I’ve recently found out about Modu, a company based in Israel developing a new concept of mobile phone. At first sight, modu is just a very small mobile phone (smaller then an iPod Nano), but what is really cool and most important about this device, is that it comes as a central part of a whole ecosystem. Users will be able to slip their modu into a variety of modu jackets, an evolution of what we are used to call “covers”, or into modu mates, devices like video players, navigation systems or digital cameras.
Modu jackets provide users with a new look for their phone, but also additional functionalities. For example, if you slip your modu in a blackberry-like jacket, your modu becomes a business phone with a QWERTY keyboard, if you slip it into a multimedia phone jacket, you get a camera, music controls and an embedded speaker. Slip it into a “modu kid” jacket, and it becomes the perfect phone for kids, with big buttons and special keys to call mom and dad. Companies can design their custom branded jackets and provide them in partnership with modu.
A modu phone can give connectivity and additional features to modu mates, that can be all kind of gadgets. If modu will get the traction and critical mass needed for device makers to adopt the technology, modu users will be able to slip their modu phone into a digital picture frame, a camera, a gps device, etc. Visiting modu’s website you can get a good idea of “jackets” and “mates” that could soon be available.
This is quite smart: by building a modu mate a consumer electronics manufacturer could get a device with communication capabilities and connectivity while saving a lot of the time and effort required for development and approval from operators or regulation authorities like the FCC. There are lots of devices for which connectivity and communication capabilities would make a lot of sense, but replicating a whole mobile phone is just not worth the hassle. Bluetooth, of course, is a good and already popular alternative.
Unfortunately this phone doesn’t seem to provide WiFi access and not even 3G. For a phone that should give connectivity to other devices, relying on GPRS seems not a good choice, probably forced by space constraints. WiFi would be a perfect fit, giving fast and cheap connectivity when at home (think cameras, digital frames, video devices).
Modu plans to start selling the phone in October with Telecom Italia in Italy, OAA Vimpel Communications in Russia and Cellcom in Israel, for less then 200€ including a jacket.
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