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Get set for desi ‘app phones’

Last week, I wrote about the pains and the confusion that customers can go through in choosing a smartphone – because the advertising hype is deafening, while applications are mushrooming, writes N Madhavan.

india Updated: Aug 15, 2010 23:54 IST
N Madhavan

Last week, I wrote about the pains and the confusion that customers can go through in choosing a smartphone – because the advertising hype is deafening, while applications are mushrooming.

And then, I heard of a new way that phone-makers could crack the problem.

Chennai-based Munoth Communications said it was launching mobile phones tailored to Indian requirements. These include a handset for senior citizens with a large keypad, bigger screen and a torch-like switch.

It has a red button that activates a siren and can send out SMS messages to relatives, friends and even doctors. The device, with a GPS (geographical positioning system) feature, can alert anyone to help locate the person.

I admire the design imagination and customer sensitivity that has gone into all this.

Munoth’s products are a lot like that of Sumeet, a mixer-blender brand, which won the hearts of Indians because it adapted a Western product to suit the heavy-duty needs of housewives who want to make not an omlette but a rice dosa using heavy batter.

Munoth’s Rs 2,500-phone, assuming it has other engineering features that give value for money, is giving me the idea to create a new category of handsets, which I call “App phones” – because they have focussed applications in hardware and software.

Brands such as Nokia have phones targeting the youth and rural folk, but Munoth shows how much sensitive design can take the same old product significantly forward.

Japanese watchmakers once adapted North-pointing compass-enabled watches to design watches that would point to Mecca to help Muslim customers.

Like the Apple-made iPad, the Munoth phone shows there is plenty of scope for innovation in smartphones with sensitive design — and they can be made by Indians, for Indians.

Happy Independence Day.