Samsung x Armani Phone Has Some Good Tricks; Update: “Rape”?

samsung-p520.jpg

Co-branded “fashion phones” have typically been a snooze (discounting the shock to the senses one gets when looking at their price), all fancy materials but no fancy brains. It’s much harder for a no-name Chinese company to clone gold than software, although I’m sure they’ll figure that out in time.

The new “Armani Phone,” built by Samsung and dominated by an iPhone-like touchscreen, includes two software features that will, for a short time, set it apart. A “rape alarm” can be activated by pressing the volume control four times, causing the phone to automatically text message up to five preprogrammed numbers. Those contacted can in turn activate the phone’s GPS tracking module.

Thankfully, I can’t find any specific reference from Samsung or Armani describing this function as a “rape alarm,” a term that seems somehow insulting, as the only reason a person would need to use this function is if they were raped, or that the fashionable are more likely to be sexually attacked than those less stylish. (I’m not making a joke here, should you not be laughing; just noting a weird turn of phrase from the news.)

The other feature of note helps locate stolen phones:

The £375 Armani phone also has its own kind of Lojack in the event it is lost or stolen. If the SIM card is removed and replaced with a new one, a text message containing the phone number associated with the new SIM card is secretly sent out to three preprogrammed numbers.

That is a fine feature.

Armani Phone Combats Rape and Theft [Switched.com]

Update: This “rape” alarm thing is really sticking in my craw.

I can’t find any official references to either the term or the functionality in Samsung or Armani press releases. (I’ve put out a request to Samsung for clarification.) As far as I can tell, the term first used by the Daily Mail in a caption.

I may be bristling too much, but this is strange on many levels.

• The phone, while a “fashion” device, is not necessarily being marketed only to women. The Daily Mail story referenced the first two pre-orders coming from Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson, for instance. There is also nothing overtly feminine about its design.

• An “I’m in danger” alert could be useful in a variety of situations, not just rape.

• This may say more about my connotive instincts about the word rape than others’, but it seems like the term and the scenario it implies presumes the phone will be used by women—and that women are more likely to be raped than men (which seems to be true by a factor of 10). To presume that the most common attack on women is rape, however, smacks of fear mongering (if the term was used by Samsung/Armani) or misogyny (if it originated with the press).

• The alert feature, if it even exists, is not an inherently effective rape deterrent, certainly no more effective at preventing rape than it could be at preventing other kinds of attack.

None of this has to do with questioning the overall merit of the alert feature. If it worked reliable, it could clearly be a useful tool for those in danger. (User interface implementation and false alarms aside.) It’s just strange that so many people are using what appears to be such an inaccurate and emotionally volatile word.

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8 Responses to Samsung x Armani Phone Has Some Good Tricks; Update: “Rape”?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for pointing out the strangeness of the “rape alarm.” It raises a lot of interesting speculations about why it was used. From the little info I have I am thinking just something provocative by the Daily Mail.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Well, it is the Daily Mail, the newspaper that supported Moseley and expressed hope that discovering a ‘gay gene’ could lead to aborting gay fetuses.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daily_Mail#Support_for_Nazism_and_Fascism
    It’s founder, Lord Northcliffe, once noted that the paper aimed to give its readers “a daily hate”.
    So, if a Daily Mail article pushes your hot-buttons, that’s because that is precisely what it’s intended to do. That’s how that paper operates.

    Second best advice? Don’t give it the publicity, any more than you would A** C***ter

    (Best advice being, just don’t read it in the first place. Better for your blood-pressure that way.)

  3. Subspace says:

    Frankly, I’m shocked that it doesn’t have a “terrorist alarm” on it for notifying the authorities to your position when you sense someone nearby might have a working knowledge of electronic components.

  4. Tubman says:

    Joel, these aren’t new features: I bought the cheapest phone I could find for our babysitter a few months ago and it was a Samsung with both of these features. The Lojack thing was definitely called Mobile Tracker, while the so-called rape alarm went by the name of Emergency SOS Alert, or something along those lines.

  5. pork musket says:

    Hmm… rape alarm is no fun. If it had a pie alarm that would go off when I walked by a place with really good pie, that would be awesome.

  6. dculberson says:

    Yeah, I agree that it’s probably misogyny on the part of the columnists. The term “distress signal” would be much more appropriate, and has the benefit of appealing to both genders.

    Not to mention that “rape alarm” instantly makes me think “DO NOT WANT.”

    Pie alarm, though, would be incredible.

  7. Tom says:

    It is likely that men under-report rape at a considerably higher rate than women. Also, for all violent crimes other than rape men are victimized at rates a factor of two or more higher than women, in part because women are better than men in avoiding situations where they might be victimized.

    On the basis of the numbers violence against men is a far bigger problem (far more men are victimized) than violence against women. This is not to say that violence against women is not a very bad thing. But an alien looking at our society might think it odd that we pay so much more attention to violence against the sex that is far less victimized.

    So to call an emergency signal a “rape alarm” is just one more example of this prevalent bias.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I’m agreed with you. That diction is so bizarre… I’d say almost anachronistic.

    Not that it would have been any “better” were it the 1970s, but hell-o! It’s 2007! It’s so out of touch it’s almost excusable, like when old people make racist comments.

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