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The growth of interest in simple mobile phones: Less could be more

mr neby smanjena
Redakcija BIF on 01/03/2016 - 10:10 in Features

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It is surprising to see how difficult it can be in the digital world to produce something different, says Norwegian Petter Neby. He is the founder of the Swiss company Punkt, which, after the success with an analog alarm clock, comes into the world market with another successfull product – 01 MP phone, specifically designed for conversation and messaging. The business philosophy of this company is to build the market position on devices that are offering the consumers what they really need, while the competition tries to make their products with more added functions.

What is the business logic behind the idea to venture into the making of the mobile phone which is designed to serve only for talking and sending SMS messages, in the era of smart devices, which are increasingly linking between themselves and are all the more close to unification? It may be surprising, but that logic is obviously making the profit, since the mobile phone model MP 01 of the Swiss company Punkt (Punkt.) – after appearing at the London Design Festival in September 2015. – sparked great interest and, despite a price of 295 euros, is making a constant growth in sales.

This is not a copy of the old, so-called 2G phone, but quite a unique device, says Petter Neby, the founder of the company. In addition to modern design, the phone is based on modern technology, it uses micro card, has a high-quality sound and much more space in the address book than the old phones (3.000), USB cable for communication with PCs, a battery that lasts 290 minutes of conversation, but – no internet.

The first batch is sold out, and not much copies are left from the second, and the placement of the third contingent on the market is already in the plans. Currently, the phone can be purchased in 25 stores around the world, from Paris to Hong Kong, but mostly through the online order form. Cell phone was sold in our region too, including Belgrade, but the biggest turnover is recorded in the Western European and American market. It only couldn’t be used in the countries that do not support the GSM standard – in Japan and South Korea.

Previously, this Swiss company, founded in 2008, has achieved commercial success with its model of analog alarm clock. Although in its work it uses the latest technology and – thanks to the “linked world” – employs experts in Italy, the UK, Japan and other countries, its business philosophy is that the most important thing is to produce the device which is offering the consumers what they really need, in the competition of those who are trying to add more features to their products.

How to produce an analog device in a digital world?

Neby, who introduced his entrepreneurial approach at the Belgrade Design Week 2012, says that he manufactured the aforementioned phone primarily for himself, and then for the market. “I noticed that, with the advancement of technology, people have more trouble controlling the use of cellphones, and that they spend all day on the internet and social networks, instead to use them for better organization of their time. This is not healthy. I do not think there are many people who have developed a dependency on listening to music, but research confirms that, every second, more and more people are using Facebook or Viber. People are trying to present themselves in the best light, spending time persuading strangers how fantastic they are in this, fake, virtual world, rather than to enjoy with those who really mean something to them in real life.”

His belief that the inability to control technologies – instead of them controlling us – is a source of many personal frustrations, and that belief is confirmed by the demand for the Punkt’s products. But, already with his first venture – the making of the analog alarm clock with the modern design, whose sole purpose is to wake their owners – Neby has run into problems that were not expected, least of all in Switzerland. It turned out, in fact, that in the digital world, it is not easy to find collaborators for this type of production all throughout Europe, therefore he had to turn his eyes to China.

A similar pattern was repeated in the case of MP 01 phone, says Neby. When they started to inquire how much time was needed for its production, they received a surprising answer from the manufacturer: “If you want something like the iPhone, it takes about six months from the idea to the finished product, and a different concept requires more time.” It turned out that it took four years to realize the idea and to go on sale. “Everybody have adapted to modern technologies to such an extent that anything different is a real challenge,” comments Neby, who, nevertheless, didn’t want to give up from the idea that he created with the artistic director of the company, Jasper Morrison, the famous British designer.

Asked whether there were comments about the price of the phone on the market, Neby responds that those who believe that it is too expensive for the features it offers, are not their target audience. “The users of this phone understand that this is a long-lasting product, which was not designed to be replaced with a more advanced model next year. Our clients are those who understand that we do not want to engage in overproduction which has no purpose. We are producing electronic devices that people will buy because of the functions they really need, not because of a lot of the other features, for which the question is whether they would ever be used.”

Why do we need artificial intelligence when there are robotised humans?

The founder of Punkt points out that his philosophy does not mean that he is against technological progress. The problem, however, is not the technology, but – he believes – the people. “Smartphones have appeared before the users were culturally ready for them. It’s as if you took a child in a candy store and allowed him to eat as much as he wants. The child will not have a measure, because it doesn’t know that the excessive consumption of sweets may be detrimental to it’s health. This is exactly what happened to us, adults, with modern technologies. All of a sudden, we have got a lot of options without being aware of the possible consequences of their excessive use. Therefore, I always emphasize that I am not against the progress of technology, but am rather for its moderate and practical use. That approach is advocated since the inception of our company”, says Neby.

He adds that the users of smartphones and other networked portable devices often aren’t aware when their privacy is compromised. Specifically, users of 3G and 4G networks can be tapped, and applications which they use every day mainly collect data about them and their habits, usually without their knowledge. With the old phones that was not the case, as it isn’t with the MP 01, which uses the latest version of GSM, before the mobile phones were mass-attached to the internet.

The company, according to the words of its founder, aims to show the people that new technologies may also impose a daily routine if you don’t have self-control and that it can be dangerous precisely because it is not sufficiently recognized. “Very often we talk about artificial intelligence and the risks it brings. But it seems to me that it is more important to address the fact that the people themselves are becoming increasingly robotised, because, among other things, they spend more time in front of the computer in a senseless and anxious way, and so they keep forgetting that they are intellectual and creative creatures, which can move mountains if they really want to.”

Therefore, during his working hours Petter Neby also uses a smart phone, in addition to MP 01, but when he goes to home he diverts calls to his simple personal mobile phone. And e-mails and notifications, he says, can always wait until tomorrow.

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