BusinessWeek: The handset maker went to citizens of Mumbai, Rio and other megacities for new ideas—and got designs that find graffiti, test water, and emit peace vibes
By Kerry Capell
In the three rapidly growing cities of Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, and Accra (Ghana), Nokia’s design team set up open studios where members of the local community could sketch their dream phones. Nokia provided the space and the drawing tools, and more than 220 people offered up their vision of the ideal handset. Pictured is Sam from Accra with his design. Nokia asked participants to address the following questions:
- What does it look like?
- What does it do?
- How will you use it?
- When and where will you use it?
Other questions were aimed at providing Nokia’s researchers with deeper insight into the broader issue of identity within these fast-growing urban environments. The team gleaned information on participants’ tastes, style, personality, profession, religion, sense of heritage, and community. Some of the participants knocked off sketches in 20 minutes, while others spent two full days on the project.
Click on for a look at 15 of the remarkable mobile phone ideas generated by consumers around the world.
As a pastor in Accra, Joseph’s job is to help people get to know God. He loves recording church activities, so his design includes a three-hour video recording feature and displays Bible verses every time the phone is turned on or off.
Alexander is a computer student in Accra who lives alone in a refugee camp. He feels for his friend’s grandmother: her eyes are not very good and so she struggles to use her phone. He designed a phone for people with vision problems who can use voice-aided keypads that read out the inscription when pressed. The phone is shaped like a foot because it symbolizes progress.
Elizabeth is a dance instructor from Rio who took a more surrealist view. She wants a mobile phone with a peace button that when pressed will emit a sound wave that brings peace to any argument, fight, or even war. She designed the phone for stressed or violent people.
For this participant, phones are much more than a communication tool: They can also be a means of survival. The idea behind this bottle-shaped phone is to help carry drinkable water, a valuable commodity in many of the shantytowns Nokia visited. This phone also can act as a float, enabling people living in these towns to survive in extreme conditions such as floods. In the words of the participant: "It’s my style of phone because is helps you and others to survive. I would like to help others with my phone."