The mobile phone market is seemingly inexorably shifting towards smartphones. You may not think that you could or would want a smartphone, but it seems as though the market is deciding for you, with any number of phone vendors offering up either direct smartphones, or so-called “feature” phones that offer many of the core smartphone offerings. That’s features like included email, web browsing and if you’re lucky a little light document reading.
It’s arguably a similar kind of situation that existed with mobile phones around fifteen years ago. Mobiles themselves were still pretty clunky creatures, and plenty of folk could rather easily say that they had no use for a phone that was always on them. In today’s connected world, there are few that would make that claim. A smartphone just takes that to the next level, matching up your email and other functions to your location no matter where you are. We’re even starting to see some reasonably priced data plans to go with smartphones, taking the bill shock problem out of the equation.
We’re also seeing a lot more variance in what smart phones look like. For the past couple of years, most manufacturers have made smartphone that, for better or worse, aped the simple style of Apple’s iPhone lines. iPhones have been popular, so it made a certain amount of sense to do so. Still, there are those who don’t want a touchscreen-only phone, or don’t want an Apple phone full stop.
I went to a preview — not quite a launch, as it’s not quite clear as to what the company involved will actually sell in the Australian marketplace — of a number of new technology products from Chinese company Huawei recently. You’ve most likely never heard of Huawei, although the chances are decent you may have interacted with some of the company’s technology in one way or the other. As an example, outside of Telstra, all the USB modems currently offered for mobile broadband by Australia’s telecommunications companies are Huawei modems.
One of the potential products that Huawei executives showed off to me were a range of Android phones. There were, predictably, phones that carried that standard “iPhone” style big-screen experience, for those that want it. There was a Google-branded phone that we may see by the end of the year, similar to the HTC Desire but a fair bit smaller, and potentially a bit cheaper. Also in attendance was an oddly small Android phone, the U8300 that featured a tiny physical keyboard. From a very brief test of the phone, it’s not going to challenge a Blackberry for keyboard dominance, but if you wanted a cheap smartphone with a keyboard, it might be worth considering.
There’s no clear indication that any of these phones will come to the Australian marketplace, and even if they do they’re highly unlikely to be directly labelled as Huawei phones. That mirrors a much larger tech reality, however, as many seemingly “competing” tech products come from the same core providers to a given tech company’s recipes. Yes, even Apple’s products are sourced this way.
I guess at least if we are all going to be gently shoved into the smartphone world, it’s good to see that it’s not going to be within a one-size-fits-all model, and variances for taste, style and usability will still be possible. What shape smartphone do you want?