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The age of oddities

The age of oddities
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First Published: Tue, Feb 01 2011. 08 51 PM IST

Gimmicks: Phones come with weird designs nowadays.
Gimmicks: Phones come with weird designs nowadays.
Updated: Tue, Feb 01 2011. 08 51 PM IST
It’s built like a tank—and even has the approximate dimensions of a miniature one. The packaging looks ancient, like something excavated from the last decade, but it is undoubtedly a brand new mobile phone. It’s the confusingly named G5 from handset maker G’Five, and it has a feature you don’t see in too many mobile phones—a projector.
Gimmicks: Phones come with weird designs nowadays.
Nestled on the front of the set, the G’Five G5’s inbuilt pico projector, so-called because of its size, throws an admittedly decent projection from a distance of about 4-6ft. Strangely, the interface in “projection mode” isn’t adjustable, so you have to hold the phone sideways for the image to appear straight. It’s a feature that boggles the mind—the phone heats up like an oven if the projector is used even for a short time and, while it’s an undoubtedly neat piece of engineering, it appears more a prototype than commercially ready.
G’Five, according to quarterly data from research firms IDC and GfK Nielsen, is among the top five mobile brands in India in terms of market share. IDC rates it second, just behind Nokia, while GfK Nielsen, which uses a different methodology, puts it fifth, behind Nokia, Samsung, LG and Micromax.
Last year has seen an entire assembly line of different mobile phones launched in the country, most of them rebranded variants of models available in China (for a good idea of the kind of knock-off phones available there, follow www.micgadget.com. Micromax’s recent Android-based debut the A60, for example, was a rebranded phone, Penguin, made by Chinese telecom company ZTE.
Many of these companies, after filling out a basic checklist of available models—a dual-SIM music phone, a dual-SIM camera phone and, increasingly, a dual-SIM touch-screen phone—are reduced to using design gimmicks to draw attention to their new models.
Only a few of these appear to be functionally useful—the new batch of “triple SIM” phones, for instance, are a logical extension of the now-dominant dual-SIM category. Delhi-based Olive Telecom, who were first off the block with Android-powered tablets in India, have a model called the FrvrOn that can run on a AAA battery in addition to a normal mobile Lithium Ion cell.
Others are exercises in head-scratching bewilderment. In July, Lava International Limited announced in a breathless, exclamation-mark- ridden press release that after “months of rigorous trials and market research,” it had created a mobile interface that was neither a Qwerty keyboard nor a traditional numeric keypad. They called it an “Alpha” keypad, and a grand unveil revealed it to be nothing more than a normal mobile keyboard with the keys arranged alphabetically. Micromax has the G4, which doubles as a Nintendo Wii-like remote for the PC. In October, Spice Mobility announced the launch of “India’s first 3D phone”, the View D. Priced at an improbable Rs4,299, the View D reportedly features an auto-stereoscopic display, such as the one on Nintendo’s forthcoming 3DS, which delivers 3D images without the need for glasses.
Even with a seemingly normal touch-screen phone, the Micromax A60 was an exception to the rule in choosing to go with the Android operating system. Android, whatever its faults, speaks a familiar design language that is easy to navigate. Other touch-screen phones choose to bundle interfaces filled with maze-like menus and gaudy animated elements straight out of a Web page from the 1990s. A possible reason for this could be the lack of dual-SIM Android phones, but that changes with the recent launch of the Motorola XT800 Glam. The Glam is a high-end phone, priced close to Rs30,000, but it does open the floodgates for some cheaper options. We might finally see some sanity in design standards in the coming year, but don’t dismiss the possibility of a 3D projector phone with gravity sensors and an alpha keypad. With quadruple-SIM, of course.
Play Things is the official tech and time-pass blog of Mint. Drop in for a dose of cool tech gossip and online merriment at http://blog.livemint.com/play-things
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First Published: Tue, Feb 01 2011. 08 51 PM IST
More Topics: G5 | Playthings | Krish Raghav | Mobile Handset | IDC |