What makes this month’s issue of Entertainment Weekly so special? Not smoking-hot soccer mom Tina Fey vamping on the cover. The reason is inside: A 2.3-inch LCD screen insert that runs live video and tweets for the CW Network’s (not so) fresh lineup of shows. Wait, that’s not an ad. That’s a smartphone!
That’s right, a bona-fide 3G android device. For the cover price of $3.95, you’re getting a cellphone along with your Hollywood news. Whoa.
The dirt cheap smartphone is a modified ABO 810 budget smartphone made to display tweets and trailer previews for the CW network. It comes complete with a wireless connection, a T-Mobile 3G SIM card, camera, speaker, USB port and QWERTY keyboard. All under a thick layer of card-stock paper. Retail value: $40 to $90. Sentimental or collector’s item value: Through the roof.
Apparently, the device was made in Foxconn’s factory in China, according to its handset motherboard. That factory is busy.
In my awe at this superslick advertising move, I went out to buy the magazine, take the ad apart and see if I could hack the phone and use it to make a call. Hey, if the guys at Mashable could do it, so could I. Was I overly ambitious or downright arrogant, given that I have little to no phone hacking or jailbreaking experience? No way. With the beauty that is Google, I found a couple quick guides, scrounged up a screwdriver and scissors, and went down to the corner store ready to make the buy and get cranking.
Right away, I found a copy of the issue. But something seemed wrong. I flipped through the pages, and found . . . nothing. Just a usual pesky subscription insert. Where was the ad? Had Mashable perpetrated some kind of cruel joke? I knew I couldn’t trust those guys . . . and yet . . .
I checked the date, asked the guy behind the counter: Everything checked out. But the smartphone wasn’t in the issue.
I went down the street to St. Regis Liquor. They had Paris Match and Variety, but no Entertainment Weekly. Confused, I trudged home, dragging my steps, and hopped online. After a few clicks, I learned that EW only printed 1,000 copies with the phone insert. It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon, Pacific time. The likelihood of finding a copy was dwindling.
Frantic, I called King’s Newsstand in West Hollywood. Nothing. Then I called World Book and News on Fairfax. No answer. I dialed Al’s Newsstand in Beverly Hills. They had it! But did they have one with the phone in it?
“I have customers here, I can’t open the magazine,” the irritated merchant told me.
I asked him to save one for me and raced over. Twenty five minutes later, I was flipping through the issue, palms sweaty, brow furrowed. No dice.
I went home a beaten man.
Entertainment Weekly’s coup wasn’t the first print-magazine video ad, but it certainly was the most clever. Here’s a look at what I (and probably you) missed: