June 29, 2007
Perhaps it's our Star Trek communicator roots, but North Americans are obsessed with clamshell designs. That may change dramatically if Apple's iPhone takes off with consumers.Form follows function in most design houses, which is why the smartphone has been primarily a candy bar design -- meaning no lid or flip-up screen. That's because a bar (or QWERTY slab) is the most efficient form factor for checking e-mail. Elsewhere in the world, the bar design is the preferred method of handset form factor. Analysts point to the pervasive 3G networks and text-crazed masses outside the United States for driving that trend.
The question remains: Will mainstream consumers get so used to the iPhone experience that they would be willing to lose the clam shell lid? "For basic voice, I don't think U.S. consumers are going to move away from clamshells that quickly. The folding form factor still has its advantages," said Avi Greengart the Principal Analyst for Mobile Devices with Current Analysis. "For example, it can be shorter in length when folded (which feels better in your pocket), and it never calls your mother by itself if you fail to master the rapid lock/unlock key press combinations most vendors insist on forcing on users." But the iPhone's touch screen, presence awareness, and virtual keyboard overcome those traditional problems, although using the iPhone may take some getting used to. Even Walt Mossberg needed a couple of days to master the keypad. Still, Apple and its fans are quite certain consumers will take a shine to the device. Michael Gartenberg VP and Research Director at JupiterResearch notes too that Apple has included a few design features to alleviate consumer fears about QWERTY smartphones. Apple is using mineral crystal for its screen, which has a higher impact ratio," he said. "It would break if you took a hammer to it but the sensitivity of the screen is not like the plastic ones you find elsewhere." iPod owners know that to be true from the scratches on their screens. And instead of providing a cover in the box, Apple will again rely on the multitudes of third-party companies to design those protective materials for the iPhone Still, once you opt in to the base prices of $499 for the device and $59 monthly carrier plan, you're probably not going to whip that iPhone around like a sack of potatoes. You'll probably even forgo the belt attachments for something a little more secure. ...like a Halliburton case.
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