This week at Mobile World Congress, Panasonic launched what is likely the exact opposite of the iPhone and it is actually more expensive than an iPhone. This phone has a street price of $1,500 and will eventually run Android as well as an option, for $100 more, to run Windows 10. It is targeted at a highly professional focused user and, unlike the iPhone, which is often bought by individuals, this phone will almost entirely be bought by companies. But I think it showcases what we often miss in the phones we buy.
I’ve always been a tad fascinated with Panasonic as the first computer I bought myself was a Panasonic, as was one of the first cell phones I owned, and the first stereo I bought myself.
Let’s talk about the Panasonic FZ series of phones which are about as far from an iPhone as you can find on the planet.
A Phone That Could Save Your Life
The Panasonic FZ series are part of an industrial class of smartphone designed for folks who need to do a job. The “killer feature” of this phone is a barcode scanner set at 45 degrees so you can both see the screen and use the scanner (most phones in this class put the barcode scanner on the top which makes the phone thinner but makes the bar code scanner far harder to use because you can’t see the screen to aim the scanner.
While an iPhone would be hard pressed to survive a fall from 4 feet onto a hard surface without cracking its screen, the FZ phones are tested to survive a fall from 6 feet and are to survive up to 2,000 3 foot drops. Also, while the iPhone is pretty much toast if you get it really wet, the FZ is designed to survive in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes and to survive in rain nearly indefinitely.
An iPhone (and most phones generally) have trouble getting through an entire day with the screen on, the FZ can last seven hours with the screen on and fully powered up all of that time - twice that if it is used like an iPhone typically is. An extended battery option doubles this to 14 hours of continuous use and 28 hours of occasional use.
While it is often difficult to hear someone who is in a noisy environment from the other end of the phone, FZ actually has intelligent noise suppression for outbound voice. If even at full volume we often can’t hear someone talking to us over the phone, the FZ pumps out a massive 100 dB of sound (that is about as loud as a snowmobile or motorcycle).
In short, if you needed a phone to work when everything else didn’t, this is the phone that is designed to do that. Target customers are the military, police, fire and rescue, hospitality, and technicians. I might add any parent who has had to replace 3 or more iPhones in a given year (little Johnny won’t break this one nor will it likely be stolen either).
While we clearly don’t need a barcode scanner on our personal phones, the idea of trading off extreme thinness for far more battery life, a nearly unbreakable design, and the assurance that the phone will work every time we need it to, might be worth it. All of this is clearly the opposite of what an iPhone is and showcases that some of the trade-offs we make for beauty may not be the best ones and that maybe, just maybe, a better phone would be one that is far more robust and long lasting than what we typically have today.
There is an ongoing discussion of course. But keep in mind, that just as there was a market for a consumer Hummer and Jeep, there may be a market for a consumer version of a phone like this. Until someone makes one, the Panasonic FZ-N1 (Android) and FZ-F1 (Windows) represent the most advanced military grade phones in the market. Semper Fi.
President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
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