Adaptive Path has a great design for mobile phones for rural India. Their study is absolutely correct. I know people who use the mobile more like a handy telephone. They never use the screen. They don't bother with the messages that pop up on-screen. Heck, they rarely use the phone for anything other than calling. And many of them carry a separate black book to look up telephone numbers. And this is by educated, well-to-do people. Imagine what the illiterate do.
Personally, I have an aversion towards touch-screen phones. (The iPhone in particular). I like the overall look and feel of the device. But I can't imagine using it on a daily basis. So I'm all for the Steampunk design. However, I also like slim and handy phones. That is where the Steampunk fails. It looks bulky.
This is not the first time that companies have tried to address the issue of newer technology in older / uneducated hands. JitterBug is one such company. Their target is older folk and young kids. They just used an older design and a simpler interface for the phone. This phone wouldn't win awards. But it was simple to use.
These two phones address the same issue. But I feel that they are both focusing on the area.
Its not the device, silly. Its the interface.
One of the few things that I like about the iPhone is its interface. I beleive that anyone can pick up the phone and start using it. Of course, it takes some time to get used to it. Still, its got a certain intuitive interface that is much better than any other mobile OS. The accelerometer is the icing on the package. Its drawback is the touch-screen.
Steampunk gets part of it right by having seperate buttons for each operation (like photos, music, etc.). UI however is equally important. Intuitive, adaptive and evolving interfaces are the ones that are going to get the masses. Many main-stream OSes are trying this out. Even software are getting this functionality. (Firefox's Awesome Bar, Google Chrome's new tab, etc.).
Still, this is a concept and as such is a good one. Whether it will work or even be implemented is upto the device manufactures. For now let's wait and watch.