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Mobe-maker flogs self-designed phones ... to your KIDS

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UK mobile phone company OwnFone is pitching a £55 handset which can only call up to 12 pre-programmed numbers, betting that the ability to create your own buttons and colour scheme will blind users to the price.

OwnFone is a brand spun out by CyCell, which already provides customised handsets locked to the Vodafone network for Parkinson's sufferers and Addison Lee employees, but with OwnFone the company hopes to break into the mass market and has provided a cheery video showing how the process works.

The idea is to create your own credit-card-sized handset with two, four, eight or 12 pre-programmed buttons. The phone can receive incoming calls, but has no keypad so can only dial and loaded numbers and can't send (or receive) text messages at all.

It hasn't got a screen either, just a couple of buttons for volume and one to switch off the phone (which promises a shelf life of over a year, in the hope of appealing to the glove-compartment demographic), making it simple to use and of limited value to a thief.

The product isn't explicitly pitched at children, though that's clearly the target audience. The company reckons an OwnFone might be ideal to take clubbing or somewhere else you might want a disposable mobile, but a Nokia 100 would have a better battery life for a lot less money, and for a tenner less than an OwnFone one could get the infinitely-more-attractive Motorola Gleam.

The OwnFone dose have that retro feel, and limiting calls to a handful of labelled numbers might have value to some people though that can equally-well be done on the network side these days. At more than half a ton (plus a minimum of £7.50 connection charge) you'll have to really like the look of the phone, or really hate LCD screens, to make it worthwhile.

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