Nokia has finally lost it. It's launched a new mobile phone, the 8800, which looks like... well, a mobile phone. But it isn't. It's an iconic object. Frank Nuovo, Nokia's chief designer, explains: "We believe the Nokia 8800 belongs in the pantheon of iconic products — a sophisticated mobile communication device that quietly earns a nod of appreciation and admiration from other connoisseurs of fine taste." It can't be that quiet, or we'll never hear it ring.
Which is a shame, as incoming calls on this baby won't just generate alert tones — heavens, no. They'll create an aural aura of shimmering melodic layers that transform the very air through which they travel into a cosseting blanket of aesthetic delight. To quote from the press release: "The aural accompaniment of the Nokia 8800 is equally inspired. Award-winning composer and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto was commissioned to compose the ringtones and alerts. Throughout his distinguished career, Sakamoto has crossed musical and technological boundaries, experimenting with different musical styles and making a name for himself in popular, orchestral and film music."
In other words, the bloke who did that thing with fey New Romantic David Sylvian about his love wearing forbidden colours (plink plink twang). I guess it'll be better than a farting frog. And what drove Sakamoto to these heights of multiphonic meditation? "Inspired by its modern lines and organic curves, Sakamoto has produced a musical accompaniment for the Nokia 8800 that captures an essence and emotion that touches both heart and mind." So, not inspired by huge wodges of cash that capture the essence and emotion that touch both wallet and bank account then. "His creation draws on his vision of the Nokia 8800 user — a world citizen constantly on the move, making an impression in a grayscale world and through great cities such as New York, Paris, Sydney and Shanghai." And don't expect the phone to work in Luton.
This sort of thing is all very well if you back up the frobbly words with some dazzling example of design. And I'm sure that the 8800 is superbly engineered. It's just that it looks like, well, a perfectly ordinary mobile phone. In my world, icons are beautiful, alien objects encased in gold and encrusted with jewels that speak silently of spirituality: they don't squeak with the sound of synthesised kotos. But then, I don't move through the grayscale worlds of Sydney and Shanghai.
I'll stick to my Sendo.