Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Active Billabong Edition is another wasted opportunity

Sony Ericsson Xperia Active BillabongSony Ericsson has announced a limited edition of its Xperia Active smartphone, after teaming up with extreme sports clothing brand Billabong.

The Xperia Active Billabong edition comes with a redesigned rear panel, plus a wealth of branded material stored on the phone, such as wallpapers, videos, screensavers and a special surf game.

The phone remains the same as the standard Active, with Android 2.3 Gingerbread (although the Active will be getting Ice Cream Sandwich in the future), a 1Ghz processor, a 5-megapixel camera and a 3-inch touchscreen. It’s a tough little thing too, with water resistance to a depth of one meter, a dust-proof coating and “wet finger tracking,” where the screen still recognizes input from damp fingertips.

While the phone is undoubtedly good-looking, it’s really just another example of a wasted license, a lazy trap that phone manufacturers have been stuck in for years.

Fashion Phones

Licensed special edition phones have been around for many years, but very few ever do much to convince us they’re worth buying over the standard phone. It seems they’re really aimed towards creating “brand synergy” and all those other awful marketing terms, rather than inspiring consumers.

This covers a whole host of similar special edition phones, and over the years we’ve seen models endorsed by Fender, Ferrari, JCB, Lamborghini, TAG Heuer and even those dedicated to the Royal Wedding.

Fashion houses have also been collaborating with mobile manufacturers for years, with Prada, Armani, Boss and D&G all having put their name on a phone. The results vary from the garish — D&G’s Motorola Razr for example — to the surprisingly classy such as the latest LG Prada 3.0.

But occasionally manufacturers get it just right, making it even more perplexing when yet another half-hearted attempt is released.

Film Tie-ins Work Best

One recent brand tie-up that almost got it right is the Nokia Lumia 800 Dark Knight Rises Limited Edition. The matte black paint job and the Batman logo looked great, but as it was limited to only 40 models worldwide, they had all sold out before most people had even heard of the phone.

There is however, one special edition smartphone that does standout, and that’s the R2-D2 Droid 2. Why? Because someone really thought about what would be cool, instead of simply slapping a name on the chassis and hoping for the best.

For those that don’t remember, the phone had an R2-D2-look rear panel, came in a “carbonite” box and had a Star Wars dock and headset included, plus all the usual special software bonuses.

Yes, it was still limited, but not to the point where no-one could buy one. A quick scan of eBay reveals there are a few available used too, and at around $200 with all the kit, a far more affordable option than the single Dark Knight Rises Lumia 800 for $660.

With the amount of all-too-similar looking smartphones on the market, perhaps a few more manufacturers will make the effort to release some inspired limited editions over the coming months. Who would you like to see?

R2-D2 Droid 2