Phones Aren't Bought Like PCs Anymore Either
By Eric Lin, Tue Apr 06 21:45:00 GMT 2004

Citing a dearth of midrange and high-end handsets, Nokia has announced their first quarter results will be on the low end of expectations. The PC age is over, sales has everything to do with variety and design.

When we were at CeBIT, we noticed manufacturers were no longer advertising their handsets in terms of specs, but in terms of more human-focused qualities. This change away from the beige (or black) box megahertz mentality doesn't just apply to how phones are sold, but to how they are bought. Consumers want handsets that work well but also look good and represent their style and personality. Nokia was able to capitalize on this trend early with changeable face plates, but other manufacturers upped the ante by opting for sleek design.

While Nokia and Siemens were experimenting with alternative form factors, sleek, feature packed designs finally brought Sony Ericsson into the black. Nokia and Siemens have announced new sleek designs of their own, but they won't be out soon enough to save Nokia this quarter, or possibly even this half, according to CEO Jorma Ollila.

Thanks to American or Asian tastes (or some combination), clamshells are hot. Sony Ericsson capitalized on the stylish clamshell first by introducing the Z600, with changeable high-fashion covers, some of which were designed by style guru Paul Smith. Ollila admitted to Nokia's weakness in clamshells, but they have recently launched the 7200, which also has stylish covers. Today they've launched a series of limited edition 7200s with (iBook/iPod friendly?) white leather covers. Some are plain, while others have embroidered patterns.

Motorola is also witnessing the value of sleek design. The sleek lines of the V600 have made it an object of desire. Phone junkies were clamoring for them since they were announced, and would react strongly every time the launch was delayed. Now they're out and high end labels from Aston Martin to Vivienne Westwood are scrambling to put their mark on a few.

Nokia have announced a CDMA clamshell for the Americas, as well as sleeker GSM models due out later this year. The question for Nokia's bottom line is "when?" Meanwhile, competition from Sony Ericsson's new K700 and S700 as well as the Motorola V600 and V80 should keep things interesting for all three Western manufacturers once these models hit store shelves.