Not-so-simple facts about Vodafone Simply

Vodafone’s Simply handset range has been a pioneering approach at unique handset customisation from a mobile operator. Not only does Simply effectively target a niche segment which craves easy-to-use handsets, but it does so by redefining the entire user interface and hardware ergonomics.

Since May 2005, three Simply handsets have been launched; the Sagem VS1, a silver, stylish handset, the Sagem VS2, a simple black candy bar design and the Sagem VS3, a silver flip-phone design.

Vodafone Sagem Simply VS1Vodafone Sagem Simply VS2Vodafone Sagem Simply VS3

Here’s some not-so-simple facts about Vodafone Simply that I uncovered recently:

1. Coming soon: the fourth Simply handset
For those that were wondering if the line of Simply handsets had been a long-term strategy for Vodafone, the wait is over. The GCF (Global Certification Forum) lists the ‘Vodafone Simply Sagem VS4’ handset as having been certified on 24 May 2006. [updated] According to this post, the VS4 will have a slim form factor.

2. It wasn’t just a Sagem job
Some little known facts about Sagem’s Simply handsets: The UI and information architecture were designed by Vodafone’s in-house User Experience team, which collaborated with US-based market research firm UsableProducts for usability design and testing, while the hardware design was by IDEO, the US-based industrial design house also credited with designing Apple’s mouse in 1980. As for the software, it was designed by a Paris-based UI technogy company.

3. Simply is targeted at the 34-54 year-old segment
If you were like me, you ‘d have thought that the Simply handsets were targeted at the elderly segment. A Vodafone presentation from June 2005 states otherwise. Apparently, the Vodafone Simply proposition, comprising of handsets, customer service and dedicated calling plan, has been designed for a consumer segment the operator calls ?adult personal users?. This segment is the largest in Vodafone?s market segmentation, made up of 35-54 year olds, married with children, mostly female, with a low comfort or interest in technology. Makes sense.

4. The simple handset paradigm is becoming popular
Apart from DoCoMo’s Raku Raku and TuKa’s S phone, there have been attempts at creating simple handsets in US and Japan. US-based Jitterbug for example is planning to launch their Samsung-designed handsets with a three-button interface, while Austrian-based Emporia is soon to launch their EmporiaLife handsets with completely redesigned hardware and software, including a big red emergency button on the back. If handsets weren’t so much about fashion and personality, I bet most people would opt for a simple handset that does voice and text really well and does away with the 80% of the functionality that only 20% (or rather 2%) of people use.

One thing is for sure. The market for uniquely customised handsets is rapidly emerging aided by Customised Design Manufacturers such as Modelabs and tier-2 OEMs such as Alcatel, of ELLE GlamPhone fame. The ‘simple’ handsets are but one segment that uniquely customised handsets will cater to.

As Apple says, one has to think different!