Buy Our Superior Celluloid Cylinders

M., brandishing new telephone: I find it a bit difficult to actually make phone calls, but it’s great for the internet. No, I really like it. The battery’s hopeless though.

Me: How often do you have to charge it?

M.: About every two days. I thought it was defective at first.

A fun mental exercise is to think of an old product that has been superseded by a newer one, and imagine that their roles are reversed—would you be able to sell anyone the old product as a replacement for the new?

VHS tapes, for example: more intuitive seeking than your old DVD player; no unskippable gubbins at the start; the tape remembers where you’d got up to if you stop and restart; easy to record and re-record on. Very practical!

Awful picture and sound quality though, and much too big. Probably wouldn’t sell all that many, but you’ve at least got the beginnings of a promotional campaign there. You could have a crack at it.

Similarly, DVD looks pretty promising as an improvement over Blu-Ray, being superior in almost every practical detail.

I can imagine trying to flog LP records as an alternative format to digital audio, with quite distinct areas of strength, though I can’t see all that much hope for CDs in between.

Selling your “All-New Feature Phone” as a low-cost, lightweight, miniaturised upgrade for a smartphone would be tricky. Popular new technologies often involve new input methods, and users find it very hard to go back. But if you had to try, you could make a pretty good start by talking about batteries.

Imagine being able to go on holiday for a week or more, and still stay in touch without having to ever worry about finding a charger. That’s what the latest battery management technology exclusive to “Feature Phones” brings you!

The original iPhone reintroduced the sort of comically short battery life familiar to those of us who had mobile phones in 1997 or thereabouts, and since then phones seem to have been going about the same way as laptops did during the 2000s—a series of incremental improvements consumed by incrementally more powerful hardware, meaning we ended the decade with much the same order of magnitude of battery life as we started with.