Cell phone/PDAs or other iterations of what you want to call the convergence of handheld devices are featured prominently at the Consumer Electronics Show, no doubt. Whether these devices from Motorola or Samsung overtly claim to be iPhone killers is beside the point. The point is that most devices feature cleaner user interfaces and better bundles of applications that access more and more content. Nearly all of these gadgets are touch-based. Nearly all the devices, though, still don't come close in terms of usability and elegance to the iPhone's user interface. You can check out all the performance reviews of the upcoming phones here, but more interesting is the convergence of high-end couture brands with traditionally utilitarian brands like Samsung on display at CES.
From carrying cases to the actual device itself, incorporating couture elements is on the rise. From Case Logic, for example, comes a leather case for an iPod Touch that arguably pays homage to Hermes orange. Case Logic's other designs range from basic to quasi-personal, if you can achieve such a thing on a mass scale, to highlight your own personality.
Other designers, while not at CES but otherwise available in Las Vegas, are offering high-end phones/PDAs or MP3 carrying cases. (Louis Vuitton's cigarette case, for example, is the perfect iPod Classic carrier.)
As for the devices themselves, Samsung has partnered with Georgio Armani to release a Samsung-made phone only available in Europe. Meanwhile, Bang & Olufsen collaborated with Samsung and has released an updated phone that is GSM-based (AT&T and T-Mobile only). I'm reminded of T-Mobile's attempt to sell a D&G phone or Prada's foray into the cell phone market. Using the B&O phone, however, was not easy. An actual metal click wheel got dirty quick (the clerk at the booth kept wiping it down) and I would question how the sound quality is to be superior given that you're often victim to your network provider.
While brand fixation and loyalty have been a delight to marketers since time immemorial, it seems that this trend of buying into a brand's exclusivity (the B&O phone retails for $1,600) is on the rise. High-end consumer products from high-end designers are nothing new, either. Increased demand for high-end couture in a credit crunch era, while unwise, is not surprising as many people may be buying into the idea and image of being successful as represented by branded possessions. Combining the designer brands with a utilitarian gadget may not be the newest thing, but, if any indication can be gleaned by the crowds ogling these blinged-out couture cell phones, it appears to be phenomenon here to stay.