With the cellphone industry increasingly hit-driven, phone designers are plumbing the consumer psyche through cultural experts and focus groups, reports the New York Times. "Our job is to be behaviorists and psychologists," says an exec. Competition has heated up as consumers buy—and discard—phones at an ever-faster rate, with the most trend-conscious getting a new one every 9 months.
Competition from newcomers like the iPhone has led industry experts to obsess even more over customers' wants. Nokia executives holed up in a California farmhouse recently for a retreat aimed at predicting consumer desires over the coming 15 years, and LG trolls home-design shows. Early adapters' word of mouth is crucial, says a Motorola exec: "If they like it, they will tell their friends." (Read more cell phones stories.)