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Smart first timers


First time users used to ask the salesman a few questions and then get palmed off with a low to mid range Nokia. But the nature of first time users has changed. Today they are much more tech savvy, they want picture messaging, they want downloadable ring tones and even video calling.

This is because they are eleven years old.

The time when a kid gets a phone is when they move to Big School. They have been through infants and juniors and are used to being at the top. Then suddenly they are the smallest in a school three times the size. Older kids all have phones. The peer pressure is immense.

From a practical side they have a significant need for a phone, be it to call home to say they are in detention and will be late or to ask to be picked up from an away match.

But they don’t make the buying decision. It’s their parents who have to choose.

The sensible parent will trawl web forums, buy a copy of What Mobile and then give up and ask the salesman in Carphone Warehouse.

Expansys HTC Touch Diamond advert

This is because there is no right answer. When the grey men in grey suits who contemplate phones for kids suggest something they think in stereotypes. They think of phones that can track kids, of cartoon characters and making it simpler for the poor tykes. They completely miss the kids being more techie than they are.

So what the kids want is something cool and feature rich. Unfortunately there are plenty of phones to choose from. It would be much easier if there was only one.

This is the opportunity which is being missed: A phone should be cool but it should also appeal to the parents, and there is a way to do this. Make it educational. Just as kids insist they need a computer for homework but really spend their time graduating from Club Penguin to Facebook, they will do all the social stuff with a phone (like talking to one another) but the parents can be sold a phone if it has an Educational Value.

What’s needed is a phone which can (ostensibly) help their kids with their studies. What if it had a French dictionary on it. Or asked geometry questions. The BBC experimented with an exam revision by text service and it was a huge hit.

Nintendo stuck a second screen on the Gameboy Advanced and called it the Nintendo DS. They didn’t have the development budget to do any more. You only bought one if you couldn’t afford a PSP. It was pretty lame until Brain Training turned it into a huge hit. Software has always sold consoles – be it Mario, Sonic or Halo, there is something encouraging that Dr Ryuta Kawashima has sold Nintendo DSes. Perhaps he could do the same for phones.

Cat Keynes publishes her thoughts on the mobile phone industry every Sunday at www.catkeynes.com you can read the column  the previous Friday by subscribing here.


A small Swedish company claims to have the holy grail of radio. A design that copes with all radio standards yet is smaller and cheaper than its rivals. They are building prototypes now.

Nokia is keen to launch End to End services but knows when it’s beaten. Blackberry has the corporate email market sewn up and Nokia has given up trying, it will shut down the sever business and the CTO has resigned.

Google has filed a patent for a device which sniffs around for the cheapest bandwidth before making a call. Mobile phones which do this between carriers have been talked about for a while but funnily enough no carrier has been very keen to do business with, let alone subsidise a manufacturer of such a device.

One of the fun things to do when looking at ads from head-hunters is to try and work out who they are recruiting for. It’s usually the case that if you are right you know enough about the companies in your field to be able to do it but this one for a Sales Engineering Manager has me foxed. I can’t think of any companies which fit the description. Still I’m not after the job.

Once again it’s musical chairs at Vodafone. It looks like a promotion for everyone which leaves a Dutch seat empty. Hmm, that’s not how musical chairs is supposed to work.


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