I’m both annoyed and frustrated by this Guardian story which states that Virgin Mobile UK have sold less than 10,000 of their Lobster 700TV handsets, despite dropping the price heavily and launching a massive advertising campaign with Pamela Anderson. You may remember our review of it – although the keyboard proved a tad wobbly we hoped it would do well, however the Guardian seem to believe that customers aren’t interested in the handset.
So, why am I annoyed? Well, I still see far too much emphasis on looks and design by customers. To be honest, even if the Lobster 700TV could cook you dinner and get you free beer people would still go ahead and buy an LG Chocolate because “it looks cool”. A case in point would be the Nintendo DS I was attempting to buy for Emily before Christmas – all the colours were available…apart from pink. That was sold out. Why? Street cred, style, fashion.
Why am I frustrated? Well, it’s for similar reasons. I know of many dozens of people who offered to buy the Motorola MPx200 Smartphone I was reviewing some years ago. It didn’t have a camera, you could send files easily with bluetooth and there were probably better phones available but… people wanted it because it looked good. Marrying the functionality, technology and design in one handset is a tricky business. Business users will continue to get innovative designs such as the HTC Vox, however I’m increasingly worried that the “young and trendy” customer will be giving Windows Mobile a miss unless the handset surrounding it looks “cool” and desirable to peers.
The Lobster 700TV handset works well, and although there’s probably not as many channels available on the device as customers would like it certainly doesn’t fully explain why the handset isn’t meeting sales expectations. To attract more people to core markets such as voice calls, text messaging and data usage you need a well designed handset and an easier-to-use Windows Mobile interface and homescreen. Without this I feel that Windows Mobile will probably only remain on business phones.
Chief Executive of Virgin Mobile, Alan Gow told the newspaper that sales had been hampered by the fact there is only one handset on offer..
“Handsets are a fashion device and become unfashionable fairly rapidly and this one is approaching the end of its cycle,” he said.
Link – The Guardian (via msmobiles.com)