iPhone competitors not there yet

Vendors fail to rise to the challenge Apple's iPhone has set

So much for Apple raising the bar in the mobile phone industry.

Since Apple announced it would soon start selling a combined music player and mobile device called the iPhone, industry experts have predicted that competing cell phone makers would rise to the challenge and start producing equally exciting phones.

They may yet do that, but so far they haven't.

I took a quick stroll around the show floor of the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona checking out the music phones from some of the biggest handset makers out there to see if anything might compare to the hype around expectations for the iPhone. Apple is known for great hardware designs and simple, intuitive user interfaces. While I saw a dizzying array of form factors and a multitude of user interface styles, I was unimpressed with the hardware I saw and downright confounded by the complexity of all the user interfaces.

My examinations were quick -- the show floor is incredibly crowded and hot, so sometimes it took some sharp elbows to even get to touch a phone. I took a brief look at the overall form factor of the phones and then did some navigating around the music player.

I started out at the Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB booth, perhaps because I know the company has been pushing its Walkman handsets. The W880 is a really nice looking phone. It's incredibly thin and has unusual raised keys that work nicely. Sony Ericsson gets high marks for the hardware form factor on this one, but the software user interface was a different story. I never did manage to find the music player from the home screen. Ultimately, I just moved along to another phone in the display area that was already running the music player.

I had a similar navigation problem on Nokia's 5200 music phone. From the home screen, I clicked on an icon with a music note in it, which seemed a logical place to launch the music player. But that took me to a music-related game. I scrolled and scrolled through a horizontal bar of icons but didn't find a music player there. Then I noticed that floating in the middle of the screen were two long bars: one for the music player and one for the calendar. That threw me -- of all phone functions, why were the music player and calendar the only two to be presented that way?

At least Nokia had loaded the demonstration phones with music. Some of the other handsets I tried out, such as the Sony Ericsson one, had just one song on them. That makes it difficult to get a feel for navigating around the music player.

I don't love the form factor of the 5200 but I think some people might. It's sporty, in white and bright red, and a shape reminiscent of Motorola's PEBL phones. It slides open.

Samsung Electronics' SG HF300 "Ultramusic" was next up. I couldn't help but be struck by the cool design. One side of the phone is nearly all screen; the flip side has a keypad for dialing the phone.

I never managed to figure out how to use the control panel on the music player side of the phone. It looks like the iPod's but square. I don't have an iPod so maybe iPod users can easily figure it out. If you're not an iPod user -- and you may not be if you're in the market for a music phone -- the SG HF300 might require a steep learning curve.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?