Has the mobile industry become too serious?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| November 3, 2012

“Why so serious?” That’s a question I’ve been asking the mobile market for what seems like a long time now. It has been quite some time since I’ve thought the manufacturers who create our favorite devices have had any fun doing what they do. Not like it used to be, when there were plenty of varying devices, whether it be form factor or operating system, there was a little bit of everything for everyone. Now? Now it’s all about the slab of a touchscreen.

Though, at least we’re getting colorful about it.

I’m not talking just about phones when I look back at the industry and think about the fun it seemed to have back then. While phones are obviously the crux of it, it also reaches out to some of the accessories that were showcased way back when. Accessories that worked double-duty, in fact. While I was writing that earlier piece today, about the Galaxy series, I stumbled on an old article about Motorola, and a device called the O ROKR.

If you don’t remember, the O ROKR was something special back then. Not because it offered up a ridiculous amount of specifications, or changed the way you used a phone. This was back in 2006, so it was before all of that happened. In 2006, it was all about using your phone, and the O ROKR helped you with that because it was a pair of Oakley sunglasses with ear buds attached to both sides. You’d wear them like normal, and you could put the ear buds in your ears to listen to music, or, if you felt so inclined, to answer phone calls.

Back in 2006, I remember I took a trip out to California for some reason or another. This was well after the O ROKR had become available. So while I was out there, I actually saw a lot of them being used. It was a little strange at first, I’ll admit, even for me. Sure, at its core, it was just using a Bluetooth headset, but the O ROKR was certainly an interesting looking combination of accessories. The Oakley sunglasses combined with those ear buds was a unique, and “fun” device back then.

In fact, most of Motorola’s devices after the initial launch of the RAZR (the original) were pretty fun, in comparison. I mean, just look at the original ROKR, or even better, the KRZR. There is no way that I can look at those devices and not think Motorola was having fun with it, because of their form factors, as well as their names.

Motorola isn’t the only company that stands out, though. Back then, HTC had the Startrek (seriously!), a clamshell form factor that housed a Windows Mobile smartphone, that certainly had a unique form factor. And an awesome name, for you Trekkie fans out there. Or, Sony Ericsson, who had plenty of small devices that stood out amongst the crowd. But, one in specific, the W900i. This device would spin the top-half of the phone to reveal the keypad underneath. Unique, and awesome.

Things have certainly changed in the mobile industry. While I love our high-powered devices, and those gorgeous, huge, touchscreens, I can’t help but wonder if we’re ever going to have a period of time when our manufacturers start having fun with hardware design again. Maybe even with the names, too. The RAZR brand is a nice throwback, even if it is just another large device with a touchscreen.

I can’t help but wonder if the mobile industry has been a far more serious place than it used to be. Even if it is just at face value, there’s definitely a huge change from what we used to get for phone choice than what we have now. Then again, is there a way to really “have fun” when we’re designing large phones with touchscreens that dominate the design plan? Maybe. Or maybe not. But, at the very least, it would be nice to see a manufacturer give it a shot, and see if it sticks with the consumer.

Something different, at least, right? What do you think, Dear Reader? Has the mobile industry become far too serious over the last few years? Will we ever see a return of uniquely-designed devices ever again? Or are you perfectly content with where our favorite industry has securely placed us? Let me know what you think.