July 26, 2014

OwnFone Launches First 3D-printed Braille Phone In Australia


Fortunately this phone is available in many countries.

Australia’s vision-impaired community has a new and affordable connectivity tool at its disposal as the world’s first braille mobile phone launches in Australia.

The stripped-down OwnFone handset -- there’s no touchscreen, no text messaging and no voicemail -- can be programmed with up to three personalised numbers, each dialled from 3D-printed buttons labelled in braille.

It’s the 3D-printing technology has enabled the British company that produces the handsets to bring costs down for vision-impaired consumers.

“In the past, the cost of developing a braille phone versus the market size has been a barrier to entry,” OwnFone’s UK-based inventor, Tom Sunderland, said.

“3D printing provides a fast and affordable way to overcome this barrier.”

Through a wholesale partnership with Vodafone, Australian customers can now purchase the handset from $89, with a range of pre- and post-paid price plans starting at $2.35 a week.
OwnFone has been selling its handsets in Britain for the last 2.5 years. Its Australian operations, headed by Brad Scoble, launched in April with the release of non-braille handsets designed for elderly and primary school-age children.

“The only difference is in the design of the phone,” Mr Scoble said.

“Kids and seniors have the option of words or images as buttons, whereas people who are blind have braille.”

At $69, OwnFone’s non-braille handsets are even cheaper, but Mr Scoble told Business Spectator the cost of producing the braille version is higher.

“Braille is a very unique language and the alphabet’s very lengthy, so we had to make some modifications to the phone to make it user-friendly,” Scoble said.

Additionally, the manufacturing process requires each individual handset to be customised, with users providing up to three contact numbers (for example, of family, friends, carers or Triple Zero) which are then pre-programmed into the handset and printed on the front in braille.

OwnFone consulted extensively the vision-impaired community in Britain in developing the product to best meet users’ requirements.

Mr Scoble said the handset had been “very well received” in Britain because it was “very simple to operate”.

“There’s one-button dialling and any-key call-answering, so there are a few features about the handset that make it quite different,” he said.

Local vision-impaired advocates are also welcoming the product.

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network disability policy adviser Wayne Hawkins said the affordability of the OwnFone handset was a “positive addition” to the choices for the 35,000 or so consumers in Australia who are blind.

Mr Scoble told Business Spectator OwnFone is currently working on a new handset and will “potentially” look at moving into the popular wearables space as it continues servicing its target seniors market.

“We’re looking at how best to meet the needs of the community, through for instance how to tie the handset in with hearing aids and improving the way the handset will provide voice feedback to customers as well,” Mr Scoble said.

“We’re certainly not in the business of trying to compete with smartphone people.”

By Hannah Francis 

With thanks to The Australian

From You Tube:

Tom Sunderland, the UK-based inventor of the OwnFone, talks about it's special features, including being able to change the phone numbers at any time due to the Cloud technology this simple 'dumbphone' utilises.

OwnFone is a mini, light, low cost mobile phone that just calls the people you need; simply press the name of the person you want to call. You can have up to twelve names on your OwnFone and it receives calls too. It's about the size of a credit card so you can keep it on you at all times.

Use your OwnFone day to day or as an emergency phone. It is rechargeable and in Shutdown mode your OwnFone will last up to a year without a charge.

It comes in a wide range of colourful designs so there's an OwnFone to suit everyone.

For more information, visit www.ownfone.com.au