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Mobile World Congress--Take That, Apple!

What’s the big message out of the giant Mobile World Congress cellular trade show in Barcelona this week? If press conferences from Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung are any indication, it’s that Apple’s one-size fits all approach to the market with its popular iPhone is doomed to failure. Executives at the major phone makers made absolutely no mention of Apple in their speeches, but they clearly appeared to be moving to address the perceived gap in lovability between their phones and the iPhone. Nokia and Samsung had nearly identical mesages, suggesting that they alone were capable of producing a mobile phone for every lifestyle—including all you old-timers who (shudder) simply want a phone to make calls. On the high end where they currently are competing with Apple for mindshare and marketshare, the phone makers opted mainly for evolutionary updates on existing models. Nokia’s new dual-band HSDPA N96, for instance, doubles internal memory to 16GB from the N95, while adding LED lights to the 5 megapixel digital camera for flash and video lighting. Samsung’s “hero product” was its new Ultra III series U900 “Soul.” The metal-encased slider phone is 12.9 millimeters thick, with a 5 megapixel digital camera and face detection, and sports ICEpower sound amplification technology from Bang & Olufsen. And for fans of the iPhone’s touch features, there was the shiny new SGH-F480 itTouch. Will they be enough to put the fear of God into Steve Jobs & crew? Not likely. But with Sony Ericsson rolling out 10 new phones, Samsung offering eight new products, and Nokia four, the main idea appears to be highlight the fact that their large portfolio can do many things Apple can’t begin to match, while not forcing you to buy features you will never use. That’s not counting the slew of new LG “experience-centric” phones, including the Viewty, that also drew crowds to its booth. So how do you like them apples, Apple?