Neonode Challenges Apple iPhone Over Navigation Interface

The Swedish company uses its "pregnant man" spin to promote its buttonless handset that executives will present at the 3GSM World Congress.

W. David Gardner, Contributor

February 9, 2007

3 Min Read

Neonode, a Swedish mobile phone developer, is twitting Apple over its iPhone by positioning its own touch screen handset against the Apple device at the 3GSM World Congress.

"Apple's iPhone and several other manufacturers can see the benefits of the concept and are now following the lead set by Neonode," the Swedish firm's announcement stated. Daniel Stalbo, Neonode's marketing director, said the firm will present "a whole new phone" at the GSM event. He declined to discuss the phone beyond that comment and beyond a brief press release issued Friday.

Neonode has introduced buttonless touch screen phones in past years, which has drawn mixed reviews from users.

The firm's first phone, the Neonode N1, was announced in 2003, but the actual delivery was delayed for several months. Its successor, the Neonode N1m was introduced in early 2005 and is a dual band GSM 900/1800/1900 device. Neonode's handsets, like the iPhone, operate on the European-developed GSM wireless standard. Neonode said its phone will be available in the spring.

By contrast, Apple's iPhone has been a minor sensation since its debut last month. In addition to its iPod and music playing capability, the iPhone has one-button and rather than utilizing a stylus, it features finger pointing navigation technology. The iPhone, which also has Wi-Fi capability, is scheduled to hit the market in June.

Rather than succumb to a popularity contest, however, Neonode is taking a tongue-in-cheek approach to the "My smartphone is cooler than your smartphone," debate.

The company's Web site notes that production is a little on hold at least until the conference in Barcelona because its chief product designer is expecting to deliver -- as in pregnancy. An interesting proposition considering the chief is Bjrn Svensson, a 42-year-old man from Sweden who has recently taken up yoga and chronicled his other exploits on his Pregnant Man Blog.

"I am counting the days now. This big belly-thing feels like an eternity," Svensson wrote. "Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into an eternity. I'm stuck in a never-ending rat race (forgive me, Lafayette [pet rat]). Today, I tried to walk around in a wig. Then, when I passed a mirror, I wouldn't react to my ugliness with upset tears and heartbreak -- I would just think that it was some stranger walking by. It didn't work. I passed a mirror and realized that I was a pregnant old lady with a bad hair day. Panic attack."

Neonode executives are also eager to note that -- like Apple's iPhone -- its handsets are also easily upgradeable and are patent-protected.

"We will be exhibiting a strong product which shows that one does not need to be the biggest to be at the forefront of development," says Tommy Hallberg, CEO of Neonode AB.

The Swedish firm recently announced that it will merge with SBE Inc. The combined firm will be located in Stockholm.

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