I Want More Toys!

Over the weekend I picked up a Polaroid Pogo printer. In the UK, O2 is selling them for half price, making them much more attractive than when they cost almost £100.

It’s a neat little device. It’s about the size of a large mobile phone (the picture below left shows it next to a Nokia N81 for comparison). The Pogo prints on three-inch by two-inch sheets of self-adhesive paper using an inkless heat-based system. The paper comes in packs of 10 sheets, and a fully charged battery lets you get through all 10 while on the move.

The Pogo receives images by Bluetooth (or by USB cable if the sending device supports the PictBridge standard). As you can see from the scanned image below left, picture quality isn’t great. But it’s certainly impressive for such a tiny device, and the ability to print pictures anywhere makes the Pogo as fun to use as Polaroid’s original instant cameras.

Polaroid Pogo printer and Nokia N81Sample output from Polaroid Pogo printer

For me, the Pogo is a good example of the kind of “toy” that’s been missing from the mobile industry in recent years. As the industry grows up, it’s perhaps inevitable that it puts the toys away and becomes more serious. Yet the number of “fake beer drinking” apps on the iPhone suggests there’s still mileage in providing products and services that have no serious application.

Our research indicates many people in mature markets are switching to SIM-only deals and keeping their old phones, which often do exactly the same things as this year’s models. Perhaps network operators should be looking at introducing more toys — alongside the phones — to persuade subscribers to hang on to that monthly contract.

I’d classify O2’s Joggler as a kind of toy. Like the Polaroid Pogo, there’s nothing toy-like about its aims and implementation, but it does bring some of the fun back into mobile technology. Sling Media’s Singbox is another example, and I’m surprised it’s not been bundled with a mobile broadband package by network operators keen to increase data revenue. A final example is the newly announced Symbian toaster, although looking at today’s date, I think it’ll be a long time before that hits the shops.