When Phones Were Fun: The Xelibri Experiment (2003)
Imagine sitting down to breakfast with one of the biggest companies in the world and being told this. We need to do something bold, something nobody expects. I will give you budget personnel marketing products, prices and distribution. All i want from you is to go out and change the world. The year was 2002., the place was munich’s hotel, byrisher hof and the man with the sweet stash was rudy lamprecht of german tech giant siemens, whose mobile division was at the time the world’s. Fourth largest cell phone maker, the man on the other side of the table, was george appling, an american consultant, whose acceptance of that offer would lead to what he once called the greatest job imaginable. Appling’S team would go on to build a family of cell phones, unlike any the world had yet seen promoted by a set of commercials, the likes of which, i hope never to see again. But just two years later, this journey into tomorrow would be cut short and a year after that, with its phone division, losing 1.5 million euros per day, siemens abandoned a 20 year legacy and left the mobile space entirely. This is the story of excellebry yep it’s really pronounced that way, and no uh excelebree doesn’t seem to mean anything. What’S more important is what it’s not while siemens was and is a mammoth german conglomerate respected for its tech prowess. The effort it would take to parlay that reputation into something that resonated with fashion buyers was thought to be tougher than just starting from scratch.
So much like bbk electronics would spawn the hip one plus brand. Over a decade later, siemens incubated excel bre as a kind of in house startup, con oltre 40 employees working on its fashion, focused phones by the end of 2002.. Why fashion well think about the world? Excelabry was entering just after the turn of the century. The mobile landscape was in the midst of a dramatic shift from the utilitarian expensive kind of clunky handsets of the late 90s to the smaller, more affordable and more attractive cell phone of the early aughts. This was the era of the motorola v60, the samsung a500, the ericsson, t68 phones small and attractive enough that they started to become status. Symbols excellebry leaned hard into that shift, veering away from traditional phones of the type siemens had always sold toward a future of chic accessories. That just happened to make phone calls the best way to illustrate that is to show you some of the very rare samples that made this video possible. These come to me on loan from friend of the channel valentinos, who managed to chase down four of the eight phones. Xcelibre would eventually release in its first and only full year on the market. Just so, you can get an idea of how weird these phones really were. Take a look at a siemens handset typical of the period while the sl56 is attractive and absolutely tiny, even by the standards of the time it’s also fairly conventional.
You know screen control, collective sliding keypad. Next to that, the excelabry 2 looks like a prop from 2001’s star trek enterprise, its integrated belt, clip ensuring that you could show it off, even if your vulcan jumpsuit didn’t have any pockets. The track connection is actually legit here. The phone’s internal nickname was apparently alien, beauty and accelera’s whole first collection of four phones was named space on earth in an apparent nod to george appling’s trekkie roots, but that collection wasn’t launched at a star trek convention. It debuted at a splashy london fashion, week, party in february 2003, con un 450 flat screen stage: a production crew of 55, a helicopter and an invite list of 1300 that included boy george and christina aguilera. Alongside the alien beauty that i have here, there was the retro futuristic classic the dark hero and something extremely rare for the time, a phone with no keypad worn around the neck and controlled almost entirely by voice. The collection went on sale later that spring, not on shelves and pedestrian phone shops. No, but alongside jewelry cases in department stores, a high profile launch befitting a high concept product with a fairly high price to match between 230 e 360 dollari. Unlocked now it’s, not clear. Exactly when siemens realized it had a problem on its hands, but my guess would be fairly shortly after launch. Reviews from the period are almost impossible to find because accelerate only launched in a handful of markets, but what user experiences are still out there on the web? Are almost uniformly negative had the same problem nokia did during the same period.
If you wanted unusual designs, you had to settle for unusual keyboards and in the heyday of sms text, messaging, changing your keypad to something that obliterates, the user’s muscle memory that’s, just a horrible idea. What’S more! These are seriously some of the worst keys. I’Ve touched they’re, minuscoli, c'è, almost no traveler feedback, and you need to press so hard that it almost hurts to type to make matters worse. The accelery 2’s software is sluggish, even though all it has to drive is a 101 da 65, black and white display in an era when color screens, like samsung’s with a new hotness. This panel looks like the same one from the nokia 3310 launched almost three years. Prior, all the phones in the first collection used a common reference design. So with all of them, you could count out data features ir bluetooth, mms, none of that was there and the worst sin of all they felt cheap. The accelery 2’s creaky lightweight build is totally outclassed by its contemporaries, even those from siemens itself. This actually hurts really. The only bright point i could find on this thing was the ringtone library. Music accelerate, took a different approach with its fall winter collection. Another batch of four phones released in october 2003 under the banner fashion extravaganza. Interessante, the work of designing this collection was outsourced to a firm called ideo which counts among its achievements, one of apple’s first mouse designs, as you might expect.
This second collection got even wilder casings to go with new color screens, which made it possible to squeeze a little more fun into the phones in the form of these little animated bitmaps. You could send in the early mms days look at these kind of proto animojis. Sono triste. I am confused i’d use these today, it’s great anyway, accelerate was still big on pushing the wearable concept, In questo modo il 5 came with a keypad guard that latched into a lanyard, so you could wear it around your neck. Nel frattempo, Le 7 looks like a normal phone until you turn it sideways to reveal it’s actually from cartoon world yeah. I always thought this was some kind of folding clam shell, when i saw it in pictures, but really it’s just shaped like this, so you can clip it onto a pocket or purse. I don’t have the eight, but it appears to be a peanut shaped. Follow on to the excelery 3 pendant and the most distinctive of the whole lineup is perhaps the most lampooned of all early aughts cellphones, the accelery 6.. God can you imagine question? Is that a makeup compact or is it a phone answer? Why not both uh combining the horrible keyboard of the two with the cheap construction of well, all of them, the accelerary six didn’t, need a competitor to showcase its shortcomings, but panasonic built one anyway. I had to snap this up when valentino’s linked me to the ebay auction.
The panasonic g70 of 2003 had the web browser high res display and cover display the accelerary 6 lacked in a much smaller casing that traded the embarrassment of a compact look alike. For that of a birth control, pillbox look alike. Look i actually like this form factor as a kid. I loved pinkie’s magic compact on the noozles and the turtlecom from tmnt, just like the kids of 2001 loved the com powder from totally spies, but these were supposed to be phones for adults, discerning high powered adults who watched cable tv, an interview with campaign at the Time accelera’s vice president of marketing, said we knew our communication had to be as provocative as our phones well, between the ad designed by mother, london and the one directed by david, fincher, i’d, say mission accomplished Music. When all was said and done, anche se, no amount of provocation could provoke enough people to pick up and accelerate by the end of 2003. The division made up less than two percent of siemens total handset sales about 720 000 units. Secondo, they were subjected to massive markdowns in an effort to move inventory, the last of whatever sheen that may have remained completely fading away when they were dumped from chic boutiques to bargain bins at discount supermarkets and in may of 2004. Siemens pulled the plug on the whole excelary experiment. It was a bloody nose for the company that kicked off the millennium, saying it wanted to take over the cell phone world and for reasons unrelated to xcelibre.
The situation would only get worse a year later, with its mobile division, losing 1.5 million euros per day. Siemens would sell the whole phone business to benq where it met its final inevitable end in 2007., it’s easy to look back with perfect, hindsight and point out all the places accelerate went wrong, but in research for this video i was surprised at how much foresight the Folks, behind this brand actually had, while today’s phones are too big to serve as fashion accessories. Wearable tech has become a fully realized category unto itself. Excelabry also correctly predicted that people would someday buy phones, unlocked in more markets than just europe and carry different phones for different situations, opening an opportunity for manufacturers to try to accelerate the phone upgrade cycle and phones did in fact become the status symbols xcelery wanted them To be with collaborations, between manufacturers and designers, now common, but my favorite thing that anyone got right from this whole story belongs to george appling, the consultant whom siemens recruited to build accelerate in the first place. As he told outsmart magazine when i was 35, i wrote stop far ahead in my calendar on the day. I would turn 40.. The notation was to remind me to finally stop working for other people and do something that i love appling took his own advice. He would go on to co, found the sherwood forest, fair east of austin texas, fulfilling a lifelong goal of merging his business background and personal passion for the rest of us still obsessing over 18 year old cell phones.
The takeaway is complicated. You could say that all the bold choices we board phone reviewers call on manufacturers to make have, in many cases already been made, and the cost has often been higher than the reward. But failure is almost always a combination of factors and, while accelerate definitely made plenty of its own missteps. I tend to think that the parent company siemens is largely to blame for its own situation. dopo tutto, you don’t just go from one of the biggest phone makers in the world to selling off a money losing business that quickly without a lot of fundamental issues. Maybe that’s a history i’ll plumb, another day for now i’m glad i finally got to learn about excelabri maker of some of the weirdest handhelds ever made from an era when animojis were 8 bit christina aguilera headlined tech parties and phones were fun thanks again to valentinos. For the dedication and patience it took to corral all these devices and loan them out to me and to an incredibly detailed report from slash data that documents much of excellebry’s history, quella, along with all of my extensive source material, is linked below. And if you have your own memories or experiences with accelerate devices, please share them in the comments below and subscribe. So you don’t miss the next episode of when phones were fun until next time.