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Switched On: Motorola's cell phones keep getting BETR

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Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a weekly column about the future of technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:

Motorola has been on a hot streak lately with its stylish RAZR, SLVR, ROKR and PEBL mobiles. What could possibly be next? An exclusive preview of its new lineup reveals that was just the beginning:

Removing any doubt as to the level of commitment it has to the iDEN network in the wake of the Nextel acquisition by Sprint PCS, Motorola has two groundbreaking iDEN phones in the queue - the OVER and the NEVR. Both handsets prepare customers for the eventual shutting down of iDEN by offering push-to-talk-to-yourself technology. According to Motorola CEO Ed ZANDR, the former handset should appear long before the high-concept later one. "Lots of people think that iDEN is disappearing faster than Starr Jones. But when people ask me about the current state of iDEN technology, I simply tell them it's OVER. When they ask me when we'll see the next generation of iDEN, I tell them it's NEVR."


Nextel is not the only fading carrier that Motorola will support. In helping Cingular deal with the poor customer service reputation of the former AT&T Wireless, the �new Cingular� will offer the sleek Motorola WYNR. Dialing the customer service number from this mobile will play a series of timed recorded loops that include �I�m so sorry for that inconvenience,� �We really value your business,� and �I�ll speak to my manager about crediting your account.�

Seeking to capitalize on the current trend of breaking into celebrities� cell phones, Motorola will release the HAKR, which provides easy access to personal data for would-be snoopers. Motorola first designed something so small it was wearable, but company anthropological researchers determined that Paris Hilton is often averse to wearables, including clothing. A version of the HAKR customized for singer Jessica Simpson is simply being described as the industry�s first not-very-smartphone.

Danger Research defended its market share lead in hackable phones. The developers of the Sidekick II responded, �Ms. Hilton could have easily prevented the hacking of her cell phone by using symbols in her password. The design defect that we engineered into the Sidekick II keyboard prevents symbols from being backlit, so hackers would have no way of entering those characters in the dark.� Danger also announced that, while it sees no threat from Motorola, it will be changing its name to DANJR.

Working closely with Apple, Motorola will also show the second generation of its iTunes-compatible phones. Unlike the ROKR, this phone will look exactly like an iPod photo and even include trademark white earbuds. It will be dubbed the POZR.

Digging deeper into younger demographics will be a host of phones aimed at young urban hipsters (SLAKR), college students (KEGR, now with BRETHLYZR technology), image-conscious high school students (LUZR, which includes a handy SPELCHEKR) and pre-schoolers (REKR). There will even be a phone for parents of colicky newborns (SUFR).

Industry reaction to the new mobile lineup was positive. A Microsoft spokesperson said, �Motorola is obviously on to something with these catchy names. That�s why we�re delighted they�ve chosen to support Microsoft Windows Compact Embedded Mobile Smartphone Edition 2006.� Panatoshysung CEO Akira Steurenberger said, �Hey, I�m just a fictional character from your column about the fake CES press conference. You better not be using me for a cheap link...�

Consumer reaction to the phones was also strong. A snarky Engadget comment poster cowering behind an anonymous e-mail address said, �I�m somehow compelled to announce that don�t get the point of this article. Is he arguing that Apple is acting like a monopolist?�

Beyond this lineup, rumors continue to swirl that Motorola will enter the rapidly growing market beyond humans with the ROVR, its first cell phone for canines. Using Bowlingual technology, humans will be able to carry on conversations with dogs as part of �man�s best friends and family� plans offered by carriers. Bowlingual�s accuracy has been verified by the industry�s most respected pet psychics.



Ross Rubin is director of industry analysis at NPD Techworld, a division of market research and analysis provider The NPD Group. Views expressed in Switched On, however, are his own. Feedback is welcome at fliptheswitch@gmail.com.
In this article: features, switched on, SwitchedOn
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