Thin is In


The launch of the MotoQ yesterday reminded me that I've wanted to point out a cyclical trend I've noticed. I've sort of mentioned this before inside other longish posts, but I want to make this observation more clear: Thin is in. You knew that already by the incredible worldwide success of the RAZR, but I wanted to put it in historical context.

I remember when I first started getting into mobile phones in Europe, the Nokia 5150 series was all the rage. Faceplates and the standard Navikey system made it the phone to own. There was also the Star*Tac from Motorola, but the horrible UI (things haven't changed much there) made it less popular. Then in 2002 I remember a new wave of phones came in that were really, really small. For a while the sign of the executive with the most cash was the smallest phone. I bought an Alcatel that was just 76g. I'd forget which pocket it was in.

Then the camera phone revolution came. Remember when there were predictions that every phone would have a color screen within six months and people saying nooooo. Well that was a no brainer. Anyone that used a phone with a color screen wanted one, even if they had to sacrifice size and weight to get it. There was a *very* short transition period (Nokia 3200 for example), and then basically all those phones also had cameras in them as well. The bulk of the phones increased, but it didn't matter because of all the functionality.

We started see a shift back to small phones last year - Nokia couldn't keep up with the demand for their all-in-one Nokia 6230 which had a camera and all the bells and whistles, but still kept the same small form factor as other Series 40 phones. People went nuts for that phone. But then the RAZR launched and that really shifted the marketplace. The bar for style and function has now shifted, all the same functionality and not just small, but thin. Not too long ago I was thinking of my new 6680 as a pretty decent sized phone compared to its predecesors, but compared to the RAZR, it's a brick.

Samsung is now launching a RAZR killer, and I've heard from sources within Nokia that they're scrambling to launch a thin phone as well. Consumers have seen what's possible and now are no longer satisifed with bells and whistles if that means bulk. I have a RAZR and I can tell you from experience the universal techno-lust that it inspires. The form-factor is jeans-compatible and it seems what everyone wants in a phone. One person I showed it to was ready to buy it instantly and didn't know it had a camera - it was just bonus when they found out it had that too.

As I repeat ad-nauseum, mobiles are the ultimate consumer device, more popular than any other electronic device in the world. As such, it's very trend-centric as consumers are a fickle bunch. Today it's camera phones, tomorrow its thin, next week it'll be the color chartreuse. When planning for what people will have in their pockets tomorrow, keep this in mind.



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