Sprint and Samsung this week launched yet another messaging-oriented low-cost phone, the Samsung Seek sporting both a touchscreen and a slide-out QWERT keyboard. The Seek is available immediately for $30 after rebates and with a two-year contract. Targeted toward younger audiences the phone includes native support for Facebook, MySpace and Photobucket photo uploads. Additionally, the Seek supports instant messaging, email and Microsoft Exchange accounts.
The Seek has a 2.6-inch QVGA TFT touchscreen with 240--by-320-pixel resolution, a 1.3-megapixel camera with no video recording capability, a music player with standard 3.5-mm headset jack, 128MB RAM/256MB ROM with a microSD memory card slot that can handle up to 32GB cards (sold separately). Other features include voice-activated dialing and downloadable apps.
The Seek will come in eco-friendly packaging made from recycled materials. The packaging will include a free shipping label which will enable the purchaser to recycle their old phone. This is a great idea. All phones should come with eco-friendly packaging, and in fact, some other phones already utilize recycled materials in their construction. However, product packaging--recyclable or not--is arguably not a good determinant of the usefulness or value of the phone itself.
The real significance of the Seek is that once-premium smartphone features such as touchscreens and Exchange support are now found in low-priced feature phones. It also confirms the fact that mobile social networking is now seen as a central function of a phone. Deep integration with social networks such as Facebook is now a feature demanded in the mass market. Conversely, the Facebook experience is becoming increasingly a mobile, constant presence.
It will be interesting to see whether Sprint will allow innovative third-party apps into its app store. It will also be interesting to see whether apps purchased for the Seek will be locked to the device. One thing is certain: the frenetic pace of technological development will continue to drive handset competition in the market. Commodity phones such as the Seek will force the reigning champions, iPhone and Android, to step up their game.