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Lobster 485

 Lobster 485 Discontinued
11th June 2005

Let's be clear from the start - the Lobster 485 is a real phone and not some prank that we've dreamed up (unlike the EUROPHON-1 and Dynatac 2004). We thought we'd better make that clear, because at "Lobster" seems like a strange name, but we'll come to that much later.

Let's start with the basics - the Lobster 485 is a handset exclusive to Virgin Mobile in the UK, which features a 128x160 pixel TFT LCD panel in 262,000 colours on the inside, with a 65,000 colours external display, VGA resolution camera, GPRS, Java and a WAP 2.0 browser. It's a very lightweight handset indeed - the Lobster 485 weighs just 68 grams making it one of the lightest phones on the market, and it is certainly an impressively lightweight phone considering the twin displays and camera. The diminutive weight of the Lobster 485 comes at the expensive of battery life - talktime is about 2.5 hours with around 7 days standby time. There's no email client, and this is only a dual-band phone too. The Lobster 485 is aimed at 16-30 year olds.

The Lobster, Micro Snapper and the Far East Connection

The 485 is the first phone in Virgin Mobiles "Lobster" range of exclusive handsets. In fact, the Lobster 485 is actually the Bellwave Neo100 handset, a Korean manufacturer that is not well known in Europe. Bellwave's range of phones includes some attractive and interesting handsets, along with some fairly ugly little units - and as you can see from the above specifications, the Neo100 / Lobster 485 isn't terribly exciting in technical terms. However, it's an interesting and distinctive looking handset which will make a change from the usual range of mobiles that most carriers have, and it can be bought for around 90 or less which is good value for money.

 Lobster 485 closed This is not the first time that Virgin Mobile have imported an unusual handset from the far east. The Virgin Micro Snapper came out in time for Christmas 2004 and was a rebranded Okwap handset available exclusively to Virgin. The Micro Snapper sold well, so it seems that Virgin Mobile have followed this up with the Lobster range. We don't know who exactly will make the other handsets in the Lobster range, but we suspect that we'll see more Bellwave and Okwap handsets.

The Evolution of MVNOs?

But there's something a little more significant here - the Lobster range of phones is unusual considering that Virgin Mobile is not a mobile phone network in its own right, but an "MVNO" (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) that simply leases capacity from T-Mobile. But the "Virgin" name is all about branding, and the lobster range reinforced Virgin Mobile as a unique brand. Most customers won't know what an MVNO is, but they'll recognise the brand and if Virgin can maintain its reputation for good value and combine it with some snazzy exclusive handsets, then it's quite likely that they will continue to take market share in the UK. And there's no reason at all why Virgin Mobile couldn't take the same principle and apply it to other markets where the operation, such as the USA, Canada and Australia.

Will MVNOs such as Virgin eclipse the traditional networks? Well, it certainly seems that Virgin and the other UK MVNOs have something to offer customers, BT Mobile being another good example. And MVNOs modelled on Virgin and similar operators are springing up worldwide.

Why "Lobster"?

Virgin haven't officially said why they have named their phones "Lobster", but we think it's a very clever name. Firstly, Lobsters are red like the Virgin Logo, and secondly it is quite possibly inspired by Salvador Dali's Lobster Telephone designed some 70 years ago. Quite how many customers will get the joke is difficult to say.

The Lobster 485 is available now, with other Lobster handsets due for release during 2005.

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Virgin Mobile Lobster 485 at a glance

Available:

Now

Network:

Dual-band GSM

Data:

GPRS

Screen:

128x160 pixels, 262,000 colours (main)

Camera:

640x480 pixels

Size:

Compact clamshell
78x38x22mm / 68 grams

Bluetooth:

No

Infra-red:

No

Polyphonic:

Yes

Java:

Yes

Battery life:

2.5 hours talk / 7 days standby

 

 

 

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