Dial ‘M’ for Generation Mobile
May, 2002: First, they came for us. Then they came for your parents. Then our kid brothers and sisters. Are mobiles taking over?
To celebrate the long-awaited return of The Face, we have selected a stand-out story from each year of our extensive archive, from 1980 to 2004.
Remembered by writer Lauren Cochrane
“It’s hard to remember a time before everyone had phones, but there was – and in 2002 it was becoming more and more common for kids to want a mobile phone. A lot of people had them, obviously, but certainly not everyone. And I guess one of the ways they did that was to steal them. So ‘jacking phones’ was in the news quite a lot. It was peer-on-peer crime. We had to find a way to talk to a lot of kids about it, so we ended up going to The Brit School in Croydon, talking to all the students there about it. They said it was almost a taken-for-granted element of owning a phone, that it might get stolen. Well, I guess that’s still the case now… I did a lot of that kind of writing for The Face, reporting on social phenomena. I also interviewed a cocaine addict for a cocaine special. Later, somewhere along the line, I moved from that hard-hitting, sociological kind of stuff into fashion. But I think that’s a part of what made The Face so special, the mix of those things, all in one place.”
Lauren Cochrane is Senior Fashion Writer at The Guardian, and Acting Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian’s biannual, The Fashion. She writes about everything from Marc Jacobs’ latest catwalk show to the cultural history of the bucket hat
First, they came for us. Then they came for your parents. Then our kid brothers and sisters. Are mobiles taking over? Don’t doubt it: the British sent 1.2 billion texts in February, smoking is decreasing among teenage girls because they’re spending money on credit instead of fags and more than half the British population now owns a mobile.
No technology since the computer has had such an impact on our lives. They were meant to keep us in touch but turned us into contact-obsessed neurotics. They’ve rewritten the rules of flirting and made us look daft in front of our mates.
They’ve got us mugged, hooked on text and paranoid about brain cancer, and we’re only too happy to pay for the privilege.
Chances are, if it hasn’t happened to you, it’s happened to someone you know: at a bus stop, outside the newsagent, in any dark corner of urban Britain – a silent menace, a threat and then the grab. You’ve been phonejacked. You’re another statistic on the scoresheet of Britain’s newest street sport – a sport Britain’s youth tribes in 2002 are playing to win.
If it’s striking that even five years ago there existed nothing like the present culture of mass mobile ownership – up 600 per cent since 1995 – then it’s nothing short of insane that on some streets people are being intimidated, mugged, shot and stabbed for handsets that cost less than £100 in the shops. Phonejacking is a very young, very modern kind of crime whose rise has been as meteoric as the technology itself. In the past year, a 19-year-old woman in Walthamstow, North London, was shot for her phone, a 12-year-old Croydon girl stabbed for hers and a ten-year-old boy in Lewisham threatened at gunpoint.
The Home Office estimate that 710,000 phones were stolen last year on the streets, with 28 per cent of all street incidents involving the robbery of a phone. They know all about that at the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology in Croydon, South London. While rules dictate phones must be turned off, in a class of 25 14-year-olds only one person is without a mobile – and everyone has a tale to tell about the time they got jacked. A friend of Kate’s was at West Croydon bus station. “She was on her phone,” says Kate. “Because she gave them attitude, they took her phone and beat her up.” They’re all clear why it happens. “Some people do it because they can’t afford a top phone, or to buy drugs,” says Kayla. “But most do it just because they can.”
“It’s got so common,” mutters Lisa, “that jacking a phone is like nothing. It’s like walking to the shop.” Or, for that matter walking into the average inner-city playground, where – forget conkers, Pokemon cards and weed – the only trade that really matters these days is in handsets. Emile, 15, goes to a school in North London, and says, “There’s always someone in the playground selling jacked phones. You can buy one for around £20 to £30.” In Croydon, Jimmy, also 15, reckons he can “kinda order a phone from a friend of a friend”. Billie lives up to the ‘Bad Girl’ slogan emblazoned on her top and runs through some street prices: “A 3210 is £25, a 3310 is £30, a 8310 is £50, and it goes right up to a Samsung A300 for about £200.”
It’s likely no one in the mobile industry ever anticipated just how the ultimate communication tool would become the ultimate toy, for both adults and kids. As it stands, 88 per cent of 16 – 24-year-olds own mobiles. Consider also that 50 per cent of 7 – 15-year-olds own mobiles. While mobile manufacturers strenuously deny targeting under-16s, the general marketing consensus is that when it comes to the youth demographic, mobile phones are the new trainers: functional tool, fetish item and personality extension rolled into one. Urban myths which surfaced in the early Eighties of people being held up for their trainers in New York’s tough neighbourhoods seemed charmingly unbelievable. But put that to anyone who’s been jacked for a cheap pay-as-u-go phone and it’s unlikely they’d see the funny side. For a technology sold on the basis of personal empowerment, with all that implies for kids and teenagers, it’s impossible to ignore the irony that mobile technology has the capacity to make a victim or a criminal of anyone. Particularly the young.
According to the Home Office report the average thief is 16. “Phones are small and modern. They’re easy to steal and they are a youth product,” says a Home Office spokeswoman. “That’s why this is primarily a youth crime.”
The tally of 710,000 stolen phones hasn’t gone unnoticed in Whitehall. At the sharp end of the Blair government’s new emphasis on tackling ‘street crime’ are people like Paul Anstee, Detective Inspector for the London borough of Barnet. He insists the police take juvenile mobile phone theft very seriously. “Over the last year, street crime has been dominated by mobile phone robbery and in 50 per cent of those cases, a person of school age is robbing a person of school age. We’re dealing with that by cutting off dark alleys, moving bus stops, putting plain-clothes policemen in the area, setting up a junior version of Crimestoppers and going into schools on a direct level.”
He urges young people not to use phones after school, which is “the most common time for theft to happen”, and offers the somewhat unrealistic advice of “waiting until you get home” to call or text. In addition to the police, the judiciary are beginning to take a very dim view of the jackwave: Lord Justice Woolf recently sentenced two phone thieves – both under 18 – to three years apiece.
But there’s a basic problem which means that the mobile black market isn’t about to collapse just yet. Type *#06# into your handset. The number that appears on your screen is your International Mobile Equipment Identity code, a unique serial number given to each handset during production. If your phone is stolen, quoting its IMEI number to your operator will blacklist the handset and render it unusable. Until recently, however, IMEI barring only worked on the original owner’s network, meaning the stolen phone retains a sell-on value; once ‘unlocked’ from its existing network and switched to another, it’s usable again. Because everyone has a consumer right to change their network, unlocking is an entirely legal procedure using a software system that can be bought on the net for £30 or carried out by any mobile retailer. At a shop in London’s West End performing demonstrations of how a phone’s IMEI is transferred from Orange to Vodafone, they admit to having several regular tech-savvy young assistants who can unlock more than one phone at a time. It costs £25 and takes five to ten minutes – with no questions asked. “How am I supposed to know whether the phone is stolen?” protests one sales assistant, not unreasonably.
Vodafone, Orange, BT Cellnet and T‑Mobile (formerly One 2 One) have now agreed on multilateral sharing of IMEI numbers in an effort to combat mobile crime. The adaptability and security of modern technology is one thing, but the ingenuity of the determined modern street kid is quite another. For the jack generation, stealing mobiles is more than just a quick route to a few extra quid. It’s also fun. In a featureless Young Offenders Unit in South London, a group of teenagers are telling The Face about the business of jacking. Wayne, 18, makes his money from the unlocked handset itself. Every phone and each component – battery, fascia, earpiece – has its own street value. But only true style equals real money. Top prize booty on a street corner near you include the double-screened Samsung A300, Motorola Wings and the Nokia 8310. Adam, 14, praises the internet for its money-making potential: “I stole a 8890, put it on Freeserve and someone in America paid £285 for it.” Carry a chunky Nokia 5110 ‘face-off’ phone? Then you’re safe. “Someone tried to jack me the other day,” says Lee, 17, “but because I lost my Wings, I’m using a faceoff till I get another one. They took one look at that and walked away.”
The most vocal person in the room is 16-year-old Patience. She terms the girls she steals with ‘associates’ and knows all about arrest procedure. “You just say ‘no comment,’” she says, “and they can’t do nuttin’.” She started out stealing phones from bags in school changing rooms but, like the others, moved onto the streets. She feels as if stealing phones isn’t a crime exactly – it’s just something that happens. “It’s not like we leave our yard and go, ‘Let’s take some phones.’ It’s so normal and so many people do it, it almost doesn’t feel like a crime at all,” she explains. Rather, it’s a compulsion. “It’s spontaneous. If someone is too ‘sumthin’ sumthin’, holding their phone out like bait – it’s like they want you to take it.”
Unlike the other staple of street kid criminality, joyriding, jacking phones isn’t about destroying adult’s expensive toys. “Jacking is not a professional, organised crime,” says Detective Inspector Anstee. “It’s more about a kick from being able to do it.” Taking from the haves and selling to the have-nots of the young urban poor, jacking is ritual humiliation; the cash just sweetens the deal. For Jacob, 15, it’s almost like money’s not the point. He takes phones off people younger than him, as if it was for their own good. “All them little boys with their 3310s that their mum bought them,” he tuts. “When I was their age, I didn’t know nothing about phones.” While jackers like him generally stick to intimidating their contemporaries, the hordes of barflies flooding city nightspots are their preferred prey. “Businessmen are the best,” Wayne chuckles. “They have the best phones and you know they’re not gonna chase you because they’ve got shoes on.” Picture a kid in a hood and trainers scampering off with a middle-aged suit giving chase, and you have the reason technology, law and pretty much anything else won’t top the jack generation: for now it’s too much like good fun.
And whose fault is it anyway? The wrangling over who’s really to blame for the mobile phone crimewave goes on. Jack Wraith of the Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum (MICAF) says, “The element of the fashion item about mobiles is what the children love.” BT Cellnet deny marketing to children. “Crime is sweeping the whole country and within those figures comes mobile phone theft,” says a spokesperson. The Home Office, meanwhile, single out manufacturers. “Better security would have prevented the rise in mobile theft. Devices should be as secure as they can be.” Mary Crowley, of The Parents’ Association, says it’s also the fault of growing commercialism: “There’s an awful pressure children are under – you can see why they would want to acquire expensive things without paying for them.”
Commercialism? Flashy design? The government? Teachers? Parents? Either way, Patience, Wayne, Jacob and their crew are operating in a fast-growing junior domestic black market. A lawless generational army coming for your A300, your flippy Wings, even your bog-standard Nokia. You can only hope their better judgement, if not low boredom threshold, will change all that soon.
Snake Ruined My Life
Nokia’s prescient bundling of the prehistoric Snake with their handsets has helped introduce a whole new generation to the thrills of Eighties arcade games. If your thumbs are still aching from your last tussle with the serpent on the bus to work, spare a thought for 33-year-old architect Stefano Mirti, whose half-hour sessions led him to clock up a high score of 3,748 last year. Obsessed? Uh-huh…
Are you addicted to Snake?
l was last Summer, when I was playing it a lot. I’d have to get my fix first thing in the morning and then I’d play it last thing at night, to get to sleep. I was playing so much I broke my Nokia 6210’s keypad. But once I reached my top score, I lost interest. Now I just play Opposite [Nokia’s take on classic board game Othello].
What’s the appeal?
Its simplicity. It takes two minutes to learn but if you want to become a good player, it’s worth investing time in it. Most people think it’s a matter of quick reflexes. But really it’s about developing a playing system and sticking to it.
How do you follow a pattern when the dots come up randomly?
It is about the snake, not the dots. Something very close to Confucian teaching – concentrate on the Way itself. It takes discipline but if you follow a pre-set pattern, you stop concentrating on the buttons and you relax. Your mind becomes empty and you get lost in the screen. Remember Tommy by The Who? It was about a deaf, dumb and blind boy who was a pinball champion. He played by intuition, which is what you’ve got to do.
Any other tips?
My girlfriend lived 10,000km away. That helped. Oh, and the best time to play is in the morning after you’ve just woken up. You’re more relaxed.
Is your Snake obsession unhealthy?
People may now think I’m some kind of weirdo who spends his whole life playing Snake, but I’m just a normal guy with a job. Real life, real fun, is not to be found in Snake, or in computer games.
Brain cancer? Mugged for your Motorola? Try this for a mobile phone health risk: there you are, minding your own business in your top-secret Afghan training pad, and you decide to ring your friend, Mullah Omar. He’s not answering, so you leave him a voice message. Then several thousand tonnes of gleaming US cruise missile sail out of nowhere, wasting you and your terrorist chums. 1 – 2‑1, alright.
This almost happened in August 1998 (missiles locked on to Osama Bin Laden’s phone transmission, but missed their target) in retaliation for the attacks on US embassies in Africa. Theoretically, if you have a mobile and the US government considered you enough of a threat, it could do the same to you. You’re probably not planning the downfall of Western civilisation but the state is watching you all the same; or rather, it’s getting the mobile phone companies to do the hard work.
Whenever you make a call, It is logged via a unique ‘locator code’, allowing your mobile network to track your whereabouts. In urban areas, where the concentration of network base stations is highest, this is accurate to within a few hundred metres. By the time third-generation, GPS-enabled phones are available, that’ll be a few metres.
Civil rights groups and conspiracy theorists are up in arms about the moves being made by governments to gather this information. In the UK, last December’s Anti-Terrorism Crime & Security Act doubled the length of time that mobile phone companies are obliged to retain their data, from six months to one year. The information they record not only includes a rough sketch of your movements, but also the actual contents of your calls. This information is ostensibly held by the phone companies for ‘billing’ purposes, but given the enfeebled state of our privacy and data protection laws, it can be seized by the UK authorities at the slightest whiff of wrongdoing.
“These are the most austere and draconian set of measures brought in by any European country in the aftermath of September 11,” says Mark Littlewood, of civil rights pressure group Liberty.
Campaigners would like the release of this information on a strict need-to-know basis only, at the discretion of the courts, but this is a vain hope. And things seem to be getting worse. The government recently confirmed the existence of Echelon, a huge communications-filtering intelligence operation run by the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the UK (the EU is planning its own version). Use certain keyphrases, like ‘WTC’, ‘nuke’ or ‘Prepare to die, Mr Bond’, and you may find yourself occupying space in the Interpol filing cabinets.
The irony is, it’s doubtful whether the step-up in security will make much difference to the war on terrorism (Bin Laden’s long since stopped using his mobile, though you can still leave him a message on his old number: 00873 682505331). “The problem with regard to terrorism and crime is not so much lack of data – It’s separating the wheat from the chaff,” says Littlewood. “Having tens of thousands of emails and calls intercepted may well fill police in-trays but it won’t get them much closer to fulfilling security targets.” Meanwhile, we must decide if concepts like ‘national security’ are worth the erosion of our privacy. Carrying a mobile phone is almost like carrying an ID card-cum-electronic tag; the first steps towards a Johnny Mnemonic techtopia where human beings come fitted with chips under their skin and receive 80-year Vodafone contracts as christening presents. So go easy on the pervy texts and remember: the MI5 thesaurus probably recognises all the SMS spellings for ‘cannabis’. Phil Hoad
Kirsten Dunst – Teen Angel
I hate cellphones. I lost mine recently so I was like without it for, like, four days to a week. It was a Motorola. I don’t do text messaging. I don’t even look at my bill because I have a financial advisor to do that. But I’m sure it’s high, ’cause I’m always talking on it. Fan calls? No. No way. Oh God, no.
DJ Oxide – Hair-gel Garagista
Twelve hours is probably the longest I’ve gone without using my mobile – it’s a mini Samsung. I do get calls from fans every now and then, but I’m polite. Then I change my number. I only send a couple of texts a day and my bill is about £150 a month. I always read my bill ’cause Orange skanked me!
‘Fat’ Rik Waller – Pop Idol
I’ve only ever gone one day without my mobile – a Nokia 3330 – because I’m a real textaholic. I send at least 50 a day. It costs a fortune – the last bill was £250. Before I got into the business it was £30. I always read my bill these days. Do I get fan calls? Yes, I do. Isn’t it fantastic?
Addiction To Text?
Forget the Third Place: the scariest compulsion on the block is totally mobile.
And so, after the text message books, text message spamming, text message TV theme nights and the text message special offers from mobile networks to let you win even more text messaging time, the ‘text message phenomenon’ (© all newspapers, everywhere, ever) has finally achieved the ultimate distinction of the modern lifestyle accessory: it has pulled in its own real-life, medically-certified, treatment-seeking addict.
Because he is being treated in an addiction centre – the Ringgarden clinic in Denmark, which specialises in alcoholism and gambling – the subject’s name cannot be revealed. His therapist Dr Michael Jorsel, however, will say that he is in his mid-twenties, from a small town in Denmark, and an ex-chauffeur. He began using text messaging to stay in touch with his clients, but then started chatting to friends to pass the time spent waiting between jobs. By the time he sought help, he was sending more than 200 texts a day, running up a quarterly bill of £970.
Dr Jorsel, to whom the SMS-addict was referred by his GP, mainly treats ‘ludomania’, or gambling addiction. Over the last two years, though, he has also treated addicts of digital technology because they tend to ‘show many of the same feelings and behaviours’ as ludomaniacs. Both groups may lie to disguise their compulsion, become restless when they have to stop, or indulge their addiction to escape other problems.
The difference between gamblers and people addicted to SMS and/or using the internet is the ‘concealed’ or ‘distanced’ identity. Being separated from others by a screen, says Dr Jorsel, “gives them a lot of control they perhaps can’t feel in real life”. This kind of communication often appeals to people who try to control their relationships, because it allows them to reply as and when they choose, rather than requiring an immediate response like verbal conversations. Although text messaging is rarely about using a fake identity in the way that gaming or online chatting is, it does allow you time to think up decent putdowns, chat-ups and come-ons.
Treatment for text-wreckage is the same as for internet-addicted patients: counselling sessions to make the patient more aware of his compulsions, and to get him interacting with real people again. There are, disappointingly, no reports of withdrawal or of cold-turkey-drumstick fingers twitching involuntarily or tapping out “hlp me pls!!!” on imaginary keypads. Nor are there any reports of registered text message addicts in the UK, although several British psychologists have been contacted by people claiming to be addicted to mobile phones.
With the SMS market still growing – over a billion messages are sent each month in the UK, making an estimated £265m for networks and advertisers – you’d have to expect more of this sort of thing. Dr Jorsel suggests that “perhaps we are seeing the first signs of a new kind of addiction”. He says that for most people the compulsion lasts only two or three months, but others may be less resistant. So be careful. This stuff can SMS with your head.
Is your phone ruining your cool? Does your mobile make you look like a chump with its crap handset and lame-ass fascia? Check our how-not-to-mobile style file.
See the seat next to you? Any idea why it’s empty? Because of your everyone-look-at-me‑I’ve-got-a-mobile act, perhaps? Did you discover phones yesterday, or something?
It’s not Shakespeare’s sonnets, mate – it’s a text message. Stop trying so hard. She’s probably already thinking about dumping you. Try buying her flowers instead. Or use a landline.
Great cheekbones, guy. But do you really hope to find the love of your life carrying your phone in a cellophane holster? You might as well wear a sandwich board saying “I am insane”.
We’d love to say great things about this girl’s posterior, but all we can focus on is that terrible Union Jack fascia. Look, the empire collapsed ages ago, love. Move on.
Mobile relationship hell. She calls, he texts. Talk about communication devices making communication impossible. These guys should lose Vodafone and get counselling.
Pub tables are for pints, your fags, ashtrays, beer mats and crisps. Put your phone away, loser. No one thinks you’re cool.
Huh? This guy tries to rock the anarcho-tribalist, back-to-the-earth look, and then totally gives the game away with his blower. What’s so ecological about a talk plan, warrior?
Turn round. Go to the shop. Give the man your fascia and ask for your money back. Admit it was all just a bad mistake. It’ll all be OK tomorrow. You know you’re stronger than that.
Really young kids using mobiles. How weird does that look? Really weird. We want to know who pays. So we went to Brighton and we asked.
Favourite phone Nokia 8210
Weekly spend £4
Who pays? Me
How’s your text life? I can send five a day, for free
Who do you call most? Mates
Does having a mobile improve your social life? Yeah, it’s easier to get a girlfriend if you can text her
Has anyone ever tried to steal your phone? No
Favourite phone Ericsson T68
Weekly spend £6-£7
Who pays? I use my pocket money
How’s your text life? I don’t send many text messages
Has anyone ever tried to steal your phone? No
Who would you most like a one-to-one with? Ryan Giggs
Favourite phone Nokia 3310
Weekly spend £3
Who pays? Me
Do you take your phone to school? Yes, but only for emergencies
Does having a mobile improve your social life? Yeah, I can get in contact with people when I’m out
Who would you most like a one-to-one with? Michael Owen
Favourite phone Nokia 3310
Weekly spend About £1
Who pays? I pay
How’s your text life? I’ve got a deal where I can send five a day for free
Do you take your phone to school? No, we’re not allowed
Who would you most like a one-to-one with? Tucker from Nickelodeon
Favourite phone Nokia 8210
Weekly spend £5
Who pays? I do, with my pocket money
Who do you call most? My best friend, Mel
Does having a mobile improve your social life? Yeah. It makes me look cool!
Who would you most like a one-to-one with? Gareth Gates
Favourite phone Nokia 3330
Weekly spend £2
Who pays? My mum
Does having a mobile improve your social life? Yeah – people respect you more if you have one
Has anyone ever tried to steal your phone? No
Who would you most like a one-to-one with? Michelle from Destiny’s Child
Favourite phone Nokia 8210
Weekly spend £4
Who pays? I pay out of my pocket money. Or my mum pays
How’s your text life? Ten a day – mostly to my girlfriend, Emma
Does having a mobile improve your social life? No
Who would you most like a one-to-one with? Arnold Schwarzenegger
Favourite phone Nokia 3310
How’s your text life? I send about ten a day to my boyfriend and best mates
Do you take your phone to school? No. I don’t want it to get it nicked
Does having a mobile improve your social life? Yeah
Who do you call most? People usually phone me…
Karim and Hesham, 12
Weekly spend £3-£5
Who pays? Our mum tops us up £10 a month each
Do you take your phone to school? Karim: Yes, but we’re supposed to keep them in our lockers
Who would you most like a one-to-one with? Karim: My favourite wrestler, Kane. Hesham: Puddle Of Mudd
Once upon a text…
Liz McGrath’s got a bad case of ‘Text Cringe’, a digital love’s newest obstacle
It’s late. I’m on the night bus. His name in on my screen. I’ve spent ten minutes typing this message. The decision is this: Cancel or Send. Cancel or Send. Cancel or Send.
So I press the ‘send’ button. Then I regret it immediately. No reply. Five minutes later, no reply. I wait. I wait some more. And then quite a lot more. A few minutes turns into half an hour and then a chasm of time opens up and you watch all confidence you had flowing into it like sand and fuuuck, it’s embarrassing… It’s official – I’ve got a bad case of Text Cringe.
Whoever came up with the notion that technology simplifies life obviously never had a mobile phone and an itch to flirt. Text messaging is the newest liability to your love life and Text Cringe the newest incarnation of insecurity in the love game. You feel the slow creep of fear taking hold. You can’t think of anything else. Finally, panic sets in. You imagine them receiving your text, smirking, deleting you, discarding you. You scurry back to your inbox. It remains obstinately empty.
Love it or loathe it, the text message is uncannily well-suited to the way we want to communicate these days: without committing ourselves too much. Which makes it eminently adaptable to the way we flirt. Never before has an inanimate object played such an important part in getting someone into the bedroom. Good text leads to good sex. Don’t own a mobile? Then you’re fucked, and not in the way you hoped for.
But it works both ways. The purest of no-strings-attached, bets-hedged communication, text is a gamble, a quickfire round to the next level of intimacy. You either pass or fail.
It’s a painless way of vetting someone. Don’t like their texts? Blank the rest of their calls. Move on.
And, of course, the downside of such clinical communication comes when you’re the one texting. Because SMS has introduced a new element of insecurity into human relationships. Send a message and you relinquish all power, a grave mistake in those first ruthless weeks when a relationship is touch and go and you’re both playing The Game. The golden rule of The Game is to act like you don’t care. Be in control. Texting can single handedly screw your whole game plan.
So you press ‘send’ and sit and wait. There’s not much you can do. Sit on your hands. Switch your phone off. Chuck it out the window. Give it to your mate and make them promise not to give it back until tomorrow. It doesn’t matter: you’ll still end up checking your inbox like your life depends on it, jumping every time you hear that tell-tale beep. Then deflating when you find it’s from your mum.
I waited a long time. In the end, he texted back. It paid off. We’re on, for another round. I compose, pause, and then send. And, in less than no time, I can feel the Text Cringe coming all over again…
The Future Is…
- Phones that take pictures and play tunes Nokia’s imminent 7650 brings Western gadget gimps the ability to take pictures; in Japan, i‑Mode users have had access to this feature for a couple of years now. Also, the arrival of handsets equipped for polyphonic ringtones – which feature several notes playing at once – means those cacophonic bleeps will finally be replaced by sweet music.
- Phones that don’t look like phones Siemens Ammonite ‘concept’ phone looks like the offspring of a kitchen clock and the fossil it’s named after. Until opened up, DoCoMo’s P2101V resembles nothing so much as a Ferrari F355 sports car. All this leads to one unavoidable conclusion: strangely shaped is the new small. Your phone looks like a phone? That’s sooo 2001.
- Totally customisable phones Fascias, logos, whatever… Compared to the grown-up customising options coming your way, they’re child’s play. K‑Java is the versatile operating system headed for our phones. Being ‘open source’ means the shape, size and nature of what appears on your screen will be more easily altered; by you, if you’re feeling nifty. If you still can’t programme the video, you’re stuffed.
- Luxury phones Nokia has started recruiting fashion designers to work on limited-edition models. But even that’s a bit Poundstretchers next to the new ‘phone’ from Vertu. “The world’s most exclusive personal communication instruments” as they describe them, come in 18-carat platinum, white or yellow gold finishes. Price? A princely £15,000.
- Retro phones Now that handsets are ubiquitous, the pursuit of exclusivity in phone ownership is now paramount. Mobile phone enthusiasts are increasingly returning to old – make that ‘classic’ – models. Industrial-looking sets from the mid-Nineties are being treated to homemade tech upgrades and receiving tributes from the increasing number of retrophone newsgroups and dealers on the internet.
- No phones at all What better way to affirm your independence than by renouncing the mobile phone? You’re not in? Tough. They can wait. You did without one before, after all. The Face tried to speak to some anti-mobile activists about this, but they wouldn’t return our call.