Motorola Launches Skinnier Cell Phones

Thin is in when it comes to the latest trend in mobile phones. Motorola revealed its trimmest phone to date on Tuesday, at approximately 9mm. The company expects the Motofone to be available in the second half of 2006 in both GSM (global system for mobile communications) and CDMA (code division multiple access) models.

The new narrow phone was introduced at an analysts’ meeting this week along with two other models, the Krzr and Rizr. All three are being highlighted by the company for their fashionable appearance and design.

Disruptive Force?

“You can never be too thin or too rich,” Ian Campbell, president and CEO of Nucleus Research, told TechNewsWorld. The trend is definitely heading toward smaller, lighter phones that are easier to put in your pocket instead of in a bag,” he said.

Motorola is marketing its news phones as both stylish and easy to use, especially on the go.

“By changing expectations regarding what a phone can look like, feel like and deliver, Motorola hopes to change the entire playing field for handset development,” said Ron Garriques, president of mobile devices for Motorola. “Disruption creates opportunity, and the best way to stay ahead is to create disruption yourself.”

For less tech-savvy callers, the Motofone offers an intuitive, new interface built on icons and voice, instead of text. It includes voice-prompt instructions in various languages and a large readable font size.

For prepaid customers, the Motofone automatically reports account status after each call or message. The large, high-contrast screen also helps eliminate glare from direct sunlight — making it easier to use the phone outdoors, the company says.

The Rizr, which features a sliding style, has a 2-megapixel camera and programmed point-and-shoot keys.

The Krzr is slightly narrower than the Razr and has a music player as well as a 2-megapixel camera.

Style Without Compromise?

While fashion is becoming increasingly important, it should not be top of mind, Campbell warned. Motofone is similar to the company’s other super-slim SLVR, but that device had problems with sound and transmission quality.

“Too thin can be bad,” he noted. “There’s physical limitations. You need to be able to hold the phone comfortably and press the buttons — and the smaller the phone, the bigger the challenge of the microphone. All of these companies need to keep in mind decent sound quality is the ultimate litmus test.”

The Motofone includes a “very powerful loud volume to help ensure callers can hear phone conversations and will not miss calls even in a busy marketplace or crowded street,” Motorola maintains.

Moving Quickly

The challenge for the top two cell phone manufacturers is not merely releasing new products but persuading providers like Cingular and Verizon to test and quickly adopt their latest phones.

If the focus is on fashion alone, Motorola beats Nokia, Campbell said. Although Motorola remains second to its closest rival, it is gaining market share. Nokia has to “step up to the plate” a little more when it comes to staying trendy, he observed.

“The phone providers are following the same strategy as shoe companies did years ago,” Campbell said. “Nike and Reebok went from plain white sneakers to new items that came out every six months. Nokia and Motorola are likely to leapfrog each other perpetually.”

Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics most likely will struggle to compete with the big boys, according to Campbell.

In addition to engineering, the larger companies spend a great deal on product development and test panels, and typically come out with new models every six to eight months.

“Given the velocity of change that is required in the market, it’s going to be difficult for second-tier players to keep up,” he said. “I’d like to hope they fall into certain niches.”

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