HTC thinks that buying a pink rhinestone case for your smartphone isn’t enough to proclaim "I am woman" to the world. No, the company wants to eliminate all doubt that we belong to the fairer sex by making a soft phone just for us ladies.
While it's not officially geared toward women (HTC's press release calls it a phone for "people who require advanced features but want a phone that is sleek and fits seamlessly into their lives"), the just-announced HTC Rhyme is clearly designed to meet all our feminine needs. Specs include a single-core 1-GHz processor (no need for dual-core power when we’ll just be texting anyway), automatic Facebook uploads for our photos, and a pretty plum color.
But that’s not all the girly goodness: HTC adds in a cube-shaped charm that blinks to alert us of new e-mails, calls, and messages (this will clearly be helpful when our phone is buried in a bag) and a dock that functions as an alarm clock (because we're too dumb to realize our phones can act as alarms). And since we're obviously watching our weight, HTC will offer an optional armband so we can work out with the handset. The asking price? $199, the going rate for superphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch. Oh, and did I mention that the Rhyme is 3G-only?
Sarcasm aside, it's hard for me to jump on the bandwagon for a product that specifically targets women—especially when that product is something as gender-neutral as a smartphone. What can the Rhyme do for us females that another Android handset or iPhone can't?
Based on our first hands-on impression of the Rhyme, it looks like HTC has tweaked its Sense software to make navigating Android easier. The clock is more subtle, which makes room for slide-out dynamic shortcuts that let you glance at incoming messages or the last few photos you've taken. I have no complaints about these changes, but I have to ask why this simplified interface is showing up on a device that's targeted at women.
Does HTC think men can handle digging through a more complicated system better than us slow-witted damsels? Are ease of use and the color purple really the company's marketing angles for pitching the lady-centric Rhyme?
As someone who has far too many Hello Kitty phone charms than useful or necessary, I'm all for getting girly with smartphones, laptops, or any other device under the sun. But if HTC wants to pander to the female demographic, it oughta know that we want the same thing from a smartphone as guys. Yes, an intuitive interface and attractive design are important, but so are fast 4G download and upload speeds and a higher-res screen than 800 x 480.
While HTC may not be admitting outright that the Rhyme is a phone made for women, it's clear that it's meant for a female audience. And hey, I'd even venture so far as to say that the Rhyme could be a good phone—if the price were cut by at least $100 and the gender-specific frills were stripped away. But until this happens, I think the Rhyme needs a more appropriate name. How about the HTC Pander?