One weekend in 2011, Itzik Chayun accidentally dropped his Blackberry in the toilet. The CEO of Morgan Capital in Tel Aviv, Israel suddenly found himself without a working phone, and all the service centers were closed. On the next business day, he went to a phone service center where he waited two hours before meeting with a rep who offered him a Nokia phone on loan since there was no Blackberry available.
"I thought to myself that there's got to be a better way," Chayun told Kiosk Marketplace. "That's how I came up with the idea of the Cellomat — making it as easy and convenient to get your phone repaired or traded up as it is to take money out of an ATM."
Chayun launched Cellomat, a solution for mobile device lifecycle services that allows consumers to get phone replacements at self-serve kiosks. The solution offers repair, trade up or purchase of mobile phones.
Cellomat uses a cloud-based platform that connects consumers to service providers. The company's self-serve kiosks are serving consumers in Europe, the Middle East and the New York City subway system.
First U.S. installation
The kiosk was recently installed at Grand Central Station in New York City, the first in the U.S. A New York City-based mobile device repair service network called Smartbulance has partnered with Cellomat as its exclusive U.S. provider.
"They (Cellomat) provide report support for the software; for any hardware stuff, we're the 'hands on' to the machine right now," said Ralph Shulberg, founder and CEO of Smartbulance.
The Cellomat kiosk has 212 storage cases. The number of replacement phones available at any one time depends on the number of transactions the kiosk has executed that day. Consumers can select whatever model they like from the available stock.
A consumer looking to sell or upgrade their phone can either download the Cellomat app which runs 19 tests on the device, or go to the Cellomat kiosk. The kiosk will give customers quotes for repairs and issue them loaner phones.
New York to launch mobile ticketing
Smartbulance's Shulberg said he spent two years winning approval from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority to install the Cellomat at Grand Central station. He said the MTA saw a need for the kiosk since the agency will be introducing a mobile ticketing program next year, allowing users to pay their fares by waving a cell phone over a contactless reader.
"If you agree to the (repair) quote, you put the phone into the machine and get a loaner phone," Shulberg said. "If you drop it off before 12 (noon), you get it repaired the same day. We handle all the repairs and logistics here in the MTA."
Smartbulance service techs pick the phones up at the kiosks and replace them Monday through Friday. There are 10 techs.
Repairs range from $50 to $200, Shulberg said. He did not wish to release the number of repairs completed to date for competitive reasons.
"It's economical and it's much more convenient to get your phone repaired," he said.
"There is a real need in the market for on-demand, repair/replace and recycle services," said Shulberg, who formed Smartbulance in 2015 after spending two decades running Sprint sales and service centers.
A unique solution
He said the Cellomat is unique in the number of services it offers — selling chargers, renting chargers, doing repairs and replacements, and selling new phones.
Shulberg agrees with Chayun that there are no competitors offering the range of the Cellomat's services.
"There's a company that has kiosks that will just do chargers. Cellomat can compete with them aggressively," Shulberg said. "There's another company that just buys your phone back. So the Cellomat can do that as well. There are other companies that can dispense stuff. There's another company that just does repair only."
"Everybody's managed to carve out a piece of what the Cellomat can do," he said.
Smartbulance is also working to place Cellomats at the Port Authority at Times Square, Shulberg said.
Cellomat has raised $7 million in startup capital, Chayun said. It has 12 full-time employees.
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority was not available to comment on the Cellomat at the time of this report.
Elliot Maras Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.