Monday, Nov. 19, 2001

Disposable Cell Phone

Inventor: Peter Michaels, Hop-On Wireless

Cell phones are supposed to make our lives easier. So why do wireless companies keep packing them with pricey extras—like color screens, Web browsers, games and e-mail—that most people don't need? Now several companies are developing stripped-down, single-use models targeted for casual users who just want to take a cell phone on vacation or stash one with their emergency flashlight. One of the first to market will be the Hop-On Wireless (shown here) priced at $30 for 30 min. of talk time. To keep costs down, the device (about the size of a deck of cards) contains only a quarter of the components found in a typical cell phone. It doesn't take incoming calls, and there's no keypad or display. Instead, users plug in an earpiece (included) and speak the number aloud; voice-recognition technology converts the sounds into digits and places the call. To activate the phone, users simply push the green call button. Color-coded lights indicate when the 30 min. of prepaid talk time is running low (yellow) or out (red). The lithium-ion batteries will last for up to two years, so your minutes will probably run out before your batteries do.

Availability: In December, for $30
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