A Screen That's More Sensitive To The Touch
While I walking through the displays of tech giants like Panasonic and Samsung, I came across a company I'd never heard of called Neonode. It's a Swedish cellphone manufacturer that says it's enjoyed some success in Europe but has had a tough time breaking into the U.S. market against much-larger competitors.
I let a tall, blonde Swedish guy named Niklas show me how the phone works. It's so small that if I close my fist the phone nearly disappears in my hand. Like a lot of new phones out there, Neonode uses touchscreen technology. There's no bottons on the phone, but it does have a navigation spot that reminds me of a super-small joystick.
For the most part, except for the keypad and calculator, there aren't even buttons on the phone's interface. You navigate through menus by swiping your finger across the screen. Each direction designates a different command. You sweep your finger to the right across the screen to tell the phone to call a number open a feature. You sweep left to end a call or end a song you're playing. To get to the keypad, you sweep your finger up in the center of the screen.
All the different commands seem to take a while to learn; I kept choosing the music playlist when I was trying to get to the photo gallery. Niklas told me it just takes some getting used to.
One thing that sets it apart from other touchscreen phones like the iPhone, the company says, is that it's light-sensitive so it detects your finger even if you're wearing gloves. (My touchscreen phone, the LG Chocolate, doesn't work too well when I'm wearing gloves on a cold day).
The phone also gives tactile feedback when you make selections or punch in a number, so you feel a quick pulse when you hit the right key. On the iPhone, or my Chocolate, I sometimes have to hit a key several times before it registers, often taking me to menus I didn't want.
How did a little-known company like Neonode get prime space on the floor? A company called Distribution Management Consolidators payed for it. DMC takes small companies and helps them get their technology to market. Andrew Lowinger, president and chief executive of the firm, said Neonode phones will hit U.S. shelves in the second quarter. It's still trying to find a carrier. Neonode phones will be available in both locked and unlocked forms. If I had a T-Mobile or AT&T phone, which use the GSM network, I could simply slip in the SIM and use it.
January 9, 2008; 4:29 PM ET
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