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On Call: Add, don't subtract

When designing cell phone sequels, manufacturers should add rather than remove features. And if they can't do that, at least keep the offerings the same.

Samsung Messager III

If you caught my review of the Samsung Messager III, you'll know I characterized it as "one step forward, two steps back." Though it offered an improved design over the original Messager and Messager II, it replaced its immediate predecessor's 2-megapixel with a 1.3-megapixel shooter. So though you got a better design, you got fewer features in return.

No, a difference of less than a megapixel isn't a big deal, but I'm all about the principle of the thing. No matter how small the changes, a feature list shouldn't shrink as a product line grows. Instead, manufacturers should improve on a previous model, even if it's in equally small ways. And if a manufacturer can't make improvements--I recognize that keeping the cost down can be a concern--they at least should keep things the same.

Fortunately, feature downgrades from one model to another don't happen often, but a pattern still exists. The Samsung Eternity II, for example, had a smaller camera than the Eternity, and other phones have cut camera editing features, axed voice dialing, and shrank displays. Indeed, moves like those don't give us much motivation to make the upgrade.

Outside of good performance and a user-friendly design, I don't expect a lot of phones like the Messager III. At times I'd argue for a little more selective editing from manufacturers, but I fully recognize that a need for basic devices exists. When making handset sequels, however, remember that they must follow certain rules like their cinematic counterparts. They must continue, rather then repeat, the story, and they must improve on their predecessor in some way. If not, then what's the point?