BIC Phone Is No Throw-Away Gadget

Alongside BIC's disposable pens, lighters and razors at French convenience stores will soon hang a mobile phone. The BIC phone will come fitted with a charged battery and a SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card loaded with 10 minutes of prepaid calls from network operator Orange.

News stands, tobacconists and airport stores in France will sell it from September for around €49 (US$77).

The slogan on the blister pack, "Allumez, Téléphonez" ("Turn on and talk") contrasts with the way phones are usually sold: after a long wait in-store to activate them, the phones often need an overnight charge of the battery before they are ready to use.

BIC's involvement with the product is minimal: It doesn't make the phone (that's done by the company that makes mobile phones for Alcatel), and it doesn't distribute it (that's done by Orange), said BIC spokeswoman Claire Gerard.

"It's just a brand licensing agreement," she said, referring questions about the phone to Orange.

The BIC brand is synonymous with disposable items such as its iconic orange ball-point pen, products BIC euphemistically calls "non-rechargeable."

That's not the case with the BIC phone, according to Orange.

"It's not a throw-away product," said Karine Rolland, a spokeswoman for Orange's department of Commercial Communications and Sponsoring.

Once buyers have used the initial 10 minutes of calls, though, they might as well throw the phone away unless they are willing to mail off a registration form to Orange and then wait for the phone to be "activated."

Customers who do bother to register their phones receive a credit for an additional 50 minutes of calls, and are then able to add further minutes by purchasing Mobicarte vouchers through Orange's network of resellers. If the phone is not registered, then it will be deactivated two months after the first call is made, even if it has credit remaining.

The phone will come in green or orange, and can be used only for talking, sending and receiving text messages, or listening to FM radio. There is no camera, digital music player or Web browser. It weighs 61 grams and measures 98 millimeters by 44 mm by 12.6 mm.

With a fully charged battery, it can be used for up to 4 hours of calls, or kept in standby mode for 240 hours, Orange said. The phone has a USB (Universal Serial Bus) port through which the battery can be recharged. Neither Orange nor BIC representatives could say whether the necessary cable or charger will be included in the pack, however.

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