Wildseed Sprouts Again - This Time as a GSM Phone
By Eric Lin, Tue Jan 13 00:30:00 GMT 2004

Wildseed, the youth-focused mobile with interchangeable "skins" has a second shot at coming out in the US. Since Kyocera cancelled the Kurv last year, Wildseed has been in limbo without a manufacturer, now Curitel of Korea will build the Identity - a GSM-based handset.

The Identity is a GSM handset initially intended for release in the US. It is smaller than previous Wildseed designs like the Kurv, but maintains the boomerang shape, as well as the inverted placement of the screen and keyboard. The new model also adds a VGA camera, as well as a new feature called Airtext which uses LEDs and a neat trick called persistence of vision to display short messages floating in the air by waving the phone back forth. The handset is expected to sell for USD 150-200 while skins should cost $25-60. Both Phone Scoop and The Seattle Times have new information on this next generations handset.

Wildseed takes faceplates one step further- instead of just changing the wrapper around a phone, the smart skins also change the content on the phone. Skins have memory (up to 64 MB!) which store ringtones, themes and games- even music and video clips that are available on the phone once the skin is snapped on. Like popular faceplates, the smart skins feature images of pop stars, cartoons or other images teens would want to customize their handset. They can also include additional buttons for special game skins, which Wildseed is supposedly in talks with game houses to develop titles for. Meanwhile the first skins announced are a Nelly skin featuring songs and videos by the rapper (as well as prominently placed images of him in his Vokal line of clothes), and French Kitty, a popular comic character in the style of Shag.

Like Danger before them, Wildseed have taken care to tailor this handset to the youth market. In addition to themed skins, Wildseed have also optimized the handset for 12 key text (while Danger optimized their device by integrating a QWERTY keyboard). The keypad is at the top and screen below, which balances the phone better for one handed texting. In addition, they have changed the order of letters on a key to reduce button presses for those who prefer multitap instead of T9. For example the 3 key now reads and responds E D F since E is the most popular letter on that key.

Wildseed have obviously worked hard to optimize their product for what the youth market wants in a handset the way Danger worked to optimize their device for what the youth market expected from wireless data services. Danger have done an excellent job marketing their device by putting it into the hands of teen idols like Tony Hawk, Ashton Kutcher and just about every rap idol. Smart skins alone will not be enough, we're interested to see how Wildseed will get their phones into the hands of their target market.