Rid your mind of thoughts of Steve Guttenberg, for I refer not to the classic 80's movie about old people getting their groove back by swimming with alien pupae, but rather to the new handset from O2.
O2 have been the only operator to move along their value chain into handset production and their latest effort is a thing of beauty. I know this because the nice people there have sent me one as part of their research / seeding efforts. [UPDATE: Tom reminded me that this isn't true - Orange have the SPV for example. My bad.]
I'm a big fan of using research as a seeding programme. In essence, you target a bunch of people who fit your core audience [or, as in the case, a bunch of bloggers] and send them pre-release product for free, asking them only for feedback on the user experience. Obviously you don't ask them to promote your product - this would completely backfire and you really don't need to.
There is a well documented phenomenon in research known as the Hawthorne Effect. When under observation, people change their behaviour or performance. This was first observed in a factory when productivity went up because they were being watched.
But the definition has been broadened to include any effect on behaviour triggered by increased attention. So, to return to our seedingsearch, by giving people free products pre-release and asking their opinion you both flatter their ego and make them predisposed to like whatever it is you're asking about. Although you may try to be objective, you already feel warm towards the brand. Basic politeness dictates you aren't rude about a gift.
Plus, since you've got a new toy, you naturally want to talk about it, which is exactly what I'm doing now.
I've had it for a while and it's cute - all iPod white and soft to the touch clamshell. It probably isn't geeky enough to be my primary phone - I need an HTML browser and I can't find one for it yet - but otherwise I've been pretty impressed.
O2 consulted with some design agencies to build the thing and there is evidence of some well utilised insights. On the outside the white surface can also display blue text - so you can see the time or who is calling without opening it. It has a cradle that turns it into an alarm clock [the most used function on mobiles after voice and text is the alarm clock.]
Oh and last night when I walked into the O2 dome [I saw Prince - he was COMPLETELY AWESOME] the wallpaper changed on the phone to a picture of the O2 and the soft keys changed, allowing me to access maps of the place and get into the O2 areas and that, which was a nice touch.