Form follows fashion in cellphone designs

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Form follows fashion in cellphone designs

As mobile phones become an integral part of life ― a fashion accessory as much as a necessary gadget ―design trends of handsets are becoming more segmented to satisfy the needs of customers in different age groups. “Select and concentrate” has become a catchphrase among domestic handset marketers. The domestic “Big 3” handset makers ― Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, and Pantech ― have begun releasing new models in an effort to infiltrate the remaining niche markets. One focus this season is businessmen. Samsung Electronics recently began selling its “Platinum Card Phone” (SCH-V870), which is 8.9mm thick and can fit into one’s wallet. It comes with a case that doubles as a namecard holder. Pantech has also developed a phone targeting business workers in their 30s. Among younger users, designers have been moving phone designs more closely in step with clothing fashions. Earlier this week, 23-year old college student Lee Min-jung spent her savings on a white super-slim handset. Until now, she had a somewhat “fat” phone with a built-in high-resolution digital camera. It had been quite a sensation when she bought it, but she found that the tubby gadget ruined the lines of her new skinny jeans. “A cell phone expresses your individuality. Even if it’s a financial strain, I want to be fashionable and use new products,” she said. As “slim” is today’s fashion buzzword, cell phones makers are focusing on slim handsets. Skinny jeans and leggings were trendy this spring, according to the Samsung Fashion Research Institute. “The slim trend isn’t confined to women. If you look at men’s suits and men’s shirts, you’ll see that the general trend is towards a slimmer cut. There are also more tight-fitting shirts for men,” said a researcher at the institute. Almost 50 percent the phones Samsung sold in the first quarter of this year were “slim-type” phones, up significantly from less than 10 percent in the same period last year. Last spring, thick camera phones were trendy ― in line with trends in casual apparel. “Thick handsets were popular because people were wearing baggy hip-hop style pants, but now fashion has changed,” said a Samsung spokesman. “Since [younger] customers are recognizing mobile phones more and more as a fashion accessory, designers of handsets seem to be taking fashion trends into consideration when they do their designs,” said Jung Jae-young, a researcher at LG Economic Research Institute. Color is also an important factor. Black was popular for the last few seasons, but beginning this spring, the dominant color scheme has changed to white. Although somewhat of a recurring fashion trend every year, white has been particularly popular this year ― from the runways of the spring and summer collections to small boutique shops in trendy districts in Seoul. Samsung Electronics’ “Skin” phone released last month reflects these trends; the slide-type handset comes in white. Its previous big hits ― the “Blue-black Phone” versions one and two ― were panther black. LG Electronics’ “Chocolate Phone,” which was originally released in black, is now coming in upgraded models in white and pink, perhaps stimulated by Motorola’s hot pink “Razr” phone which was launched in Korea early this year, despite being released in the United States earlier. “Until the beginning of the year, black Chocolate Phones were popular, but starting this spring, we’re seeing increases in sales of white Chocolate and pink Chocolate phones,” said Lee Hyung-geun, an LG Electronics spokesman. “Pink not only goes well with white, but also directly targets our female clientele. Fashion trends this year on the whole show that it is okay to express feministic characteristics, which is something the color pink represents well.” Kim Jin, a senior executive in charge of the design department at LG Electronics, said that the company is analyzing fashion and culture trends in order find new ideas for cell phones. “In order to appeal to young people, who are very sensitive to trends, designers have to know and study the latest fashions,” she said. “This has become more important since cell phones are no longer just a device for communications. Even at the other end of the age group, design is still important for domestic phone makers. Samsung Electronics’ “Jitterbug” phone, for instance, which was released in the United States in April, only has three huge buttons. The model is designed especially for older or disabled consumers who primarily need three main functions. One button dials 911 for emergency service, the second can be custom programmed for someone the user wants to call frequently, and the third button connects with a live operator. by Wohn Dong-hee, Hong Joo-yun

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