Cellular users may be throwing away their phones by the end of this year.
Following the lead of companies touting disposable razors and cameras, Telespree Communications has unveiled plans to introduce a partly disposable cellular phone into the U.S. market by year's end.
The Telespree phones with AirClips, disposable clip-on battery packs that keep track of how many cellular minutes are left, will be priced at less than $30.
The AirClips will be sold in 60-, 90- and 120-minute packages at drug stores, supermarkets, gas stations and other retail outlets, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based company said.
Once they've used all the prepaid minutes, consumers can keep the colorful handsets and throw away the battery and airtime packs.
"Like the razor blade in a razor, the AirClips can be changed. That is the only truly disposable part of the phone," Telespree chief executive Alon Segal said Wednesday.
Marketed as simple and easy to use, the phones have only two buttons and utilize voice recognition technology. To make a call, the user simply presses the on/off button and says the number. Telespree users also will be able to develop on-line speed dial lists.
"Imagine giving a wireless phone to your 8-year-old child so he can call you to pick him up after school by saying, 'Call home,"' said Segal.
Segal said the new concept in prepaid phones will make cellular a technology that is "everywhere for everyone."
A voice message will greet a disposable phone user, telling him how many minutes are left on the airtime pack when the phone is turned on.
Bryan Prohm, a senior analyst with Gartner Dataquest, doubts the disposable phones -- with their limited usage capability -- will compete in mobile markets with major companies such as Nokia, Ericsson or Motorola.
But Prohm said he thinks they could "acclimate the more timid consumer to the wireless market."
Segal agreed, saying that the phones are targeted at senior citizens, pre-teens, travelers and "those who find the devices today too confusing or complex."
This first Telespree model only makes outgoing calls, but versions that can receive incoming calls could arrive within a year.<