OnPoint by Keith Ng


The Road to Slobdition

For your Friday enjoyment, here are two YouTube clips. The first one is a positive and empowering message made by an advertising agency as part of a viral campaign for a company in the beauty industry trying to stab all the other companies in the beauty industry in the back. It's crisp, slick and fascinating.

The second one is a spoof of it. It's hilarious and merciless. Make sure you watch the first one first, and that you watch this next one right to the end. It's worth it.

In other news, this is my new Motofone F3. With the batteries out. Can I get a "woooooo" over here?


I like to call it the Headless Chicken trick. The neato bit is that the display is made by E-Ink, the company that's developing e-paper technology for Philips. The bistable display (once it's in one state, it stays that way) is based on the same technology as e-paper, though it has a resolution of about 200. That's like an old-school digital watch screen, but bigger.

It only uses power when it's changing states (i.e. going from black to white), and even then, it's still a lot more energy efficient than normal LCD screens, because it doesn't actually emit light. Like paper, it relies on reflect light (though it has a tiny backlight, too.

It's the most bleeding-edge piece of technology I've ever owned, but it's the least sophisticated phone I've ever had, too. Its bleeding-edge display is functionally equal to ye digital watches of yesteryear (see photo). It displays a maximum of 12 characters at a time, can't distinguish between upper and lower case. It has no 3G, GPRS, camera, Bluetooth or IRDA, which makes sense, because it doesn't have the memory to store nor the means to display anything that it would receive.

The whole get-up is designed for poor people in developing countries - rural India in particular. Its interface (no words, just icons and voices) is made for illiterate people and its designed with price in mind. It cost me, brand new, $60. It speaks English, French and Swahili.

Usually, I'd feel dirty about talking up a cellphone so much, but in this case, the sheer brilliance of this phone is an indictment of whole damn cellphone industry.

I am no cellphone luddite. I have been using big fat PDA-phones with touchscreens and internet browsers for a few years, but I'm just taken aback at how practical, intuitive and beautiful such simplicity can be.

It's a phone. It calls people.

It's such an elegant design, it makes me want to weep. Of course, it's not for sale in the US or Canada, and I'm not sure about it's availablity anywhere else (you can get it on TradeMe, though). And for good reason. If the idea of $60 phones caught on, phone makers wouldn't last very long. The whole industry is advanced through making people take unbearably grainy photos in inappropriate situations, download annoying ringtones in ever more annoying quality, etc.. What on earth would they do if people just wanted a phone that, you know, made calls?

I'm in awe that the designers had the balls to buck a decade's worth of industry convention and go back to basics in such a spectacular way.

Excuse me. I have to go and touch my phone now.

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