Its bid to reshape the market, based on technology and not competitively priced services and handsets, may fall flat Incessant collecting or upgrading to the latest brand of mobile phone is a longstanding foible of Hong Kong people. Whether they are similarly discerning about their choice of mobile operator is another matter. The struggle between operators and manufacturers for a hold over the customers' affection and loyalty exists in all markets. Do you use Vodafone, Sunday or are you just a Nokia user? Can the bundle of services a carrier offers ever be enough to create a distinctive brand - more importantly, one that customers will pay a premium for? Hutchison, with its launch of '3', aims to build a new market as it does not differentiate between its 1.9 million customers at Orange and potential new ones - no one will receive handset subsidies. As the upfront cost of the latest handsets typically dwarfs monthly tariffs, Hong Kong customers long accustomed to 2G subsidies will find this hard to swallow. More so when they see the hefty sweeteners 3 users are offered elsewhere in the world. Nokia's first push into 3G handsets looks destined to strain Hutchison's attempt to segment 3 into a new premium market. While Hutchison is used to being a big player in most markets, not so next to Nokia, which will probably be more concerned with Vodafone's 3G timetable and handset preferences. Nokia's new 7600 model seeks to minimise the differences between technology standards - 3G becomes a mere add-on to its existing offering. Sold as an 'imaging phone' emphasising camera and video functions, 3G is conspicuously missing when you examine its myriad of features. In fact, the technology standard WCDMA is noted as one of its dual bandwidths which operators can chose to activate. Not surprisingly, it seems designed for operators seeking to seamlessly migrate users from 2G to 3G, which is, in effect, the rest of the market. The Finnish giant's trump card is its lead in the more illusory street cool stakes. It wants to ensure your peers are aware of what Nokia you carry and be less concerned if it's a '3', 3G or 2G. From a marketing perspective this is diametrically opposed to Hutchison's strategy with 3, where the technology is the defining selling proposition. Given this, it might come as a surprise to learn that this model is Hutchison's second-best seller in Hong Kong. But here it is sold by Orange as a 2G phone since the 3G capability has not been activated. As such, this phone can work in Japan on a WCDMA network but not on that same standard in Hong Kong. At some future stage, the potential for this 2G phone to switch itself into a 3G one raises some interesting marketing issues. Sold under the Orange franchise, this 3G disabled phone still qualifies for handset subsidies. Some of Hutchison's higher spending 'Orange supreme' customers can get a 40 per cent discount on the $3,780 handset price, plus a few hundred dollars trade-in on an old phone. Neither of these concessions is available to Hutchison's Orange customers if they subscribe to the 3 service, which makes it effectively much less competitive at around $4,380. Granted this phone does not have video conferencing but perhaps Nokia measured the distance between one's ear and eyes. Ultimately, Hutchison's attempt to reorder the mobile market looks destined to fall flat. Competitively priced services and handsets count far more than technology standards. And it looks as if Nokia's new phone may underscore just that point.