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Would You Buy A Spec’ed-Out Device… Geared For Women?

Back in the day, all manufacturers had to do was slap some candy-colored paint on a middling device, and boom — they had a female-friendly gadget — that is, if “back in the day” means last summer. That’s when Nokia released a pink N8, complete with an ELLE fashion app, the ability to install a “Little Pink Diva” theme (for colorizing menus) and pink neon-flavored clock. Oh boy, can’t wait.

Hold on, yes I can. Nothing against pink, but there are skins, cases, colorization services, back plates and the like, so people can customize their hardware however they want. Why design the original gear with it? Of course, this wasn’t the first time we saw something like that. A few years ago, I remember RIM coming out with a pink BlackBerry Pearl. Nothing like taking a business-class handset and tarting it up in über-precious colors. Sign me up. (Not.)

It goes both ways, too. Motorola’s Droid line at Verizon Wireless has had a marketing campaign and form factor that’s… well, let’s say “heavy on the dude factor.” There it was, all Terminator-esque, basking in the glow of its own beastiness of mobile engineering. Indeed, it felt like wielding a finely honed piece of machinery. And, big surprise here, ownership skewed very male.

I was thinking about the “gender-ification” of technology recently because Noah handed me an HTC Rhyme to check out. An Android geared for women, it’s a plum-colored handset accompanied by a fabric-covered dock (?) and a light-up charm/call indicator, with a customized skin using a default homescreen… of a girl walking under an umbrella. Huh? Opening the box felt like stepping into a Massengill commercial or something. (My husband actually thought the charm concept was kind of cool — until he saw how they designed it to look like a piece of jewelry dangling out of a purse. Then he asked me never to speak of this again, and walked out of the room.)

Through all this, I almost didn’t notice that, with a 1 Ghz processor, 768 MB Ram, 3.7-inch screen, and 1600 mAh battery, a few of its specs actually beat out the in-demand iPhone 4S. So why wouldn’t they focus on that? A full review on the Rhyme is coming, but for now, suffice it to say that this struck me as odd.

Then there’s design house Jil Sander coming out with an LG WinPho smartphone. The device — which debuted in Europe on October 7 — is a Mango handset with a 1GHz processor, 3.8-inch display (800×480), 16GB built-in storage, slim profile of 0.4 inches, and ability to play 720p HD vids. Not bad, I thought. Perhaps not the bleeding edge of mobile tech, but it’s respectable. And it’s not slathered in pink or other crayola colors either — it’s a sophisticated blue and gray.

Even so, I’m not sure what to make of all this. I have nothing against “girly” accessories, but why would makers would take pricey mobile devices — which are inherently gender-neutral — and design them for “chicks” or “dudes”? This is expensive technology, not anti-perspirant or personal hygiene products. So I wonder, are mobile manufacturers shooting themselves in the foot by indulging in stereotypes?

There’s a reason I’m asking this. Recent statements from Andrew Glass, the sales director of Samsung UK, suggest that the very anticipated 5.3-inch Galaxy Note phone/tablet will be…

…wait for it…

…targeted to women. No idea what that means. Will it show up in pink? Have a Hello Kitty emblem, or a skin with kittens and rainbows all over it? Perhaps — if Samsung thinks most female consumers are 12 years old — but based on what Glass said, it will probably be more of a marketing push, since the out-sized phone/mini tablet is perfectly sized to fit in purses.

I’m not one hundred percent sure I follow that logic, but at least they’re attempting to court women with an upper-tier offering here. The GNote will boast a 1280 x 800p 5.3-inch Super AMOLED HD display, 1.4GHz dual-core processor, 8MP rear camera with full HD (1080p) vid recording, full 2MP front camera, 9.65mm thickness, and Samsung’s slot-loading S Pen stylus.

Not that this isn’t great for the ladies, but what about the guys? Why would Samsung risk alienating them?  It seems to me that what both men and women want are smart, sleek, well-spec’ed devices that perform well. Give it a sexy form factor, and you’ll have legions of fans, regardless of gender, no?

Where do you stand? If the Galaxy Note pushes a female-oriented image, would you still get it anyway? Or would that put you off? (Frankly, I’m talking to both men and women readers here.) Tell us if you’d get this or any high-end gadget, regardless of the gender image.

 


Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...

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