Ben Hunt’s blog
Size matters but not as much as quality
Published: November 30 2005 17:00 | Last updated: November 30 2005 17:00
Ben HuntDoes size matter? This endlessly fascinating question – in so many areas of life – has spawned endless debate and opinion, not least in the technology world where big might be good for one device, small for the next.
In a fascinating article in the pages of the Financial Times today, my colleague Peter Marsh examined the trend towards ever smaller devices – Why small is the next big thing – and the obvious challenges this presents to engineers.
It is interesting that the picture editor on this story chose an image of a man examining a Motorola Razr V3 mobile phone.
Perhaps it is the obvious image given that the V3 is the must have phone of the year, and in the opening paragraph of Peter’s article, Yi Cheol-Sang, chief executive of little-known Korean manufacturer VK, argues that thinner is better. (Another Korean, Kitae Lee, head of the mobile unit at the somewhat more higher profile Samsung, told me the same when I interviewed him last month.
But to my mind the V3 – as well as being an undeniably cool mobile phone, it really is something special in the looks department – is a good example of design coming at the expense of technological quality. I had one for a couple of weeks last month, in preparation for a feature that will appear in FT Digital Business in December. I wanted to like it, I really did, but I must admit I couldn’t get on with it at all.
There was one issue I was prepared for – the poor quality of the user interface, a long term Motorola problem, and one that a lot of people moan about, but others surprised me.
The screen was very disappointing, lacking clarity and definition. In many ways it was a throwback to the first colour screens that appeared on phones. That didn’t help the built-in VGA camera achieve its best results on screen either.
But the real shocker was voice. You never quite know what you’re going to get on a cell phone call where so many things can interfere with the quality of the signal, but never have I had so many calls sound as if I was talking to someone in a wind tunnel. It was very difficult to hear what was going on at the other end. It simply seemed that the amplifier/speaker unit just wasn’t very good. I ended the trial quicker than I otherwise might have done, as the envious glances I received whenever brandishing the phone in public were not enough to compensate for the problems of actually using it.
I daresay engineers out there will be able to tell me whether the Razr’s thinness is responsible for these deficiencies – but in the absence of any other explanation, I am tempted to believe it is.
In the immediate period before I was playing with the Razr, I had been using Samsung’s new D600. At 96mm tall and 22mm in width this phone is no giant either – although bigger than the Razr – but the display is quite brilliant and the voice function absolutely crystal clear.
I’ll be very interested to see how Mr Lee gets on in his pursuit of thinness and hope that the quality doesn’t suffer as a result.
Why small is the next big thing
By Peter Marsh
Published: November 29 2005 18:29 | Last updated: November 29 2005 18:29
ImageThinner is better – so says Yi Cheol-Sang, chief executive of VK, a Korean mobile phone manufacturer. Mr Yi is hoping that a new, ultra-slim phone developed by VK will give his company a substantial boost in the competitive mobile telecommunications market.
“We want to be a technology leader,” says Mr Yi. “It’s no use making products that look the same as everyone else’s.” Only 8.8mm thick and 48g in weight, or roughly the equivalent of two AA-size batteries, the VK2000 phone is as much as half the thickness and weight of many best-selling mobile products