April 28, 2005 10:50 | Culture / Montreal / Social / Technology

The keitais are coming!

Slowly over the past year I've noticed a subtle transition in the mobile phone handsets that have been available here in my home market. But today it really struck me as apparent: the keitais are coming.

Not in features or cultural influence so much mind you; merely in form factor, but this in itself is indicative.

Accessing the "available handsets" sections of the three mobile service providers here in Montreal, a year ago you'd find mostly the small Nokia-style handsets. Today, Fido (5 clam vs 8 puck), Rogers (11 clam vs 7 puck) and Bell (10 clam vs 5 puck) all exhibit predominantly* clamshell models.

* After actually counting, Fido still has more "pucks" than clamshells, the funny thing being that it was while visiting Fido that the increased number of clamshells available struck me.

I find this very odd since that form factor is closely tied to the handset's usage, which is hard to explain to someone who's never seen it "in action". Think of it literally as your own little network access device, which you hold up as if checking your makeup in you pocket mirror - heh - and thumbing your way through the UI using a scroller, and typing kanji using the keypad. We don't have immersive information services, nor do we have a text-based mobile communication culture, so we don't use the like that.

I wonder why *this* shift. Why the skin and not the guts?

Also funny to notice them now finally hawking "we have cameraphones!". A year ago it was still "we have faceplates and ringtones!" ;)


This does bug me. Canada, at least, is on the same GSM system as Europe, and yet they consistently get cooler phones. (I'm currently lusting after the unavailable-here Siemens SF65 and the soon-to-be-released SonyEricsson K750i with its 2MP camera...) I guess when you have a smaller population, they can't afford to take chances with so-called niche products. Telus, at least, was brave enough to go with the Fastap-keyboard-equipped LG 6190, but I think Canadians that really text / IM that often would gravitate to the Sidekick.

Now those Korean phones...those are crazy. There's a Samsung phone that was shown recently with a 7MP camera and optional telephoto. At some point phones will just be cards we plug into a second slot on our Canons and Nikons....

I'm currently lusting after the unavailable-here Siemens SF65 and the soon-to-be-released SonyEricsson K750i with its 2MP camera...
You can always get the phone online and register it with Fido or Rogers over here. I got my Nokia 7610 imported last year and it's been working fine here ever since.
At some point phones will just be cards we plug into a second slot on our Canons and Nikons....
I always believed "never say never", but this has always seemed doubtful to me. High-quality camephones haven't [yet] stemmed the growing sales of DSLRs and prosumer digital cameras in Asia, so I don't think they will here.

I mean, yeah... I like the fact that my phone has a decent camera, and sure, if I could eventually upload tagged photos straight from my DSLR to the web via a 4G connection, that would be great.

But convergence only makes sense up to a point, and I don't want to be stuck one peaceful day shooting wildlife outdoors, only to then have to interrupt that and pick it up to answer a call. ;)

Also, the purpose of the mobile device camera is much much different from the mid- and highrange cameras. At most, they may "replace" the lowend point-and-shoots, but even this I find doubtful. Unlike mobile communications, photography has *some* physical restraints (lenses, focal lengths, shutter mechanism, etc).

Either way, THAT wasn't the point at all. This was about overall form factor, especially as it pertains to interaction and useage. :)

Hm, form factor is one part of it, the other thing is cultural values.

Here, we seem to "put up with" people ignoring us in favour of their phones mid-sentence, or using phones even when it would be nicer (or safer) if they didn't.

It might be interesting to see how cellphone culture evolves to match that of the host culture. For example, we've already seen cellphone "jammers" installed in theaters; maybe the next outpost in an 'always on, always available' culture is just a much better, AI-enhanced voicemail secretary. At some point our phones will just exchange metadata pointers to other things: schedules, blog posts, audio posts.

Imagine trackback on an answering machine....