Siemens covets style over substance

German phone-maker Siemens, known as one of the biggest of budget brands, is looking to grab a larger slice of the youth market.

The company's new range of phones, dubbed Xelibri, will be marketed not for their features but for their style.

Rather than relying on traditional channels such as telecommunications carriers and electronics stores, the company is selling its new phones and accessories through department stores and fashion outlets.

Most phones have a shelf life of about 18 months, but Siemens hopes to shorten that by bringing out annual Xelibri lines, with new devices launched as spring-summer and autumn-winter collections.

It is a strategy Siemens calls 'a bold move to reinvigorate growth in the mobile phone market ... And at a time where design is a top purchase criteria, the timing is just right to introduce radically new designs.'

This has been done before. Motorola gave the same argument for its V70 last year, as did Sony-Ericsson with its tiny T600 and Panasonic with its even smaller GD55.

But unlike its rivals, Siemens is choosing to play down its phone's features. The company has not announced any specifications; these are likely to be revealed at Germany's CeBIT trade show next month.

There will not, in any case, be many features to boast about. Its small monochrome display will put the first Xelibri at a distinct disadvantage with the flashy new colour handsets from the competition. For feature-rich phones targeting the youth fashion market, try Motorola's E380 or Nokia's 5100.

The first handsets are due in April and will be launched in Hong Kong, the mainland, Singapore and Europe. The rest of the world will have to wait until September.