2004 was an eventful year. They had the Olympics at Athens (and till today Greece is wondering how they managed to get ripped off so bad), the 1st Ubuntu OS was released, Michael Schumacher won his 7th Formula One Championship title and Motorola made buying a phone dead easy with the RAZR V3. All you had to do was look at it and you’d want it real bad. Well, you could mull over features like the music player, the camera and other such add-ons and choose the most loaded candy bar available but then the phone would look like a brick, and if you were spotted with one, then anyone with an iota of class would quickly categorise you as something that rhymes with a brick.
The RAZR V3 made people drool. All the women wanted to grip it, be seen with it and slide it into their skin tight denim back pockets, all the men wanted to be it. The RAZR V3 sold like ice cream candy at an Azad Maidan protest march held in May. What Motorola also got right apart from the design was the price. And, like any Hollywood blockbuster, there were a number of sequels and spin-offs; a precursor to all the gadget sequels that we see today.
Chip for chip if you ran a comparison, even with the lowest end, Chinese OEM made, pocket PCs that masquerade as phones today, you’d see that the V3 doesn’t have much going for it. The OS looks like something out of a bad Bollywood sci-fi film, and the only ‘apps’ you’d find is the alarm clock and clunky battery draining music player. But the V3 and its many successors sold 130 million pieces, making it the largest selling clam-shell phone till date. All this because it was gorgeous and that one feature alone kept me and many other users from straying and sampling the stylus equipped PDA cum phone options and other such geeky contraptions.
Kicking off the Sexy Cell generation
Then in the winter of 2007, with all the biblical irony at play, into the Eden of the gadget world slithered Steve Jobs, with his ‘revolutionary, groundbreaking, never-seen-before’ Apple iPhone. My brain, which had been wired to pick beauty over substance and oomph over utility suddenly found itself in a new paradigm. It was like being asked to judge a beauty pageant but also pay heed to contestants’ CAT scores. You see, no one gave a hoot about the processor that went in the phone or its on-board memory. That sort of detail was best left to computers and nerds, both of whom sat glued to the desk all day long, and the only time you touched the screen with your fingers was if you wanted to wipe it.
With the advent of the iPhone, the mobile phone, today, is a platform. It isn’t about sliding the phone into a shapely butt pocket or flicking it open and answering a call like James Bond anymore. The phone has grown the smarts and is now about the OS, GBs, MHz, megapixels and Apps. Much like the women back in the ‘20s, the phones have started demanding that we take them seriously.
The iPhone has been followed by a battalion of knock-offs and we find ourselves indulging in geek-speak while deciding which phone to buy. Dual-core, quad-core, multi-threaded, multi-tasking, front and back camera, QVGA, TFT, AMOLED, capacitive touch, resistive touch, 720p HD, 1080p HD, Facebook button, push email, Gingerbread, iOS, Mango, Siri, Vlingo, notification bars, Touch and Type, Swype. Good lord, can’t we just pick sexy and get done with it?
You either sift through all that jargon yourself or rely on suspiciously partisan reviews before spending nearly a month’s salary to get a phone that will find itself out of favour rather soon because a newer, geekier version is out. Add to that, most of them look like as exciting as sliced bread. Where’s the pizzazz? Phones were bound to get smart, hell even the idiot box is sold as a SMART TV today, so what’s the big deal in picking them on the back of that? To use a cliché, we need a clutter breaking design to make people drool all over again. I, for one, will be parting with the month’s pay check on a phone only when they get sexy back.