Why I’d pull the plug on Marshall’s smartphone

Let’s face it, your smartphone is your most important accessory. It goes everywhere with you, and spends more time out and in your hands than anything else you own. You want it to look good – and you want it to be competent, too.

Why I’d pull the plug on Marshall’s smartphone

Companies often treat accessories as a bit of potential brand extension. There’s the Ferrari watch, the TAG Heuer sunglasses, and Mastercard golf umbrella. So, the theory goes, why not a branded smartphone?

You can almost imagine the meeting where Marshall, a brand synonymous with rock and roll, decided to create an Android smartphone and name it “Marshall London”. Considering the product, we suspect it was a particularly soulless meeting, where the creative highlight was the mid-meeting doughnut break.

It’s not that it looks bad. It has a nice textured edge, and a black and gold colour scheme does its best to hark back to the products Marshall is actually best known for – the fridge. Or should that be baseball caps? Actually, no, it’s cigarette lighters.

Of course – as is customary with branding exercises like these – the company has thrown in a “5-band equaliser”, which will most likely help users transform their music into a mess of overboosted highs and lows. This, at least, does have something to do with what Marshall is all about: headphones. I think at some point they made some other stuff too, but that’s lost in the mists of time.

marshall london smartphone

You can also turn it up to 1.1 with the London; it features two forward-facing speakers, so it’s perfect for tinny, ear-splitting riffs for those times when you forget a proper speaker. There’s also an M button for access to your favourite tunes even faster. And the most interesting bit? The London features two audio outputs, so you can share your music with a friend – truly rock and roll.

A distinct lack of imagination continues throughout the handset. Marshall has found a 4.7in 720p display, and backed it up with respectable 2GB of RAM and a tiny 16GB of storage. There’s also an 8-megapixel camera for taking pictures of all those rock gigs Marshall hopes you go to, and the battery is 2,500mAh – so only large enough for moderate rocking. The London’s dedicated DAC means it can handle FLAC files, but high-res audio is an entirely different can of worms.

Who would even buy this?

Marshall is without doubt one of the most distinguished, British brands of our time. Founded by Jim in 1962, Marshall Amps became the dominant force of rock and roll in the 1960s – and it’s stayed there ever since.

No rock or metal band is complete without racks of the brand’s black and gold stacks behind them, and models such as the JCM800 have achieved revered status among those in the know. There’s no question, Marshalls are the definitive amplifier – but will never be a worthwhile smartphone. Despite countless lines of marketing fluff, the Lamborghini smartphone will never convey the spirit of a £250,000 sports car. In the same way, the London will never be remotely related to a Marshall amp.marshall london phone

Smartphones aren’t always about defining yourself as a person, they’re about functionality, convenience and usefulness – with style thrown in if you’re lucky. iPhones, Android phones and even Windows Phones do their jobs perfectly, even if they aren’t as culturally relevant as we’d hope.

Unfortunately for Marshall, Lamborghini, Commodore, Bentley and countless others, smartphones are not an area where consumers are likely to show how down for a brand they are. Worse still, Marshall is actively damaging a brand that’s taken years and priceless endorsements to build.

Although it looks good on the surface, why would anyone commit to spending a reported $590 (£369) on a phone that looks a bit like an amp you like? It’s likely Marshall won’t have worthwhile manufacturer support, and the wait for the next Android update will be longer than Chinese Democracy’s.

For all those reasons and more, it’s likely that the extra input and black and gold finish will get old very quickly.


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