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August 19, 2008

Thoughts on Nokia’s carbon fibre phone

ESPOO, Finland – Over the past year I’ve become hooked on the notion that we’re bang in the middle of a full-blown mobile behavior revolution. Tangible elements such as high speed data connections, GPS and on-the-move social networking are heralding the change, with services such as those highlighted by the 2008 Forum Nokia Innovation Series program affecting the shift in how we interact with our devices. So this morning, on witnessing the birth of the new Nokia 8800 Carbon Arte, my first reaction (after rolling my tongue back up off the floor), was that this isn’t just a performance piece of luxury mobile hardware. More interesting, to me at least, are how the elements that make up this device – the materials, it’s interface (and in some cases lack of it), and hidden talents – echo the mobile behavioral changes I allude to, but in terms of the physical.

Built from ultra light and super tough carbon fibre, the 8800 Carbon Arte’s shell has been designed with a view to feeling more tactile and being a phone you really want to hold. Which begs the question, can the body of a device and its outer casing encourage you to interact with it more, or even in different ways? I’m leaning on the side of the fence which reckons it can – one of my biggest issues with current touchscreen handsets is the cold floaty sensation of pressing a glass screen (even a handset with haptic feedback technology) – because the more tactile and inviting a surface, the more inclined you are to interact with it. Even gesturally, which is what the 8800 Carbon Arte encourages, thanks to its onboard accelerometer that enables you to flip it over to put it into silent mode. Plus, as with the Nokia 6600 Fold, it lets you effortlessly bring up a clock by simply tapping its outer case twice. These sorts of features and physical gestures are emerging as more common methods of behavior, and when married with innovative materials, such as those used here, I think the experience becomes more natural and blends further into the unconscious, which is ultimately what we want – interfaces that don’t feel like interfaces, they just do what you instinctively want them to do.

In terms of its insides, its stomaching 3G, a 3.2-megapixel camera with auto-focus and an unusually large 4GB of built-in storage. It’s out in Q3 with an estimated retail price of  EUR 1,100 exclusive of subsidies and taxes. So there’s no escaping this is an expensive handset aimed at those looking for a splash of pocket luxury, but even if you’re not, I still believe it remains an interesting hardware barometer for how mobile behavior is evolving physically as well as virtually.

If you’ve got an opinion you’d like to share, please throw down your thoughts in the comments section below.

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