Ottawa teen's low-cost smartphone to take on Apple, Samsung

An Ottawa entrepreneur is hoping an $180 US smartphone can take off in a market dominated by technology giants.

Moe Omer, 17, and business partner hope $180 US smartphone will take off

Ottawa teen Moe Omer said he had to sacrifice some higher-end components to keep the cost of his new phone low for consumers. (Twitter/@frankisaphone)


  • On Sept. 19, the Indiegogo funding page was shut down.
  • Omer said Indiegogo told him there were allegations the phone was a copy of one on the market.

Moe Omer is about to take on tech giants Apple and Samsung with the launch of his own smartphone next week, with one noticeable difference between him and competition.

He's launching the phone with some of the features you'd expect in most mid-range phones, but for just $180 US. Oh, and he's only 17 years old. 

What started out as a passion project for the Ottawa teen has now blossomed into a full-blown entrepreneurial undertaking. 

Moe Omer, 17, is studying industrial design while launching his new smartphone company. (Twitter/@therealmoeomer)

Omer told CBC Radio's All in a Day that when he met with a millionaire investor and shared his idea, he was told he was on embarking on a futile enterprise.

"I kind of just went with it, and he didn't think we were going to make it up to this point. And we're here now," Omer said.

Omer is now the chief technology officer of the new smartphone brand "frank." Along with his business partner and CEO, Fahd Alhattab, Omer hopes to attract prospective customers with an Indiegogo fundraising campaign that will launch Sept. 5.

The new phone looks like your typical, modern smartphone. It has a fingerprint reader, a 16-megapixel rear camera, a 5.5-inch HD display, and it runs on Google's Android operating system.

But what stands out most about the phone is the price, which is the focus of their cheeky social media campaign. 

"I just want this to be a brutally honest, frank phone. I want to be honest with everyone in the most brutal way possible, and we're not shying away from different methods of marketing," Omer said. 

The first 500 phones will be available for the $180 price, but after that the cost jumps to $220. Omer hopes to attract a young, money-conscious demographic with the low price tag. 

The guiding mantra behind developing the phone over the past year was sacrifice.

Hoping to raise $250,000

The phone is made of aluminum, and the focus is on adding features consumers will actually use rather than having all the bells and whistles of the flagship phones from the big name manufacturers like Apple and LG.

"Have you ever used an IR blaster on your phone? Most people don't even know what that is. You're not going to be using things like laser autofocus, right?" Omer said. 

"Just being involved in this project has taught me a lot about what the tech industry is like, and how much profit these companies are making off of phones that cost a lot less than it takes to actually manufacture."

Omer will start university studies in industrial design next week, just as the Indiegogo campaign launches. He's hoping to raise $250,000 with the campaign to start mass production.

If the company doesn't reach its goal, the phones will not be produced and customers will get their money back, according to Omer. 

With files from CBC Radio's All in a Day