iPhone competitors not there yet

iPhone competitors not there yet

Vendors fail to rise to the challenge Apple's iPhone has set

Motorola was next in line. I'm probably least impressed with the Z8 then any of the others. I think the design is clunky and looks and feels like a slider phone from a couple of years ago. For the innovator of the thin phone, Motorola should have done better with the Z8's size. I found it difficult to figure out which buttons corresponded with the words at the bottom of the screen so even hitting "back" proved difficult initially. Then, when looking for the music player application, I suddenly found an error message on the screen and the phone froze. Not a great sign.

My final stop was Neonode, a Swedish company that has been touting its music phone, particularly its touch screen. The device is in a category of its own and is very un-phone like. About the size of a business card, though not as thin, its touch screen definitely requires training to use. I would have never been able to figure it out without instruction.

Users sweep up along the home screen within three columns. The first opens a navigation page with icons for functions such as the music player, calendar and calculator. The middle column opens a touch pad for dialing calls. And the final column opens a tools menu.

Sweeping left along the screen goes back a page and sweeping right opens a function that is highlighted. When presented with a list such as albums, you touch the item to highlight it and then touch the middle of the screen to open. Sound confusing? It was. Still, I'm not panning it. It may require a bit of direction and practice but I think it'd be pretty easy to get the hang of how it works.

While the small size was attractive, it also meant that it felt a bit designed for a child. Most adults have fingertips that are bigger than the icons on the screen.

Overall, I was largely underwhelmed with my experiences. But there's time -- Apple only just announced the iPhone and its competitors haven't really had time to respond.

Also, my search was by no means exhaustive. For example, I didn't make it to LG Electronics, which recently unveiled a phone, the KE850, that is being compared to the iPhone. Even at the booths I visited, I chose to look at the phone that appeared to me to be the most focused on music but that may not be the one the manufacturer would direct me to and other models may compare more directly with the iPhone.

And finally, I'm the first to admit my exercise was a bit silly given that I've never even seen an iPhone. But such is the power of the Apple marketing machine.

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