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Why smartphones must become flexiphones

india Updated: Sep 20, 2009 22:52 IST
N Madhavan

A few weeks ago, I bought my first smartphone, the Nokia E71, after much mulling. I am wondering if I did the right thing. That reminded me of an old joke among women that goes: “Men are like computers. Just when you have settled on one, along comes something that is a lot better.”

I suspect Nokia is learning too much from Microsoft the business of tying the customer into many products and services just because you happened to buy one from it. With Microsoft, the basic success of the DOS and later the Windows operating systems led to the company offering everything from the Office Suite to an Internet browser. With Nokia, the early success of its handsets is leading to its services shops like the Ovi store.

The E71 is loaded with Nokia-centric service options as icons, such as when you want to upload a picture on to the Net, or do e-mail.

That is a bit like a hotel insisting that you can eat only in its restaurant and use only its taxi service. I presume there is a way to get around this, but I am still learning.

Ironically, Nokia is loading in-house services just at the time when BlackBerry phones made by Canada-based Research In Motion are not only getting cooler and slicker but also network neutral. Earlier, you could buy a Blackberry only if you bought a service pack. No more.

While I mulled over this irony, along came the news of Motorola launching its Big Bang phone called Cliq, powered by Google’s Android platform. Though the pricing is yet unclear, indications are that it will offer all that a Nokia model does at half the price.

Okay, it is still an untested product but I like what I have read about its MotoBlur service that brings together e-mail, text messages and happening social media sites like Facebook and Twitter onto a single interface.

The jury is still out, but it is clear to me that I want more simplicity and more freedom from my smartphones.

A smartphone should free the content and services from the handset by default — and that is when it becomes a flexiphone and customise to meet the buyer’s needs — maybe even charge for it.