Ina Fried

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CTIA Notebook: While Most Phones are Getting Smarter, Snapfon Aims for Simplicity (Video)

While there were plenty of smartphones on display at CTIA, the Snapfon is decidedly at the other end of the spectrum–and proudly so.

Like the better known Jitterbug, the Snapfon prides itself on big buttons and simplicity, aiming at the growing market for seniors.

“Not everyone wants a smartphone,” said Snapfon Sales Manager Adrienne Powell. “You sell an inferior product, on purpose.”

Even the Web site boasts that the Snapfon is just a phone, not a BlackBerry or an iPhone.

The phone has been on the market for about a year and the seven-person Chatanooga, Tennessee, company has sold about 6,000, Powell said. In addition to the big buttons on the front, the phone has an LED flashlight and a large SOS button on the back that can make calls and send text messages to several preprogrammed numbers in the event of an emergency. The phone can also speak out numbers as they are dialed so those with limited vision can make sure they have dialed correctly.

The company sells the device and resells basic phone and text service from a small cellular carrier called PureTalk USA.

Phil Sieg, one of Snapfon’s founders, said he knows the industrial design of the initial model leaves a little something to be desired. However, he said there are newer models in the works that he thinks could pass testing for a big carrier.

“I’d love to be able to sell to them,” he said.

One of the interesting things is that while 80 percent of those using a Snapfon are between 70 and 90 years old, the vast majority of buyers are between 25 and 60.

“They are buying them for mom or grandma,” Sieg said.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work