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Making an iMpression

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In the week that contained the glitz, glamour, excitement, and, at least in my opinion the disappointment that was the Mobile World Congress, it seemed only appropriate to finish the weekend off with a column dedicated to the subject of mobile phones. And, though you're probably all already feeling like the loser in a turtle fight, rolling on your backs desperately struggling to get yourself back on your feet before you bake to a crisp in the midday sun, due to mobile phone news overload, I'm going to really stick the boot in and talk about that biggest of opinion splitters, the iPhone.

You see, what has struck me most during the last week is how none of the devices announced at the world's leading mobile phone trade show seemed to really tackle the iPhone's main plus points head on. Most of the manufacturers are still either desperately trying to tack on similar multi-touch interfaces or they're throwing more and bigger/faster/quicker features at the market and neither approach deals with what makes the iPhone such a pleasure to use.

Now, obviously we can't pass full judgement on any of these new devices until we've had a chance to use them properly but if recent history is anything to go by I don't hold out much hope. Take the LG Viewty, for example. Ok, it's not the most recent phone but it is widely regarded as one of the best alternatives to the iPhone in terms of packing in a load of features into a slick touchscreen mobile phone.

The big selling point of the Viewty is its combination of, for the most part, a quite useable touchscreen interface with significantly better features than the iPhone. It has a much better camera (5-megapixel with 3x optical zoom), 3G connectivity for faster Internet access, and other plus points like a microSD memory expansion slot. The problem is although the browser is eminently better than many mobiles and likewise the camera is decent, the overall experience just isn't that slick. Menus are not all that intuitive, applications like Google Maps don't quite work properly with the touchscreen interface, and the music player doesn't recognise the tags on MP3s properly so no matter how I organise my music, it all just appears in one long list.

Even the faster Internet connection fails to save the phone from a life of mediocrity. Yes, it may well be faster at downloading data than the iPhone but the browser is significantly slower both at loading pages and navigating them and there are still many pages that don't render properly. Take into account the fact you can't always get a good enough signal to connect at 3G speeds and you have a user experience that is hugely frustrating. The recent announcement that iPhones have made 50x more searches on Google than any other phone really just highlights these shortcomings - it's not good enough that a phone has a feature, it must also be easy to use!

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