First Call: Moving Scenes

Before handing over the reins temporarily, one of the last actions taken by editor Phil Lattimore was to gaze at my current mobile phone with a mixture of disdain and incredulity before suggesting I upgrade. I haven’t had it that long and it’s several eons more advanced than the previous one, the generous proportions of which made it particularly difficult to lose. But his look said as much as the stream of news stories I’ve read detailing the exciting blur of change in the industry.

This month’s issue chronicles that state of flux. Just when you’re getting used to colour-screen phones that sell themselves with pictures rather than words, along comes one that records bursts of video. More announcements too in the games world, with the arrival of downloadable games – some old, some new and several, in one form or another, blue. And the entry into the UK market of Daewoo and Chinese manufacturer DBTEL, injects some new blood into the market.

With the enormous costs of those just-over-the-horizon 3G licences to recoup, the industry is talking a good fight over its future income. A few briefings I’ve recently attended highlighted forecasts that spending on mobile services would steadily increase for some years. Hopefully, the increased competition will create choices allowing us all to enjoy the fruits of the new technology at a reasonable price. We don’t need Alvin Hall to tell us that mobile phones have financially embarrassed more people than unpaid library fines. Let us help you balance the books and add colour to your calls.

Gareth Mason
Acting Editor
What Cellphone November 2002




Walking down Kentish Town Road one recent lunchtime, I was accosted by two attractive blondes. Just another typical day? Strangely, no. For they were enthusiastically taking pictures of all who passed within the fixed range of their camera phones. And not any old camera phone, but the very one splashed on our front cover. They are the latest in the swelling ranks of new hybrids riding the crest of a promotional wave now breaking onto our high streets.

What’s more, Panasonic seems determined to shed its minor player image in the mobile industry by launching a product clearly not designed to merely fit into its rivals’ footsteps. Our review of the GD87 reveals it to be more than just a pretty fascia. Features aplenty, a diminutive frame and a screen displaying 65,000 colours are a good start.

And if we can count on one hand the number of MMS handsets today, tomorrow you’ll need a list as long as your arm. We do just that with a comprehensive roundup of all the models expected on the market by the New Year.

From taking pictures to giving presents, look no further than the Daze of Xmas. Here we lead you merrily by the handset through the ultimate mobile maze: trying to work out what mobile phone to buy for someone else.

This segues neatly into the MobileXtra – a free supplement featuring half a dozen of the most popular mobiles we’ve reviewed over the last year. And for those who can resist the lure of the new model, Unlock Stock explains your options when the SIM-card at the heart of your phone is closed to the advances of a new operator.

Gareth Mason
Acting Editor
What Cellphone December 2002




It’s a fertile time for the mobile phone industry. And trust me (I’m a journalist), we’re not just saying that to shift a few more copies. The splashes of colour screens spreading about the greyscales of our old mobile existence are now commonplace while the chiming and chirruping of polyphonic ringtones, though dangerously dependent on the humour and taste of their user, have become part of our city soundscape.

So, it’s no real surprise that in this, our annual awards issue, the contenders are largely drawn from the fresh fascias of recently launched handsets whose USPs may be standard features on new models by next spring. In fact, two of our review samples this month have both made a late dash for glory, though I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you which topped the podium. And it’s not just mobile phones gunning for What Cellphone’s ultimate seal of approval. The best network, online service, accessory and innovation of 2002 are all revealed from page 39.

If that wraps up last year, what of the new one? Java games and MMS picture messaging look set to figure heavily in mobile ad campaigns. Java games are covered in Mouthpiece and Game Academy, and as for MMS, the networks will look to make these all-seeing devices affordable for the masses they need to hook. So, it won’t just be smug technology hacks showing off in the pub with nowhere to send their pictures.

And we may finally get our first glimpse of 3G. Our report discusses how 3G will help us see, feel and hear in ways we’d never have imagined. Ok, so ‘feel’ may have to be covered by the vibrating alert for the moment, but wait till the next issue…

Gareth Mason
Acting Editor  
What Cellphone
January 2003




Winston Churchill, now officially Britain’s greatest son, wouldn’t have recognised the contents of a magazine like What Cellphone as he bellowed (rather too conspicuously): ‘I’m on the front line!’ Today’s ever-shrinking handsets take a back seat in Antique Mobile, a homage to these big, and dubious, fashion statements gaining a cult status.

Little else in the mobile industry bears much resemblance to its humble, over-sized origins. Certainly, little offered by 3G – the next generation of handsets and services – the details of which are finally emerging. If initial pricing suggests your average punter will be happy to stick with the current crop for a while longer – we’ll help find the best of these with our upgrade feature. Meanwhile, Lords of the Ring tackles a commonly heard complaint – your mobile may have 35 fancy ringtones, but can you hear any of them?

Otherwise, a product-packed issue features several new models with a distinctive appearance. A chameleon-like Motorola is reviewed alongside a console-impersonating Sagem and a Sharp whose sleek lines house a digital camera.

Finally, this issue brings my brief tenure at What Cellphone to a close, heralding the return of Phil Lattimore to the editor’s seat, upgraded and recharged by four months away. Personally, having worked in different areas of the consumer electronics industry, it’s been interesting to see the parallels between its rapidly converging parts. As with the computer world, the mobile phone industry has been successful in creating a niche for its wares in the lives of all but the most inveterate Luddite.

But it’s not the only parallel. Sadly, a near-guaranteed market sometimes compromises the way customers are treated – a dangerous habit when the industry now needs our billions to survive. The symptoms cover such ailments as poor service, inflexible contracts or customers footing the bill for networks not talking to each other. Another is the selective manual that neglects responsibility for how the product actually works. As Apple Mac fans love to point out, doing clever things needn’t be a chore. If you want our money, don’t make us work too hard for it.

Gareth Mason
Acting Editor
What Cellphone February 2003



It’s that D-word again – so well-known they named a magazine after it. Can all this airplay be justified? We think so, seeing as it won’t be long before everything will be measured in ones and zeroes. The revolution is well under way in the UK, where you will soon be able to receive digital TV via cable, satellite or even your old aerial if you’re feeling nostalgic. And that’s not all…

Whether it’s TVs, mobiles phones, amplifiers, camcorders, decoders, cameras, VCRs, MiniDisc players, set-top boxes – just about anything containing the word ‘consumer’ or ‘electronics’ has been hit with the digital stick.

In this, our first issue of What Digital, we’ve got a clutch of hot new products to review. These include an MP3 device for downloading music from the Internet, the world’s smallest MiniDisc recorder and the world’s first CD recorder. We’ve even got Lara Croft – the world’s first digital woman – though I’m sure there’s life still in the analogue variety.

What’s more, we’ve drawn from our expert reviews on our leading consumer electronics titles. You’ve got the complete digital compendium. We hope it answers a few of your questions.

Gareth Mason
What Digital Spring 1999




Okay, so maybe boys like their toys. But it’s no longer a closed shop. They’re all at it now. Behinds the curtains of suburban homes, down dark alleys, sometimes – shamelessly – in broad daylight. They’re letting those digital devices seep into their lives. It starts with a few snaps on a harmless-looking, low-resolution digital camera. Before you know it, you’re shooting Digital8. Don’t kid yourself, you’re hooked. Men and women in all their extreme forms are up to their necks in it. When the current is that strong – all you can do is go with the flow.

TVs and satellite receivers are just the start. And where there’s a TV, there’s a VCR so you ought to know about JVC’s thoughts on the world’s first digital version. Perhaps you find the idea of recording 21 hours of programmes unimpressive? Well rent a video – sorry DVD – if it’s home cinema you want.

Too much of a life of indolence for you, perhaps? Well, get out in the sun (okay, fog) and live a little. You could always record it for posterity with a camcorder – which captures the action somewhat better than your Uncle Edgar’s Christmas slide show. Or perhaps, just take a few snapshots for those absent friends. Stick them on your PC and blast them across the Internet so they can splice you with their pet dog for a screensaver. Or better still, make a movie about it. And if music be your lifeblood, then read on. If they’re not playing your tune you can always call a friend. But what if you need a little bit more from your phone? Well, give it Internet access. Happy now?

In fact, there’s over 100 pages of technological wizardry to help make the daydreams come true for the well-heeled, the window-shopper and bargain-hunter alike. And if you’re still not interested, well you can… win an Internet TV. Like we said, go with it.

Gareth Mason
What Digital Winter 2000




The current debate over why many products are more expensive in the UK than on the Continent or US is sure to finger the electronics industry.

Good thing too, as you can usually estimate the cost of a stateside product coming here simply by changing the dollar sign to sterling. So, it was good to hear Samsung is launching a DVD player, exclusive to Comet, Woolworths and MVC, which will retail for under £280. Entry-level it may be – but early impressions suggest its performance will not fall far short (if at all) of its rivals. Images of cats and pigeons spring to mind.

Talking of unexpected surprises, DTS has finally arrived in these pages with Denon’s DTS AVD-1000 decoder, and more significantly – the sight (and sound) of some films encoded with the 5.1 channel alternative to Dolby Digital.

Also in this issue are reviews of Sony’s entry-level Digital8 camcorder, a group test of all the set-top boxes currently available and a feature on the merits of renting digital TV. What more could you want? That’s rhetorical, by the way.

Gareth Mason
What Video & TV May 1999




If I write one more editorial about digital TV deals, you can hang me up with a Scart lead and leave me till they switch off analogue broadcasting. But those news-mongers at Ondigital have forced our hands once more. The terrestrial digital broadcaster has picked up BskyB’s gauntlet by offering free STBs, with the proviso of signing up to an increased pay-TV package. With that gesture of resignation, we can look forward to Sky, Ondigital and the cable companies creating a package which convinces even conservative consumers that digital is a step worth taking. Fingers crossed.

AV playmate of the month must be Hitachi with two more innovative products: first the C32W35TN TV, which uses the Progressive Scan technology we urged the company to bring to the UK when first glimpsed two years ago; and second, the VT-FX880, the first VCR to play the programmes you want without the adverts you don’t.

Also on display are some of the hottest new players evolving from the DVD world, and the usual eclectic mix of products. They range from VideoLogic’s budget Dolby Digital package to a 52in home cinema experience you can wear on your head. And, as it’s my last issue, it really will be the last time I write an editorial about digital TV. So, the next person to occupy this AV throne will have to find a more ingenious way to avoid it. I shall leave you in good hands.
My physical appearance in last month’s Upfront may have shocked a few, most of all myself – the parallels with the Sophie Rhys-Jones affair are uncanny. And no, of course it wasn’t a mocked-up picture. Happy reading and may all your purchase be bargains.

Gareth Mason
What Video and TV August 1999  




Rumour had it relations between the paper industry and associated pressure groups were thawing. This is not the impression given by events in London over the past week when Greenpeace UK suggested at a press conference, which excluded the major protagonists, that Canada would become the ‘Brazil of the North’ if clearcutting policies continued.

The aggrieved parties, the Canadian Pulp and Paper Industry and MacMillan Bloedel, chief recipient of the malpractice allegations, were quick to issue statements, and sufficient concern was evident for the premier of British Colombia, Mike Harcourt, to make an appearance on their behalf.

This is the UK launch of a campaign that began in Germany and which resulted in paper users such as Gruner & Jahr and Otto Versand pledging not to buy the Canadian product. It coincides with the release in Germany of a Greenpeace publication ‘Paper – natural product or chemical cocktail?’ This less than conciliatory tone is at odds with the belief that the warring factions are currently enjoying a détente.

Suggestions – on the one hand, that the paper trade represents a ‘soft’ target, and on the other, that Greenpeace may have a point – should not be written off.
The argument is not as clear as the alleged destruction meted out on the Clayoquot Sound region but the implications, for both industry and landscape, are very serious. It is not dissimilar to the chlorine-free debate where progress is undermined by marketing campaigns that confirm customers prejudices.

Perhaps the industry could use a third party as intermediary where the expertise from both sides could forge a more definitive road to progress. Their collective marketing skills would be invaluable in persuading the public to follow it.

The paternal touch might have to come from stringent and better informed legislation. The Forest Practices code, a discussion paper from the British Columbian government, is a good starting point. This way, the common aim of conservation might not be submerged by a counter-productive urge to outwit the opposition.

Gareth Mason                 
Deputy Editor February 1994