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KDDI brings a cool synchronicity of art and technology to a new mobile handset, the Talby. Conceptualized by acclaimed Australian designer Marc Newson, it weighs in at just 79 grams and a mere 13 mm thick. Though you might readily file it with other vanity handsets, it’s not just a pretty face. Arguably the lightest handset yet (except perhaps for DoCoMo’s tiny Premini at 69 grams but we’re talking about cell phones you can actually use), its ultra-slim, ultra-flat design is achieved in part by placing the antenna internally.
Talby also has a high-resolution QVGA LCD screen, Flash, 2-D barcode reader, camera, is compatible with KDDI’s EZAppli BREW applications and their advanced EZNavi Walk navigation system, plus other bells and whistles — but the “phone as fashion accessory” is definitely part of the message here.
Talby comes with an original neck strap that attaches to a large, centrally placed strap hole. This handset is meant to be seen.
Marc Newson has worked in media ranging from furniture and household objects to a bicycle, restaurant interiors, and state-of-the-art Tokyo recording studio. His work is in permanent collections at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Paris’ Centre Georges Pompidou, and London’s Design Museum.
His Talby design is the third phone in KDDI’s au Design Project, which gives free range to selected designers to create innovative and radically new mobile phones; Vodafone and DoCoMo launched similar efforts after the success last year of KDDI’s Infobar (a stark-white, ultra-thin celly that sold much better than KDDI expected).
Screen time is part of the art package, with special Talby-only art wallpaper plus custom Chaku Uta music and ring tones produced by musician Nick Wood. Wood works with partner Simon Le Bon (remember Duran Duran?) out of their Tokyo-based Syn entertainment production company (the studio was also designed by Newson) and is well known in Japan for his musical work in commercials.
Wood composed Talby’s theme song, “Free,” ring-tone melodies, and pre-installed sound effects.
Newson apparently named the phone after a character in scare-mesiter John Carpenter’s sci-fi, student-film-cum-first-release, “Dark Star,” which is at least somewhat ironic given that the human Talby is a singularly unattractive character (as well as being a bit reclusive), while the mobile phone Talby is a fine piece of craftsmanship designed for communication.
Talbys come in three pop-culture colors: Hornet Green, Orange Orange, Hole Black (A misreading of Black Hole? – Ed.); they should be on shelves in Tokyo by early December with a nationwide rollout to follow.
Mobile consumers in Asia have a notoriously short attention span and the shelf life of new models can be brief. There’s little doubt that the au Design Project will find it very difficult to recapture the investment spent on Talby’s licensing, design and development but KDDI does not expect it to.
In this part of the world, telcos and cellcos are not seen as mere manufacturers; they are standard bearers of new technology — at which Asia and particularly Japan excels — and are expected to educate and enlighten the public (while lightening their wallets). The au Design Project highlights the Japanese corporation’s role as auteur. Think of Talby as a corporate public arts project with a little moneymaking on the side.
Check out the Talby site here. Simply click on the Talby logo to enter; we have a feeling Mr. Newson did not proofread the copy (or maybe he did and this is ‘performance art’), or have a look at the Japanese press release and KDDI site for pictures:
– Gail Nakada
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