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Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Secrets of good phones

Those little things you like - or dislike - about your mobile phone may seem trivial to you. But, writes Giles Wilson, thousands of jobs can hang on them.

To you it might just be a tiny thing your phone does - perhaps it tells you the name of the person who has sent you a text message rather than just their number.

It might seem nothing; a mere gimmick. But on trivia like this hang thousands of jobs and millions of pounds.

A Nokia phone always seems to be in the right place for what you want to do next. Motorola don't seem to understand the concept of 'obviousness'

Simon Rockman

Why, for instance, should it be that while Motorola lays off 3,000 Scottish workers, and Ericsson cuts 1,200 jobs in Nottingham and Scunthorpe, Nokia announces a 6% rise in first quarter profits?

One simple reason, says Simon Rockman of What Mobile?, is if you have a Nokia phone, you are likely to use it more than if you have another brand of handset. Why should that be?

Nokia: More likely to use it more, says Simon Rockman
"One feature which makes a lot of difference is having a good phone book," he says. "For instance, I have a phone in my hand at the moment. Now, if I wanted to look up the number of the guy who rang me at lunchtime, and this handset has a good phone book, I'll find his number easily, and ring him.

"If it doesn't have a good phone book, then I'm more likely to look up his number in my real phone book and call him on the landline. It might only be a 10p call but it's the difference between the money going to Orange, in this case, and BT."

Another enormously important factor is the ease of text messaging, he says.

Text messages
Nearly a billion text messages are sent in the UK each month
"I have a friend who's very techie," he adds. "He used to have a Motorola phone and he told me never to text message him, because he didn't like the phone and couldn't be bothered to use it. But then he changed it to a Sony phone and suddenly I've started getting text messages from him again."

They know what you're doing

From such small acorns do profitable mobile networks grow.

"The networks are looking at how much revenue they are making from each handset," says Rockman. "They will know that they make more money from a Nokia phone than from another model. It may be a very small amount per user, but you are dealing with very large numbers of people."

Ericsson: Announced in January it was stopping handset manufacture
For instance, say a particular feature on a phone leads a customer to make just an extra 10 calls a year. It might only add up to £5 over 12 months.

"To a customer that's not really very much difference, but to a network which might have 10m subscribers, if each one spends £5 more, that's £50m a year."

If a phone earned an extra £50 a year, the network would probably be prepared to subsidise the phone more - making it cheaper in the shop.

But now the obvious

People might not like to admit it, but for many, buying a mobile phone is a continuation of the same game they started when they first bought a cool new pair of drainpipes, jeans or combat trousers: fashion.

Motorola: The company is still one of Scotland's largest private employers
So, for the huge teen market, the more ringtones and coloured fascias, the better.

But it goes deeper than that. People like to have cool phones. And for that, says Steve Hughes, of industrial design company PSD Associates, who worked on the design of the Mitsubishi Trium phone, design is the key.

It's the job of handset designers to find a way of blending the hardware (ie the phone itself) with the software (what it can be made to do).

"When you have something that works in unison, you have achieved good design," he says.

Simon Rockman puts it simpler that that. "This is jewellery," he says. "What a phone looks like really matters. I heard two girls on the bus, one of them fancied a boy she knew, and said: 'The first time I saw him he had a T28 and now he's got an 8850.'

Porsche 911
Upgrading this year?
"She didn't have to specify that it was Ericsson and Nokia she was talking about. It would be like me talking about a friend who used to have a 911 and now has a 360. The inference is there without having to say he's gone from a Porsche to a Ferrari."

He said he had asked his fashion designer wife which colours had been predicted to be fashionable towards the end of this year. She told him it would be a mix of gold and silver.

"These are exactly the colours Ericsson has decided for a range of phones to be released at the end of this year. The company has obviously been to the same kind of fashion houses and come up with the same kind of conclusions.

"It's not some cynical mobile phone marketing ploy, that's just how fashion works."

Do you love or hate your mobile? Let us know

Fashion has to come second to the basic requirements: reception and volume. There is absolutely no point in having a cool silver phone which plays the Lone Ranger if you can't take the call because you are in the wrong part of the house! I have an Alcatel, which for my mind combines style and necessity.

Iżve got one of the Sony Z5s, great interface, stunning browser and PROPER E-MAIL. I know a number of people with these and the Z5s all seem very reliable. Good size too.
Don, Australia

I was over in Japan and the i-mode phones are totally out of this world. Amazing! When I came back to the UK and wandered down the High Street into the numerous phone shops, all the phones looked really boring!
James Cornish, UK

I have a Siemens C35 - It is neat and compact and has a feeling of solidity - a bit like a VW. It has very clear audio and I like its mode functions.
Ajit Matthew, India

I have one of those tiny Sony CMD Z5s. It's by far the worst phone I've ever owned. The menu interaction is very unpleasant so I don't text any more. The buttons are squidgy so you never know if you've actually pressed one. A triumph of style over substance.
Jonathan Lunt, UK

Vibracall and Tri-band put Motorola way out in front from the outset. I was sorted with Motorola right from picking it up; I still don't fully get Nokia even after studying the instruction manual. Is it just me who finds the 'beep-beep' of yet another Nokia-toting Snake-player on the bus annoying? Basically, some of us want real functionality, not just cheap, childish gimmicks.
Mike Thomas, England

I cannot get hooked into this mind numbing banter from some of these people who still think it is cool to be seen using a mobile phone in public. I used to have an NEC 9A. At that time if you had a phone it really was impressive. I think I paid £1500!
Duncan Bonnetti, England

I got Nokia 6110 for the last two year.The best part is that, it is rough & tough plus you can recieve the signals under the water also, which other phones can't.
Zia Qamar, Dubai

I have a Siemens C35. It is a great phone and it is so nice not to be in the "Nokia Herd"
Paul Noonan, UK

One thing I'll say for Motorola is that their customer service is excellent. Useful, considering how unreliable their phones are. I had five L7089 Timeports in the space of a year. Not sure that Nokia 8210s are much stronger either, I'm on my third one of those.
John, UK

In my line of work I get to test mobile phones. I have used most of the current Nokias, the Motorola v.3288 and the Ericsson R320s, but I have stuck with my favourite - the Ericsson R380s. Does everything I want it to and more, plus has a Psion Organiser built in. What more can you want?
Mark Wayt, UK

I bought a Nokia 8810 a couple of years back because it was simply a beautiful objet d'art. I also imagined the price would make it a beautiful performer too. No such luck: this little beauty has the most expensive, shortest-lasting batteries in the universe and hopeless sensitivity to boot. Yes, Nokia got it wrong. Now what will they do to make it right for me?
Robert Cran, Germany

I have a Phillips C12 and it is a phone. If I want to call I friend I use my mobile - not 'cause it is sexy or has a good phone book but cause it is a phone. And another thing, I do not use it to get the girls.
Grant McGovern, Scotland

I have owned a Philips, an Ericsson, a Motorola and now a Nokia phone. I will not consider buying anything but a Nokia now purely because of the ease of use of the software.
Dave, UK

I recently got an Ericsson R320s (Orange) after using a Nokia 6120 for a year. The Ericsson does exactly what I want far better than the Nokia ever did and my usage (and phone bill) have tripled accordingly.
John, UK

I have a Siemens S35. It's well designed, light, easy to use for voice and text, has several other useful features (most of which I actually use!) - all-in-all a very good phone. I must admit I was taken in by the Wap hype. The phone is wap-enabled but I can't be bothered to use it.
Gavin Platman, UK

It's the same in every industry - like with cars: VW make record profits, Daewoo goes bust. Ericsson and Motorola phones are just a pain to use, the menus etc. Nokias are so much easier, and they look better. I tried all 3, and have a Nokia now.
Timo Esser, UK

My Motorola Timeport is great! It's a neat little package, but not so small that the keyboard is hard to use. Being tri-band it works anyplace I need to go! Why don't other manufacturers produce phones that will work "across the Pond"?
Derek Young, England

I have a Nokia 3210 which I upgraded to from a Motorola handset. I by far prefer the features of the Nokia: the menus are much more intuitive and user friendly, while the ring tones and operator logos are plentiful, and I can tell at a glance who has just texted me! I do, however, miss the clearer sound quality from the Motorola's speaker.
Simon Jones, England

I bought a Motorola Timeport. Everything was fine until I found out that every text message I received, the phone was unable to display the name of the person it was from (it only showed the number) even though the name and number of the sender was in my phone book. How could Motorola miss out such simple functionality?
Richard Bridgstock, United Kingdom

I have just got a 6210 to replace my 3210 and boy is it wicked. Space for about 500 addresses and 150 text messages. It vibrates, has voice dialling and predictive text messaging. And it looks so sexy. I love it!
Dave Price, UK

I cannot see what all the fuss is about. I have two baked bean tins connected by a piece of string. It is very easy and intuitive to use. Provided you remember to empty the baked beans out first. And the other person is in the same room.
Eric, UK

Motorola don't seem to understand the concept of 'obviousness' says Simon Rockman. I disagree, Motorola were the first phone company to introduce "Vibracall" - this was without a doubt the best addition to mobile phones since their invention. If all manufacturers had developed this, perhaps I wouldn't get so worked up about people using their phones in public places. I have lost count of the amount of times I have been tempeted to throw a passenger off the train bacuse their phone is constantly ringing. Nokia, so much to answer for!
Damon Evans, England

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20 Apr 01 | Business
Why Nokia is winning the phone war
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