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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 December 2005, 10:15 GMT
Motorola bets on curvaceous Pebl
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website

Motorola Pebl
Motorola wants people to stroke the Pebl mobile

Fat is the new thin and curves are in, at least for this month in the world of mobile phone maker Motorola.

Fresh from the success of its catwalk-thin Razr mobile, Motorola is banking on the oval, curvaceous shape of its new Pebl phone to become next year's object of desire.

The Pebl could be described as the Sophie Dahl of the clamshells but it faces a big challenge in matching the success of the chiselled Razr.

The handset made its mark in 2005 as the choice of fashionistas, selling more than 12 million units across the world since it was launched a year ago.

It single-handedly resurrected Motorola from the ranks of an also-ran to the world's number two phone manufacturer.

Round and round

With others like Samsung and LG coming with up ultra-thin models, Motorola has gone for a completely different look and feel with the Pebl.

Motorola Razr
There is a base of features that you need to have. But design is the single most important thing when deciding what phone to buy
Ignacio Germade, Motorola
The recent launch of the phone in the UK has been backed by a big marketing campaign and a TV and cinema ad directed by David Fincher, of Seven and Fight Club fame.

"We saw the saturation of technological looking products and tried to respond to that," explained Ignacio Germade, Motorola's design director in the UK and Singapore.

"We wondered if we could design something that is different and communicate something more calming," he told the BBC News website.

The spring-loaded clamshell is designed to be caressed, with a rubbery shell which appears to be finger-print proof.

On the downside, the phone is light on features and, with a 0.3 megapixel camera, no substitute for a digital camera.

Mr Germade makes no apologies for the lack of functions on the handset.

"The idea behind Pebl is to do something simple," he said. "One of the more difficult things in design is to learn when to say when."

"There is a base of features that you need to have. But design is the single most important thing when deciding what phone to buy."

Back to basics

Analysts say that the look of a mobile is increasingly playing a greater part in the eyes of many consumers, with tastes evolving as people move onto their second or third mobile .

The Motorola Rokr
Motorola says the Rokr is the first of a series with iTunes
"Most mobile consumers are no long on their first phone," said telecoms analyst Michelle de Lussanet at Forrester Research.

"So they are going to have a higher standard, as they know the mobile is going to be visible to people around them."

But a phone still has to meet certain basic requirements to be a hit with the public, and the cost is all important.

"What always matters is size, weight, battery and design," she said. "The phone has to perform the basic functions and has to be well priced."

She said Motorola understood that people looking to upgrade wanted a phone that was better styled than competitors, but still provided basic functions without compromising on size and weight.

Rocky Rokr

Ironically, Motorola's success with the Razr has been partly overshadowed by the underwhelming impact of the much anticipated iTunes phone.

The Rokr E1 was unveiled to great fanfare in September but received a lukewarm response.

The offspring of the collaboration between Motorola and Apple has been critically panned and has failed to live up to the hype.

Mr Germade, who insisted he was not involved in the design of the handset, lays part of the blame at the hands of the press.

"The media talked about an iPhone," he said, "we talked about putting iTunes into a phone."

Motorola has stressed that the Rokr E1 is only the first in a series of devices to include iTunes.

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