Couples obsessed with mobile talk

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Keeping in touch by mobile phone has reached obsessive proportions for some couples in the UK.

One in three couples exchange over 10 calls and text messages each day, according to research from mobile phone firm Orange.

Within minutes of saying goodbye to each other in the morning, over 80% contact their partner to update them on their journey to work.

Ringing to tell your loved one you are running late at the end of the day is an obvious use of mobile technology with 81% using it to do so. But 74% also ring or text their partners in the morning to inform them that they are going to be late for work.

However, couples are less keen to get in touch when they are enjoying an after-work tipple.

Only 27% bother to tell their partner they are staying in the pub for another drink, while a quarter admit to telling white lies about being stuck in traffic when they have actually been enjoying an extra drink.

The phone is also proving useful to nag a loved one into doing something you have forgotten, with 67% picking up the phone for this purpose.

It can also be used in a more thoughtful way, with 42% checking if their partner wants anything from the shops.

And 28% of people use the phone to check what is for dinner.

The need to talk was a healthy one, said Brett Kahr, a senior fellow in Psychotherapy at Regent’s College in London.

“Before the era of mobile phones, husbands and wives had fewer opportunities to communicate with one another during the course of the working day,” he said.

“The fact that as many as 81% of mobile phone users ring or text their other halves on their journey to the office suggests a real, almost universal yearning to talk, something which mental health professionals have begun to recognise as a fundamental human need.”

Orange is launching a household mobile package, Talkshare Plus, which rewards customers for their combined loyalty with low cost calls and text messages.

Turning mobiles into objects of desire

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With worldwide mobile phone sales declining for the first time in the history of the industry, manufacturers are looking for new ways to tempt us to buy their new handsets.

Technological features as well as flexible and competitive payment options were previously viewed as key factors driving mobile phone purchases or upgrades.

But high market saturation along with the increasing expense of high-end models is limiting this kind of sales appeal.

Instead, manufacturers are increasingly emphasising phone design. Within this marketing strategy, the phone’s underlying technology is downplayed against its surface features.

The cover becomes more important than the book.

Some of the ways manufacturers are designing their phones to create distinctive products are familiar.

They include small sizes, unusual shapes, flip tops, colour screens, even joysticks as navigational devices.

Add to this list easy to rotate skins, or external cases, with different colours and textures.

This ability to change a phone’s appearance not only allows users to play with and accentuate their mobile’s design, it also enables phone companies to sell a wide range of add-on products at what is likely to be a considerable mark-up and profit.

Further phone features that accentuate lifestyle and design above the technology enabling them include voice-activated dialling, mini-cameras and radios.

Of course, this attention to product design does not imply that technological innovations in cellular phones are not emerging, expanding the market and attracting users.

Options and features such as Wap, GPRS, Tri-band and a version of I-Mode in the US are being launched or refined.

Keeping track of all of this is a constant group of early adopters keen to announce they are on top of the latest trend by flashing their newest gadget.

But even this audience does not seem to be purchasing the latest mobile features as they have in the past – even in the technological hothouse that is the Japanese market.

By emphasising a mobile phone as a piece of design, the phone manufacturers aim to get users to change their thinking about how cell phones fit into their lives.

Instead of being seen as a technology appliance permitting people to carry out a task, the phone becomes a fashion statement asserting the taste and style of the user.

The really successful design can even achieve another status entirely: the fetish object.

Mobiles cleared of ear tumour link

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Scientists have found no evidence that using a mobile phone increases the risk of a type of ear tumour.

The debate on the safety of mobile phones has see-sawed for nearly a decade, creating widespread public fear and confusion, and prompting a vast number of studies into the health effects of the phones, and the transmitter masts needed to relay calls.

The latest study was carried out at the New York University Medical Centre, involving 90 patients with a type of benign tumour of the inner ear known as an acoustic neuroma.

There are no established environmental causes of acoustic neuroma – but there had been concern that hand-held cellular phone users were at increased risk.

The radio frequency radiation emitted from cellular phones is absorbed superficially on the skin and bones surrounding the ear, and through the skull behind the ear. But the researchers found no link between increased mobile phone use and this type of tumour.

However, they say their study focused on short-term mobile phone use, and recommend more studies on longer-term users.

Researcher Dr Joshua Muscat said: “The risk of acoustic neuroma was unrelated to cellular telephone use. A slightly elevated risk was found for subjects with three or more years of cell phone use, but these subjects were also infrequent users.

“No association was observed with cumulative use, and we found no evidence of a trend in the odds of risk with increasing levels of exposure.”

In Britain, where there are more than 40m mobile phones, the government recently announced more than a dozen research projects on the possible risks.

The move followed an independent report in May 2000 that recommended limiting their use, especially in children.

These projects will cover a diverse range of diseases, including leukaemia and brain cancer, as well as whether mobile phone use might affect brain function, blood pressure, or the ability to drive.

The research is published in Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Mobile phone Ring Cycle planned

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A composer is planning to première an interactive symphony written for the ring tones of 30 mobile phones at a summer music festival.

Composer Simon Turner and writer Marcus Moore are due to give the piece, entitled New Ring Cycle, its world première at the Cheltenham Music Festival in July.

The pair plan to invite 30 phone owners to play the ring tones in the piece, which has yet to be written.

The 30 participants will be known collectively as the Cheltenham SIM-phone-ya.

Turner is planning a work of three movements, the first exploring the history of the mobile phone and the second featuring audience participation.

The third is described by Turner and Moore as “a celebratory finale”.

“The work is supposed to be a bit of fun,” said poet Moore.

“These mobile phones are like little Bontempi organs, and we thought we could use them together, just like an orchestra.

“You hear these things go off every day,” he added. “Perhaps we could use them to do something more interesting.”

The New Ring Cycle is due to be performed on 20 July.