I’m just back from Milan, which Samsung Mobile chose as the venue for the launch of its new ‘Corby’ family of mobile phones. As regular readers will know, we don’t focus too much on handsets here, but I was intrigued by the idea of Samsung launching a range of phones with social networking capabilities built in, targeted at the youth market. These come in the shape of idle screen status updates from Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, with easy connectivity to these services from the idle screen. There are also easy links to video- and photo-sharing sites such as YouTube and Picasa.
The handsets themselves are sleek, curvy, lightweight and colourful. The colours, in fact, were one of the key things Samsung was pushing. The phones come in a choice of four: Minimal White, Jamaican Yellow, Festival Orange and Cupid pink.
The launch event itself was one of those overblown affairs that just left you repeating to yourself the old adage that less is more. The 40-minute ‘reveal’ had lots of 3D holographic wizardry, which was clever, entertaining even for the first few minutes, but soon became tiring. This, combined with a script that bordered at times on the deranged – sample line: “Who needs a festival? It’s like a party in your palm!” – made me feel at times liked I’d stumbled on to the set of a yet-to-be-created TV programme in which Blue Peter meets the X-Factor.
As for the phones themselves, there were a couple of interesting points to note. One is that they won’t be called ‘Corby’ in the UK, the reason presumably being that someone pointed out that the name would perhaps conjure up images in some people’s minds of the East Midlands industrial town of the same name, and decided that such images were best left unconjured. (People of Corby, their call, not mine.) So over here, for Corby, read Genio.
The second point also concerns the names. The first model is simply the Corby, though it also has a model number (S3650). Then there are two more, the Corby TXT and the Corby PRO. Except that they’re actually styled the CorbyTXT and the CorbyPRO.
Before the launch show, Gilad Bachrach, head of portfolio management at Samsung Telecommunications Europe, had been at pains to point out that there was more to the Corby range than social networking, and indeed, much was made during the show of the colours. So why this styling of the name, which reminds me of nothing other than the INQ1 – the impressive handset that is proud to call itself a social networking phone, which picked up an award for Handset of the Year at Mobile World Congress last year.
The thing I found really interesting though, was the Corby TXT handset. This is a full Qwerty keyboard model that looks for all the world like a business phone. When I put it next to my E71, it was hard to see much of a difference. So much so that I asked DJ Lee, Senior VP at Samsung Electronics, if this handset really was, like the rest of the Corby range, aimed at the youth market. He assured me that it is, designed not for the executive who needs a full Qwerty keyboard to respond to emails, but for the spotty youth who needs to text his friends around the clock.
This, I think, is a very interesting development. When said youth pulls the Corby TXT out of his pocket, will he get respect or derision from his peers? When he has the means to easily type out the words, ‘See you later’, will he do so, or stick with ‘CUL8R’? (Notwithstanding the fact that ‘L8RS’ probably trumps both.)
Samsung says the pre-subsidy price of the Corby will be €150, which these days means around £150. Will teenagers stump up that much money for a non-contract phone that looks like their dad’s, and maybe their mum’s too? If so, will the sight of Blackberryesque devices soon become as commonplace on the skate park or down the bus shelter as it is on the tube? I have no idea, but I applaud Samsung, or perhaps, given that we’re talking about the youth market here, I should say, respect to Samsung, for giving it a go.