Phone mount for a car. How I created my own product. Step 1
I started to create my own phone mount by observing my own needs. It was a breakthrough experience that changed a lot in my life. I think that the best businesses start with observing their own needs.
But you cannot do anything by force. I will spare you wise advice like “look around you” or “what your neighbour needs”. This is nonsense, which is good for American textbooks about achieving success in three days. Just wait for an idea. And take notes. You can take notes on your phone, you can carry a notebook with you. The important thing is that you don’t get one idea into your head too long, just write it down – and move on.
Once there are a lot of these ideas, I’ll tell you in time what ways to get rid of them and verify them. And for the time being, to make the waiting more pleasant and to give you an example from life, I’ll tell you how my idea for phone handles was born.
Business starts with the client’s need
Every business responds to a customer’s need, whether or not they are aware of it. The need is at the beginning of a chain that together gives an idea for a business, or else a business model:
I will tell you more about it another time. So far – a description of the need to which I tried to answer.
Do you know this situation?
You drive a car, the phone rings. At least to see who is ringing. Maybe it is something important. You are looking blindly at the next seat, it should be there somewhere. Ah, here it is. It’s a shame he just fell between the seats. So what, stop and look for it, or wait those 40 minutes until I get home?
Then it always turns out that there are 5% batteries left in the phone… 🙂 Do you know it? I do.
What then? Then you will need a good set, which will consist of a loudspeaker, a microphone and something that will hold the phone somewhere in a visible place and not allow it to discharge yet. If you are lucky and have a new car, you probably already have a handsfree system. If not, you can buy a handsfree set attached to the ceiling cover for less than PLN 100. I use such a handset:
However, the problem of an unloaded telephone remains. Whether you own an iPhone or one of the Android headphones, you probably have the same problem as me. No matter how hard you try it, there is a miserable 20-30% battery in the afternoon. And sometimes 5%.
And that’s when the boss rings… And sometimes the phone is in your pocket, sometimes in your purse, in the driver’s seat or another of the fifteen seats… Where was it?
Phone mount – analysis of competition
The idea of a cool phone holder was not born immediately. In the beginning I tried to do with what was in the shops. And there was really a lot. But The available products had obvious disadvantages:
- appearance, look, look – black plastic dominates, often not the best quality,
- most often no charging function,
- it takes two hands to put the phone in the holder.
A phone mount from Kenu – Airframe
I have tried to find something that did not have at least one of these disadvantages. It turned out that there were several such products. The undisputed market leader is Kenu with its model Airframe:
I have a special relationship with this model because its creator Ken Minn showed for the first time that the phone holder can be more than just a cheap piece of plastic. This handle was supposed to connect:
- minimalist look,
- the handle can be easily removed and inserted,
- vertical and horizontal phone use,
- installation in virtually any air supply grille,
- in combination with a credit card – can be used as a phone stand.
There used to be videos on YouTube where Kenn showed with passion and humour how many different prototypes he built and how many of them were useless. In the end it worked. Nowadays, the Airframe is the benchmark of the metro when it comes to functional and minimalist design. For the record, although Kenn impressed me with his ability to create a successful design, I never liked using his product.
- But despite what it promises, you can’t put the phone in with one hand. The need to bend a fairly strong spring causes the air vents to break rather than insert the phone without the help of the other hand.
- The phone in a car without the charging function makes little sense because the battery dies after an hour of navigation.
Therefore, although I have several copies of this holder, I do not see any use for them.
The Ultima-S phone mount
Car cradle for the phone
The Australian went in a different direction, a certain Nik Conomos with his handle Ulima-S. Instead of minimalism, he opted for aluminium and an elegant look.
Nik has marketed his product through crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter. The first was a failure and was cancelled at the last minute. In the second one, a considerable amount of money has already been raised, which has made the idea possible. However, the quality of the final product was not adequate to the price – USD 65.
Reading comments under the Nika campaign was a refreshing lesson for me in terms of the difficulty of creating a real product. The complaints about the quality of the individual elements of the handle made me realise that the design can also be put into production. The second campaign went a little bit better, and both together they brought in about $100,000. The company still exists today, so its products have at least to some extent taken on board. It is virtually unheard of in Europe, only available by mail order.
Ultima was an inspiration to me in the sense that it showed that there is a way to create holders made of premium materials. It was probably the first handle that did not scare the plastic. On the other hand, the lack of charging function and mounting on the windscreen was disqualifying for me. Also, in my opinion, covering part of the view through the windscreen is unacceptable for safety reasons.
At least three more products have come to my attention in a flood of different holders. I will try to review them briefly, without going into too much detail.
- material – brushed aluminium
- no charging function
- The rubber “suction cups” are sensitive to dirt, and after some time they stop working and need to be replaced
- material – steel
- charge function
- the headband is flexible so that the phone does not hold steady
- installation is not possible in cars where the lighter socket is retracted between the seats
- charge function
- the need to buy a separate base – different for each car
- look – black plastic
- assembly requires a lot of technical sense
After many hours of searching the Internet, it was clear to me that what I was looking for was not on the market. At the same time, other manufacturers were showing that it is possible to make an eye-catching phone accessory. The product I couldn’t get away from was a case from an American company Element Case with the romantic name Ronin – unfortunately not available today.
Nowadays his traditions are continued by other models from a similar price range, for example Katana for a modest $349 ?.
The first attempts to create a product
I have searched further, trying to combine the phone’s charging function, unique design, materials into a solid phone mount.
At some point, I was using a bracket glued to a drop of three other brackets. It had two advantages – it charged and held relatively solidly. It was still not perfect, and it certainly did not look too good. Then I started thinking that maybe I could design something better, something that would look better, and maybe someone would pay for it. And that already sounded like an idea for my own business ?.
I was then at such a stage in my life that I was looking for an idea of what to do next. The university job alone did not satisfy me either financially or ambitiously. It was clear that the EU project company in which I was a partner had already exhausted its business concept. We did not manage to become a nationwide opinion polling company either. In this situation, I thought – why not try.
I will tell you about the glows and shadows of prototyping, the next versions and how I researched the market, in the next episodes.