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Marion wrote: I am a sea lover. Seems to be an interesting cruise. david martin Abrahams would love to travel on it.


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Mobile Style
Cellphones that make a statement

 

Almost everyone has a mobile phone, but not everyone has one of these models. Available bejeweled, or in gold or platinum, they can top $40,000.

 The mobile phone may be the curse of our time. With some phones even the open sea may not separate you from interruptions, but while the quality of conversation can't always be guaranteed, at least the phone itself can now reflect the style and taste of the owner.

The first mobile phones were bulky enough to be a statement in themselves, though not always the statement the user wanted to make. Frequently seen as a flashy accessory for underachievers trying to impress, they at least contributed to the fitness of anyone asked to carry one! As the technology moved on, handsets became ubiquitous but what they gained in utility they frequently lost in aesthetics; additional expense generally meant greater technology rather than impressive styling, and the highly visible youth demographic preferred bright colors and soft curves rather than anything that would appeal to the more discerning customer. Now, basic functions of a mobile phone - the ability to make and receive calls and text messages - have become commodities, and companies are striving to make phones that don't just work well but also look good.

 Most manufacturers have created handsets they consider to be aimed at the style market, though the old adage about engineers knowing nothing about fashion seems to ring true. Nokia's ideas about what makes a good-looking handset seem to be embedded in the 1970s, but at least they're trying. In general production, the best-looking phone has to be Motorola's RAZR V3. It's hard to convey in a picture just how slim this phone is, but it really is slightly slimmer than it looks and will slip into the smartest shirt pocket with barely a bulge while offering all the features anyone could reasonably want in a handset. Priced at around $700, it's aimed at the general consumer, but offers some of the latest technology for those who want to stay up to date and still look the part.

 For a phone that looks a little different there are many options for customization. Companies like ModPhone (www.modphone.com) will take a standard handset and cover it in crystals for about $300, which provides that spangled look, even adding distinctive keypads and other features to distinguish your handset from the crowd.

 The desire of consumers for something a little more exotic was first addressed by Motorola with the Motorola Diamond. Inlaid with real diamonds it retailed at $5,000. While partly a marketing exercise by Motorola, it also demonstrated that there was real interest in such bejeweled handsets and several jewelers were quick to provide a service customizing stock phones or adding gems to a customer's own devices. The Austrian Peter Aloisson (www.aloisson.com) has created handsets with cases in gold and white gold, as well as adding diamonds at every opportunity. His most expensive creation is another Motorola model coated in 18-karat gold and featuring over a thousand individual diamonds, which should add sparkle to the most humdrum of conversations; it retails at over $40,000. As Aloisson commented during a recent interview: "The people who buy my phones don't have to worry about security - they all have bodyguards."

For those without bodyguards you could always accessorize your current handset with a "diatoo" or small diamond highlighted logo to make your phone stand out from the crowd, starting at around $600. The stones can be reused if you decide to change you handset, a good thing considering how quickly mobile phone technology moves on; you can just send it back and pay for the work. But then, handsets like these aren't about technology.

 For something a little more understated (if not actually much cheaper) there is the Vertu brand (www.vertu.com). A wholly owned subsidiary of Nokia (so you know the technology will all work properly and it's not going to be too hard to use), Vertu's design and style are anything but Finnish. They refer to their handsets as "obsessive crafted" and consider each one to be a piece of jewelry that just happens to also operate as a mobile phone. Taking their cue from luxury watch manufacture, they embody a style that is exclusive without being flashy.

 The basic Ascent in black leather will set you back $4,500, but the Platinum Signature shows you really care and comes in at $31,850. When you buy a Vertu you're not just buying a mobile phone, but buying into a lifestyle that comes with its own concierge service, at least for the first year. Simply tap the button on the side of the phone and you're instantly in touch with someone who will arrange your travel, where to stay when you get there, and what to see during your visit. Vertu owners also get discounts on everything from the Kuala Lumpur Mandarin Oriental Hotel to Clos-ette of New York (who will, apparently, reorganize your closet to "create a more functional and dynamic space").

Your mobile phone is likely to be with you wherever you go, so having the right phone can say as much about you as what you wear or the car you drive. There are few other devices that get used as much, or in such a visible way. Your chosen phone should be a constant delight; if only the same thing could be said of all the calls you're likely to get on it.

 Satellite Phones
Good-looking handsets are all very well when you're moored up, or walking the beaches, but on the open ocean or when visiting that hidden island you'll need something a bit more functional and less good looking to stay in touch.

 Most mobile phones need to be within a few miles of a transmitter to relay signals, which is unlikely to be useful for anything but the shortest charter, so for constant connectivity you need to reach for the skies and consider a satellite phone.

There are two competing networks that can offer you phones that will work anywhere in the world from pole to pole, both operating through satellites: Iridium and Globestar can both keep you connected but their handsets are anything but stylish and cost around $1,000 to buy. Also not clear in these pictures are the enormous antennas, which need to be folded out from the back of the phone to connect to the satellite, though the QUALCOMM handset will connect to CDMA networks when they are available.

 Using a satellite phone in public may well remind you of the old days of mobiles, as people stare and wonder what you're doing, but at least you can be sure of never being out of touch no matter where you wander.

About Bill Ray
Bill Ray, former editor-in-chief (and continuing distinguished contributor to) Wireless Business & Technology magazine, has been developing wireless applications for over 20 ears on just about every platform available. Heavily involved in Java since its release, he developed some of the first cryptography applications for Java and was a founder of JCP Computer Services, a company later sold to Sun Microsystems. At Swisscom he was responsible for the first Java-capable DTV set-top box, and currently holds the position of head of Enabling Software at 02, a UK network operator.

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