- Business Insider/ Jonathan Loh
A smartphone mount-and-grip accessory that is all the rage with celebrities in the US just launched in Singapore on March 26, and it’s set to change the way we use and personalise our mobile devices.
Just ask Gigi Hadid, Jared Leto, Serena Williams or Michael Phelps – all of them have been known to use it.
Meet the PopSocket grip, a multi-functional collapsible knob developed by Boulder-based company PopSockets which you can attach to the back of your smart device for a more secure grip.
Users will be able to take stabilised selfies, turn the knob into an adjustable kickstand for watching videos and mount their devices on walls or car vents for less intrusive hands-free viewing experiences.
It’s great for competitive gamers and also allows you to store your earphones without getting them entangled around the knob.
But where did this come from?
A quirky invention turned smash hit
PopSocket founder and CEO David Barnett, who was once a philosophy professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, came up with the idea after being frustrated with his constantly-tangled earbuds.
His solution: sticking two huge clothing buttons to the back of his iPhone 3G so that he could wind his earbuds around them for storage.
Speaking to Business Insider at The Pan Pacific Singapore hotel on Tuesday (Mar 27), Barnett shared that almost nobody – including his family and friends – took his invention seriously.
“My wife, my wife’s family, my family, most of my friends, everybody laughed at me,” Barnett said.
“The only people who believed in it were some strangers.”
Nonetheless, the product he developed became a personal Kickstarter project in 2012, which evolved into a small business straight out of Barnett’s garage two years later.
Subsequently, PopSocket grips rapidly turned into a smash hit among celebrities as news spread from Denver all the way to Hollywood.
In 2017, over 35 million units were sold in North America and Europe – up from 30,000 in 2014 – and PopSockets held a 37.4% market share in the US for smartphone mount-and-grip accessories.
Staying ahead of the competition
According to Barnett, PopSockets was birthed in a smartphone accessory market with very little competition, allowing for PopSocket grips to quickly gain traction and popularity among children and young people.
These days, there are other similar smart device grips in the market manufactured by other brands such as the Spigen Style Ring, but Barnett is unfazed.
Touting his product’s popularity, he claims that many in the US have removed the rings in favour of PopSocket grips.
He said that his grips are just more comfortable and flexible and that fingers do not get locked into the accessory as with the ring-type variants.
When asked about how long he expects PopSockets to be in demand in the Asia-Pacific region, Barnett quipped: “Maybe the next 300 to 400 years.”
“PopSockets is not a fad, it’s a utility product. It’s the one thing people never thought they needed but cannot live without.”
Yet, in spite of its supposed longevity, he added that the company faces risks from new emerging competition and ever-changing phone designs.
To counter this, the company invests heavily in innovation, rolling out new ideas such as the Roto variant which transforms a smartphone into a fidget spinner as well as attachable phone wallets.
The astonishing design variety of PopSocket grips also serves the accessory well in staying ahead of the competition, he added.
In addition to the over 100 original designs currently available, there are also licensed designs from well-known franchises such as the Justice League, Harry Potter and Marvel.
Customers can also create their own designs on the official website, granting near endless possibilities when it comes to adding that personal touch.
New regional office in Singapore
Following its massive success in North America and Europe, PopSockets has now ventured into the Asian market, starting its Singapore office which also serves as a regional headquarters. Barnett officiated the opening on March 26.
“Reaching out to new customers in Asia-Pacific is a key strategy in our goal to double our global sales numbers this year,” he said in a statement.
“We chose Singapore to be our regional HQ for its pro-business and highly connected environment as well as for its central geographical location to be our nexus in the Asia-Pacific.”
In terms of long-term plans, Barnett spoke about dedicated effort to build partnerships with distributors and the company’s aim to engage in direct business deals with retail partners.
PopSockets is also looking to expand into booming key markets such as Japan and China as well as other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
The product is available at leading retailers including BHG, Harvey Norman Millenia Walk, iSTUDIO, Kinokuniya, Popular and Tang’s Vivocity. PopSocket grips on the official US website are priced between $10 and $15.