By the time Google Project Ara’s modular smartphone will become a reality, there will probably be a lot of other 3D printed mobile phones on the market and, what they will lack in terms of “smartness”, they will offer in terms of personalization and convenience. That is the concept that is driving the OwnFone and, apparently, it is shared by those that count, since the UK start-up has just secured £786,000 (that’s around $1 million) in funding.
We covered OwnFone a few months ago when it was first announced. The device’s 3D printed keys allow for raised, Braille text for the visually impaired, and their proprietary technology opens up even more possibilities. While Google Project Ara was already on the horizon even back then, we did see a large potential for the OwnFone, both as a tool to simplify life for people with disabilities and seniors, or as a cool, colorful, and personalized item for children and teenagers.
As Nigel Litchfield, the Nokia Mobile board member who led the financing round, stated, “We all acknowledge the near-global ubiquity of the smartphone, but this doesn’t mean such technology is the right product for everyone, all the time. In fact there are plenty of occasions when a smartphone – expensive, energy consuming and complicated – is an unnecessary hassle.”
The funding deal also sees co-investors Renaissance Capital Partners and government-backed Angel CoFund pitch in to make this their 50th investment to date. The money will be used to further develop the product (which is already available and can be personalized and ordered through OwnFone’s online editor) and boost marketing efforts over the next 12 months.
Since 3D printing has lowered the entry barriers to products’ manufacturing, we no longer need to have highly advanced, complex, and expensive products. Sometimes it is the simplest items that meet our specific needs and turn out to be the most useful. And, when you need to call one person, the most useful thing you can have is a mobile phone that simply has that person’s number on it.