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Mobile-rola Increases "Collateral Annoyance" With Smellphone
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IZTHATMEE, IL - Analysts are optimistic about the new line of cell phones by Mobile-rola. The so-called "Smellphone" technology -- superceding "ring-tones" -- on which the line is based is meant to help the company reassert itself as a world leader in cell phone technology.

"We looked at our market, we talked to cell phone users, we wore out a ton of shoe-leather," reported Guy Landers, head of market research for the Consumer Products division, "and what we saw was that people were spending less time talking on their phones than they were playing with the ring-tones."

Ring-tones are the various ways that a phone can alert the user to an incoming call. Most cell phones on the market combine this with caller-id and a personal phone book to allow the user to assign specific ring-tones to certain callers. In this way, the user can regularly annoy their coworkers and fellow public-transportation riders by using MIDI-fied 80's music, for example, as ring-tones.

"There are web sites dedicated to the subject," said Landers, "some people even charge for access to their ring-tone libraries. We recognized that if we were going to stand out in the 'collateral annoyance' category, we were going to need to go beyond ring-tones." Timothy Roop is a researcher for Mobile-rola. He spearheaded the company's plans to create a new, more annoying way to alert users of incoming calls. "It's not about the user, they set it and forget it, and in a few days they don't even notice it. It's about the bystanders that are annoyed by it, but are too polite or too shy to say anything. We asked ourselves, 'What can we do to make it even worse for them?' When we finally asked the right question, we found that the answer was -- quite literally -- under our noses the whole time."

Smellphone's take combinations of a few base odor-causing chemicals, combine them in a chamber, and then release them using a small burst of gas, to generate a wide range of smells. Like ring-tones, different smells can be assigned to different callers. Unlike ring-tones, however, the smells linger after the call is answered. Roop: "We're calling that the 'on-going annoyance' or OGA Factor. With ring-tones, the only way to accomplish any serious OGA was to use loud, universally recognized music -- Fur Elise, for instance -- to get it to keep running through the bystanders' minds after the call is answered. Typically, with a recognized song, set to maximum volume, you could expect an OGA of maybe 5.4. But a smell is a whole different animal. Smells have all kinds of memory triggers built into them, and of course they linger in the air for some time. All told, even a nominally pungent smell can give you an OGA of 9. Seriously rank odors can hit 15."

Consumers attitudes were mixed. Most people we surveyed preferred a tone over a smell, but they did admit they would be more bothered by a strong odor coming from someone else's cell phone, than a loud sound. "That's music to my ears," Roop told us, reviewing our poll results, "and it's what our research shows, too. Early adopters are always a small group, it's not surprising most people think they wouldn't like it. But once the core group converts, the rest will follow."

A ring-smell development kit is available on Mobile-rola's web site. The units ship with five built-in smells. The Smellera and higher models include an editor to create new smells right on the phone. The odor-generating canisters -- so called SmellCell's -- are only available from Mobile-rola. A company insider says that third-party distribution should begin in the second quarter of 2004.
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