Nokia and Microsoft have unveiled handsets that pander to the younger generation's newfound addiction to social networking sites Twitter and Facebook - but should mobile handset makers rely on social networking aggregation software to sell their devices or are hardware features still important to consumers?

On April 13 Nokia announced the launch of three new handsets, the C3, C6 and E5. The devices have been streamlined to offer consumers round-the-clock access to their multiple email accounts, IM communities and social networks.

Microsoft also revealed two new "Social Phones" on April 12, marking the company's entrance into the mobile phone market with their long-rumored Project Pink devices. The Sharp-manufactured phones, known as the Kin One and Kin Two will be marketed as Windows Phones and have "social networking built in to the fabric of the phone," letting users broadcast and share everyday moments.

The advent of the iPhone had device manufactures scrambling over themselves to release the next generation of "iPhone-killing" handsets - complete with high-resolution cameras, HD video recording, HD touchscreens and an operating system that was capable of turning your device into a full-fledged mobile PC.

But a sub-trend has emerged during the past year that has seen the release of an increasing number of "Social Phones." These devices, while not as (hardware) feature rich as their smartphone counterparts, capture the power of social networking and provide a connected-lifestyle experience for younger consumers that want all of their most important information aggregated within one place.

According to market researcher Gartner, mobile phone hardware features will continue to become less significant in 2010 and user experience will rule the mobile market.

During 2009 there was a marked shift from hardware to software and applications. "Technology for the sake of technology stopped being important and technology enhancements mattered only when they improved the overall user experience," explained Gartner in a March 22 research note on the key issues for mobile devices in 2010.

"Many of the technologies that will continue to receive a lot of attention in 2010 will focus on mobile device user interfaces," said Gartner.

With handset makers' focus on developing rich user interfaces for their consumers, people can expect to see an increasing range of lower-priced Social Phones appearing in stores within 2010.