Nothing worried the creators of the new Danger hiptop — a phone/organizer/Web browser/email inbox/instant messenger — more than the prospect of an indifferent reaction from a saturated market: "Great, another souped-up PDA." That's why the hiptop (www.hiptop.com), released this month at a cost of about $200, has a design that sets it apart from existing cell phones and PDAs. The screen fans out with a suave "pick a card, any card" gesture, exposing a small keypad only when you need it. To help you figure out who's calling, it can assign a unique theme song to everyone in your address book. "We wanted to make something that endears itself to users," says Matt Hershenson, Danger's senior vice president of hardware and operations.
But Joe Britt, Danger's chief technology officer, knew that it was also crucial for the device to evolve. "There were three technologies that were absolutely going to change: the display, the processor, and the wireless-network infrastructure," says Britt. To avoid becoming outmoded, the hiptop's architecture was built to support the newest technology in all three areas. And everything from its operating system to its calendar application can be "field-upgraded" automatically. "We can roll out improvements without the user doing anything," Britt says. Which means that the hiptop establishes a new customer expectation: Gadgets should get better the longer you own them. Obsolescence may be on its way to becoming obsolete.
A version of this article appeared in the July 2002 issue of Fast Company magazine.