Veering Off the Smartphone Track

I’m expecting many of the smartphones released at next week’s Mobile World Congress to look pretty much the same. Manufacturers seem to differentiate more in terms of the latest software release, processing capability or screen quality than the shape and design of a device. And that’s why HP’s Veer smartphone grabbed my attention when it was announced recently.

HP describes the Veer as “the size of a credit card and no thicker than a deck of cards”. And at a time when the industry appears to be moving toward larger and larger devices, the Veer struck me as refreshingly different.

Back in the early 2000s, size was a major factor when buying a mobile phone. Smaller was better as the industry moved away from the “brick” mobile phones associated with yuppies.

These days, everyone’s obsessed with gigahertz, gigabytes and megapixels, in many cases emphasising these more than innovative designs. I’ve believed for some time that there’s a niche for smaller, lightweight smartphones, even if they don’t possess as big a range of features as other devices.

The Veer is a capable phone, however. Using webOS, it comes with Adobe Flash 10.1 support, a Snapdragon 800 MHz processor, integrated GPS, five-megapixel camera, multi-touch screen and slide-out qwerty keyboard. It also includes HP Synergy, which enables users to automatically connect to multiple Web services.

But it’s the dimensions that impress me the most — the phone measures just 54.5 mm by 84.0 mm by 15.1 mm and weighs 103g. Of course, the user experience on a small screen can’t be as rich as on a larger device, and the keyboard might feel too cramped for some people.

The Veer isn’t the first of its kind. Sony Ericsson’s X10 mini pro combined a qwerty keypad and a small design, and we’re seeing a few more qwerty designs emerge from the Android stable after a wave of touch-screen monoblocs. Even so, I can’t help thinking that some manufacturers might be missing a trick when it comes to tapping into demand for smaller, more “mobile” phones.