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There's an exclusivity that manufacturers of luxury good, particularly cars, have managed to accumulate over time. Their vehicles may not cost that much more than the competition to make, but the blend of reputation, rarity and the overall quality of their products means that customers are willing to pay extra to buy into the brand.
In the world of the mobile phone it's a similar story. In terms of bald specifications the iPhone doesn't look as if it offers a great deal, especially when you have to pay so much for it, in addition to an exorbitant contract. But the combination of the Apple brand, simply superb software design and a well-put-together hardware package means that folk were simply gagging for the thing at launch, never mind the cost. For business folk, Blackberry handsets have the same caché.
In comparison, even the most powerful, best-value Windows smartphones just seem to lack that special something, and Toshiba's latest handset - the Portégé G710 - falls solidly into this category. To be fair to Toshiba, it seems to have done a pretty good job from the outside. The G710 is very slim and sleek - it's thinner than either the Blackberry 8820 or the 8310 at 13.2mm.
It looks lovely, too: with its sharp lines, all-black soft-touch plastics and the occasional highlight of shiny chrome, it's sure to draw admiring looks from envious Blackberry-owning colleagues. It's not just about the looks either: Toshiba has also done a pretty good with the ergonomics, albeit with a little inspiration from RIM's design department. That's because, sitting above the keyboard, is a scrolling, clickable mini-trackball - a straight rip-off of the Blackberrys' pearl; it even glows cool white when the phone is in use. The scroll wheel turns out to be just as much of a joy to use as Blackberry's own, and reduces the amount of clicking you have to do to navigate Windows Mobile 6 Standard's old-fashioned-feeling interface.
Incredible, the keyboard turns out to be pretty good too. This time it isn't a straight copy, and neither is it quite as good as the Blackberry 8820 or 8310 keyboards, but it is possible to get up to a decent typing speed with a bit of practice. It's also nowhere near as bad as the keyboard it looks most like - the diagonally-keyed Samsung i600. And above the keyboard, the 320 x 240 screen is bright and clear too.
But, just like a kit-car imitation, while things look very good on the outside, once you start to take a closer look it soon becomes clear that it isn't the real thing after all.
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