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Phones

Bang & Olufsen Serene

Bang & Olufsen's new Serene handset turns the concept of a mobile phone on its head -- literally.

Upside
Let's cut to the chase here -- features and functionality are all very nice, but an ever more important factor in mobile phones purchases is its design and sense of style, as nowadays, our phones have become expressions of our personality.

Enter the Danish style maestros of high-end AV gear, Bang & Olufsen, with their first offering on the mobile phone market. They've named it Serene, and like its unusual name, the design is about as far away from the standard Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Motorola gear as you can get.

For starters, this curved clam-shell like phone takes a very different view of the world -- the keypad and loudspeaker are located on the top/upper shell, and the large viewing screen is on the lower shell.

The numbers are located on a circular thumb-operated navigation wheel. The speakers are placed behind this clock-like keypad, which Bang & Olufsen says is designed for better sound quality and improved speech recognition.

Gently touch the edge to trigger a built-in motor that opens and closes the shell slowly and, dare we say it, gracefully.

Its embedded camera is placed on the side of the phone, so to take a photo, you must hold the flat open phone parallel to the ground and look down onto the viewing screen, just like the Brownie film cameras of old.

Serene's phone book can be synchronised with other Bang & Olufsen phones through its DECT docking station and with a calendar on a PC via its built-in Bluetooth capability. Being Bang & Olufsen, the designers appear to have put as much effort into the charger/docking station as the phone itself. When on this smart looking cradle, an incoming call or text message will cause the phone to open automatically. If unanswered, it gently closes again.

Downside
CNET.com.au has only had a quick look at Serene at a Sydney briefing, and because it's so unlike other mobile phones, it did feel pretty weird. Lars Myrup, B&O's Asia Pacific Managing Director did concede that it takes some getting used to, but he claims, once mastered, it is a very simple phone to use. We can't imagine how long it would take to get the hang of sending a text message, but hopefully we'll get to test it when review units become available. Serene should be on the Australian market by February 2007.

Outlook
Tasmania's own Mary Donaldson shot into the fashion big leagues when she went Danish -- OK, she hooked up with a Crown Prince, not a mobile phone -- but perhaps this elegant Bang & Olufsen handset can help the rest of us Aussies feel like Serene royalty.

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