Knock, knock, Neo

For years now, mobile phones have become less like technology and more like fashion — to be discarded in six or seven months’ time, like last season’s hiphugger jeans and cargo pants. There is no better evidence of this than Samsung’s recent announcement that they’re producing a new phone themed on the next Matrix movie. If you go to the official site for the phone, you get the obligatory mysterious Flash animation, and a quick shot of the phone itself. A still image is pictured above.

Three points here, really:

1) What the hell is the big deal with The Matrix? I’m as big a geek as anyone, to the point where I get kinda slightly turned on by the mere sound of phone-tones and modem squalling (an acoustic signature heavily fetishized in the movie, and the web site). And who hasn’t pondered the deeply cool metaphoric valences of cyberspace, particularly after reading True Names and Neuromancer? But the Matrix — I mean, it kind of sucked. Everyone keeps on prattling on about how deep it was. Deep? It was a pre-chewed, B-side remake of the Cliff’s Notes To Socratic Thought, for god’s sake! I’ve read better stuff in high-school philosophy textbooks.

2) While I would truly love to own a phone styled in the gloriously sleek-yet-steampunk aesthetic of The Matrix … this thing by Samsung looks like ass.

3) You want to really live in the future? Forget this Matrix-phone stuff. Get a Danger Hiptop! I’ve had mine for three months, and can now barely leave the house without it. Outside of having portable IM, email, SMS, a camera and a quite good web-browser, the damn thing looks like a tricoder on steroids, and every time — every. single. time. — I pull it out of my pocket in public and flip the screen up, I can hear audible gasps from onlookers as they worship the strenuous awesomeness of my geek street cred.

In fact, you can play some really fun tricks with the IM client. A month ago, I was heading back to my girlfriend Emily’s apartment in Manhattan. I went into her building, up the elevator, and just as I got to her door, I logged onto IM — and sent her the instant message “Knock, knock, Neo.” A half-second later, I knocked on her door. She totally dug the reference, and cracked up.

(Debate alert! Since so many people are rabid Matrix fans, my little screed here has prompted several heated defenses of the movie in the discussion thread here. No one as yet has defended that ugly-ass phone, though.)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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