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Mystery phone: the Haier Sterling

The latest in a line of jewelry-class phones--the mystery is how to get one.

The Haier Sterling: Easier to see yourself than its price.
The Haier Sterling

At first glance, you'd think the Haier Sterling is a joke--at less than 4 inches from end to end, it looks like a child's toy. But you'd be wrong. It not only turns heads, but it delivers too. You realize that when you turn it on and hear the loud, clear sound of glass breaking.

It features a 1.8-inch color screen, 1.3-megapixel camera, integrated headphone jack, FM radio, room for 500 contacts, Bluetooth and a microSD slot. Talk time is 3 hours; standby time is up to 200 hours. But what really distinguishes it is style. The finish is highly mirrored and clean, and it's navigated by a little black keypad and surrounding buttons.

Here's the part I like a lot less: I played with this phone at CTIA in San Francisco, but it wasn't available yet, still delayed from a planned July launch. The sales page for the Sterling indicates it has been delayed until about October 2007. (We're now into November.) It doesn't seem to have any carrier support and is sold a la carte as an unlocked phone, so you're paying full freight. I use the word "sold" charitably here because, as of this writing, you can only pre-order one for a non-refundable deposit of $199, with the mystery balance due upon shipment--and there's no indication how much that balance will be.

But if you like jewel-like tech, and mysteries, this phone may be for you.