Pocket Gamer

Pocket Gamer
Ring Ring, or Bling Bling?

Pocket Gamer | 13 Jun 2009 13:00
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No one ever asks if your new mobile phone is quad band, or if its reception is any good, or whether it actually makes decent sounding telephone calls. You know, the basic functions of the thing.

We want to know about its MP3 player, its replaceable casing, its games, and what it looks like on a lanyard around your neck - the new millennium's equivalent of a gold medallion. Phones are accessories in every sense of the term, from hip lifestyle gadgetry to techno-jewellery chosen to match your Emilio Pucci shoes (I found a copy of Vogue at the sperm bank last Friday night).

And if a celeb is accompanied down the red carpet by that same handset, or photographed taking it for a walk by tabloid product placement merchants, all the better. If your phone's cool, you're cool.

I'm not saying whether this is good or bad, right or wrong (although it's good, and it's right), but a mobile phone's design is important. The glitterati are the last people in the world who need to know what time it is, but that's not the purpose a watch serves in the Hamptons, or why they have the most expensive time pieces draped across their sun-tanned wrists. Similarly, the rest of us like to reflect our lifestyle in an accoutrement that rarely leaves our grasp, let alone our side, so no apologies need be made for choosing one that fulfills an aesthetic rationale as well as a functional purpose.

Unfortunately, things got out of hand. Trends were stretched to a breaking point. For a while, smaller was better, and emergency rooms were plagued by people with a mobile phone lodged in their ear canal. Then your mobile was an embarrassment if it didn't open by way of a miracle in plastic engineering and Newtonian expression. It all just got a little too wearisome making a cellular statement (other than actually making a verbal statement over a cellular network, but that's by the by).

Then the Apple fell from the design tree, and not since the PSP had electronics looked so sexy. And I'm talking about slow motion, "flick your hair around in the shower" sexy. Tongue sexy. "Ring ring" truly became "bling bling."

We thought every possibility of keypad, screen, microphone and speaker had been played out, re-redesigned, encrusted in Swarovski crystals and featured in a Bond film - it never even occurred that a media player architecture could take the fore, and push the telephonic purpose into hiding.

At this point, the App Store and next gen mobile gaming wasn't even a glint in Steve Jobs' eye, but the box of touchscreen tricks was a mesmerizing blue-blood decoration. Is it a mobile? Is it an MP3 player? Is it a smartphone? What's that erotic amalgam of shiny metal and glass, and how do I get one?

This is where the iPhone began, and although our short memories have disguised it as something quite different these days, it was the transformation of the cell phone accessory into a genuine fashion statement that sparked that fruity interest.

A good number of mobile contracts have come and gone since the last time a phone managed to present such a universally attractive veneer, and compared to its nearest rivals - the G1, the Pre, a dozen different BlackBerries (with so many buttons they look like they've got acne) - the iPhone's still catching glances at the embassy ball.

But we're getting used to seeing the iPhone with celebrities attached to it. The limelight is fading, and thoughts begin to drift toward a beauty that's more than touchscreen-deep.
Megan Fox has an iPhone, you know? I wonder what they do together, when they're not taking a stroll on the opposite side of the velvet rope? Does she play Flight Control? Does she tweet remotely, like an angelic Stephen Fry? Perhaps she's addicted to iMob Online? Could she be a secret student of my MyBrute dojo?

For Megan and her high-life friends to continue publicly holding hands with an aging star like the iPhone, it had to refine its method of seduction. Despite all its good looks and personality, this staggering success of chic design finally has to fight to prove its portable worth as clones and mimics rush to shake hands with the celebs.

If Jack Bauer had an iPhone in his back pocket, 24 would probably have only taken 18, but not because it made him look so good while he had a seizure in the FBI headquarters. Ten thousand applications would have been on hand to help him thwart America's latest, greatest threat, and when it was all over, he could have sent Chloe a long overdue poke on Facebook.

But applications alone do not supplement the iPhone's already aging good looks. Apple, it seems, has an intimate understanding of inanimate pulchritude, as mere moments before the spotlight was due to turn toward younger, more attractive models, the iPhone's inner beauty has been revealed.

We're on the verge of seeing the iPhone transformed through its 3.0 software update - a grand coming out of a most eligible debutante. The design of the iPhone was a fleeting obsession, but as the summer of its life rolls around, Apple's exquisite caterpillar prepares to spread its wings and bring a depth of function to the surface of a once shallow face; turning "bling bling" into "ring ring" and that's an event we're privileged to witness.

Pocket Gamer is Europe's leading source of news, opinion and reviews on mobile and handheld gaming.

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