Mobile World Congress: Did the mainstream media notice?

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Malcolm Murphy – Where is the Innovation?

We’d like to take a minute to break from all the iPhone hoopla and introduce a new contributor here at SMS Text News, Malcolm Murphy. Malcolm comes to us with a passion for mobile and is eager to contribute here on our blog.

With that, here is his first article for us, Where is the innovation?

The first mobile phone I ever had (over 10 years ago now) was the Nokia 2110 – the original brick. I would probably recoil in horror if I was asked to use it now, but at the time it was fantastic. I seem to recall that I even carried it in my jeans pocket, however unlikely that seems.

Over the last ten years, I’ve had a lot of different phones, and it used to be interesting and exciting to get a new phone. I have declared on many occasions that my latest phone is the best one ever: the Ericsson R380 and 520 had useful PIM applications and offered the promise of a single device; the Nokia 6210 synchronised reliably with the PC and allowed you to enter multiple numbers per contact (a big deal at the time), the Nokia 6310 added Bluetooth – which was a huge wow factor for me; the Sony T68i redefined the jeans pocket test; the T610 and later the T630 beefed up the speed and had a nicer keyboard.

My first windows mobile phone was the Orange SPV C500, and for the first time I could have all my contacts in my phone. I still think the windows interface to the address book, where it matches T9 style from the home screen, is one of the most useful things ever to happen on a mobile phone.

Around the same time, there was innovation in style from Motorola with the V3, and from Samsung with the D500. When someone in the office got one of these phones, it was an event.

Fast forward to today. Walk into a mobile phone shop and ask them what’s exciting. If it’s an O2 store, they’ll probably say an iPhone. If not, there’s an N95 in your future (at least if the Vodafone, Orange and CPW I wandered into at lunchtime are representative – I think CPW had sold out of iPhones). Yawn.

It’s not that I dislike the N95. True, it fails the pocket test, but what I struggle with is differentiating it from any other S60 phone. Even something like the 7610, which must be four years old now. I know, I know – built in GPS, better screen, camera, more memory, blah blah. That’s not innovation, that’s a list of incremental improvements.

Hold on, you may cry – what about Shozu, Jaiku, Google Maps, and the other great stuff I can do on my N95? The thing is – they are all third party apps, not part of the phone.

It’s not just Nokia. I’m struggling to see any excitement from any phone manufacturer at the moment. It’s all just tweaks and twiddles – a megapixel here, a xenon flash there, an extra half inch on the screen, which may even be a touch screen.

Maybe I’m mobile weary, maybe it’s a sign that the industry is maturing, maybe it’s a sign that a million exciting new phones will be hitting the shops in time for Christmas. In the meantime I’ll carry on quite happily, if a little boringly, with my trusty S60 – an E65 which does pass the pocket test 😉 – and wait for the next best phone ever.

I just fear I might have to wait a while.


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