of the problems plaguing the N-series. Dave

How can you mention the iPhone without bringing up it's own glaring faults? The lack of 3G, the fact that the phone is huge, it's ridiculous cost and and the fact that it doesn't really have any functionality that you can't get today despite being quite a long way from launch in Europe at least. All of that makes for a phone that in my opinion is dead before launch apart from the iPod diehards who'll get it simply because it's made from Apple and is white.

Otherwise a good article, the only other thing I missed was mention of Windows smartphones.

Christian Hass

Loved your report. And agree with every word.

Always felt the GUI was the most important element of any application, and this is something Apple have long understood too. All mobile phone GUIs have sucked up to now, with their illogical and imponderous menu configurations and I think Apple will clearly demonstrate to the other phone makers that this has been the error of their ways. Expect to see the likes of Nokia and Ericsson clamouring for some sort of joint product development deal with Apple (Motorola of course will not, for obvious reasons!), but Apple will, as always, say thanks but no thanks. Expect the lawyers (at Apple) to be busy too, as the others try to emulate the very reasons why the iPhone is so successful.

Oh, and finally, expect the spec of the iPhone that is finally released next month to have inherited some hitherto unannounced cool features. Steve's not the sort of guy to just stand up and announce "OK, so here's the product I told you all about six months ago." He'll have made sure there'll be new stuff to talk about at the announcement.

Nigel Hamlin

Nigel - I think the "cool features" are the problem, not the solution.

Excellent article. My best phone was my Nokia 8110i. Every phone after that either slimmed down on bulk, loosing essential functionality on the way, or fattened up on fluff that just didn't work well (yes, I am looking at the P series, SonyEricsson!). The 8110i did very little and it did it very well. I sincerely hope for the iPhone to do a little more and do it very well. At least one can be sure it will sync well with a Mac, which seemingly is a totally outlandish feature for most makers. The sad thing is that it will likely bring with it the rotten habit of operator exclusiveness, but at least Apple won't allow for T-Mobile (or whomever) to cripple and deface the device as they usually do.


How right you are about mobile phones. I still use my 3310 and cannot understand why Nokia then screwed up the the best user interface there is. We try hard to produce phones that people can use. An example is our P23 Desktop Mobile Phone for the elderly, infirm or disabled. The same phone is also now being used as the office mobile phone because everyone can use it without having to read a manual. You're unlikely to drop it down the loo; you won't leave it in your car and you're very unlikely to get mugged using it.

David Robson

Great article, exactly my thoughts regarding phones.


As someone who works within the phone industry and deals with the multitude of handsets out there on the market, your article struck a chord.

I hate Symbian - it's slow and unintuitive You mention the 3210 but I'm not sure whether you meant the 3310. Surely the 3310 sold many many more units? There are still plenty of people using 3310s whereas I haven't seen anyone with a 3210 for some time.

The basic design flaw with the 3210 was the loop on the top of the battery which broke really easily. The 3310 has been incredibly robust and has merit as a weapon for hand to hand combat (safe in the knowledge that it would still work afterwards) The 6230 was hugely popular (and still is). It's not fancy, but it's lightning fast to navigate and has the intuitive Nokia Series 40 interface which puts Symbian to shame. It's only let down was the possibility of "missing the target" when selecting with the middle of the keypad. Something which Nokia fixed with the 6230i.

The 1100 has also been massively popular - it makes calls, sends texts, is simple to use, starts up quickly, doesn't fall apart and the battery would probably last for months on standby. Windows Mobile has improved but the Motorola MPx220 is a prime example of not meeting those basic user needs you mentioned. I turned one on yesterday and it took forever (a minute?!)_to tell me that I neeed to insert a SIM. Actually starting the phone probably takes around the same amount of time as booting XP. The old Windows Mobile interface is horribly unintuitive - I know because I've used it in training classes and everyone hates it. Added to that the battery life is terrible and you can't retrieve the IMEI with a *#06# if no SIM is present (the only handset I know that you can't)

Wow - what a rant!!! Anyway - keep up the good work. And did you *really* mean the 3210?

[name withheld]

The N-series are not Nokia's sole models. I have a Nokia 6233 which is quite simply the best phone I have ever had. It has a traditional Nokia UI, quite simple. It's a standard candybar profile yet very stylish. And the extras it does have are subtle, with a straightforward built-in camera that is actually useful (due to the built in micro-SD slot, and its ability to record VGA resolution video). It has twin speakers in it which means that not only do the polyphonic ringtones sound decent, but you can really make use of speakerphone or audio playback on them. The phone also came with the headphones for listening to radio or making use of the device as an MP3 player (micro SD card slot again). Finally it's 3G and I've found the web navigator reasonable for quick content checks (e.g. weather, news headlines); all that can be afforded with the operator's data pricing unfortunately. Bluetooth and IR top off the features list. If you want it just as a phone, it's the perfect form factor, weight, style, and UI. Personally I like it because it masquarades as that while having all the extra useful features. The only minus is that Series 40 3rd edition can't support custom apps, only small Java utilities. Conal Watterson

Thanks for the article, I don't agree with it all but your points are well made and we will make sure it gets read.

Mark Squires - Nokia

Good to see it's being read. Let's hope it's acted on too. Thanks for all your letters. ®

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