The Great Debate



Ahh... we have so many competing issues in the mobile world, don't we? GSM vs. CDMA. Bluetooth vs. WiFi. Java vs. Brew. Everybody vs. Microsoft. You get the idea, all these topics have been hashed out endlessly. But what's not really talked about is the growing competition between "the candy bar" vs. "the clamshell". Well, now we can tackle that debate right here and now.

With the launch of SonyEricsson's new "flagship" mobile, the Z600, the lines have been firmly drawn. On the left above is a picture of the T610 which is, practically identical in features and functionality as the phone on the right, the new Z600. Here, see for yourself: Z600 stats and the T610 stats. It's sorta hard to compare all those lists of features, but basically, except for the nicer screen on the Z600, it's the same phone.

So you have to ask why would SonyEricsson take the time, effort and money to produce the same phone, but with moving parts that add up to 15g of weight and bulk? I mean, the screens the same physical size, the functionality is identical, the camera's the same. So what's the deal? Well... it seems that 1/2 the globe thinks that clamshell phones are *groovy* and the other half think they're bulky and unusable.

Guess which side of the world I'm on?

No seriously, I think the clamshell people are on crack. I had a Motorola Startac years ago and it was a pain in the ass to answer. Completely unusable with one hand, unless you got that finger-tip grip just right and the flick perfectly practiced. Most of the time you end up sorta gripping half the phone with your shoulder or chest or something while you claw at the phone with your free hand trying to get it open, yelling "Hold on! Hold on!" the entire time to the would be caller who doesn't understand why all they hear is rustling instead of someone talking on the other end of the line.

I just don't get it. Since I switched to candy bars, I've been completely content. Even though the tiny candy bar phones (i.e. all the new ones) don't reach to your mouth, they're so much more convenient to have with you. Before my bulky mastadon of a mobile called the 3650 came into my life, I was using a Alcatel m515, which weighed in at a lithe 75g and was completely undetectable in my pockets. Sometimes I'd have to feel around for it when I wanted to make a call. That's great! That's what you *want* in a mobile phone. I can't wait until they get the Series60 phones down to a reasonable size like that as well!

But if you're nodding your head in agreement with me, well, we've just got to come to terms with the fact that much of the rest of the world doesn't agree with us. Most of Asia and much of the U.S. just can't seem to get enough of the flip phones. Well, many Americans still thinks that hanging mobile phones from your belt loop is still "cool" so obviously it has nothing to do with real taste. But between them and the zillion Asians right now who are voting with their wallets, manufacturers are getting a strong push towards clamshell phones.

Here's the thought in my mind, I wonder if this dichotomy of phone styles can last forever. Yes, each model is different and the manufacturers try to differentiate themselves in size and styling and all that. But eventually, companies like SonyEricsson are just going to decide that it's not economical enough for one style or the other. For example, a manufacturer may sell only 6 million of their candy bar phones, but sell 20 million of the clamshells. Well, they're eventually going to want to choose one or the other to save costs in R&D, design, etc. and go with the most popular.

Thus it may be that our beloved candy bar is doomed. Though the Europeans love them, and Nokia was propelled to success by being the first to hide the antenna, economics may speak out and push upon us the dreaded flip. Let's hope Nokia holds out against the hoards...


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