OwnFone: A minimalist reimagining of the cellphone
August 27, 2012
Modern-day smartphones like those produced by Apple and Samsung have put a bunch of cool features into our pockets, turning the mere portable telephone into a computer, personal organizer, games console, and more besides. OwnFone, however, takes the opposite approach, offering an inexpensive, easy to use handset stripped down to the bare essentials.
OwnFone’s spartan interface features just enough buttons to cover the basics. The handset sports a minimum of two, and a maximum of twelve contact buttons, each of which is printed with a contact's name which corresponds to a predefined number chosen upon purchase. The user simply selects the relevant contact name to make the desired call. The few other buttons turn the phone on and off, answer and hangup calls, and adjust
Remaining buttons are cover on/off, answer and hangup, and volume adjustment. There's no support for SMS messaging, no display (a blue light indicates that the phone is ready to place a call), and, obviously, no keypad to dial numbers with.
OwnFone measures 7 mm (0.2 inches) thick and weighs 40 g (almost 1.5 oz), which is around a third the weight of an iPhone 4 and significantly thinner. The device's battery is good for around three days, or if you prefer to keep it switched off, a recharged battery should last about a year. It also supports call-forwarding, so you can divert calls from your smartphone if doing something potentially hazardous to expensive gadgetry.
When purchasing an OwnFone, customers are able to personalize the phone’s color and design to their taste. A monthly plan can be chosen at various price points, starting at £7.50 (US$12) per month for 50 minutes of calls. Should one ever wish to change the numbers on the OwnFone, this can be done for free by ringing the OwnFone helpline, while new contact buttons can be purchased for £5 (US$8).
Clearly, OwnFone’s distinct lack of features and basic styling are unlikely to get technophiles hot under the collar, but the device’s very simplicity could make it a good fit for children, the elderly, and those with learning difficulties. With no numbers, but only names to press, OwnFone makes communicating via cellphone very easy, and an upcoming braille will only enhances its accessibility.
At present, OwnFone is only available in the UK at a price of £55 (US$86). The inventor of the OwnFone explains the device in more detail in the following video: