You’ve got an iPhone – now meet the oPhone

There have long been rumours about phones which will transmit fragrances. We’re hugely excited, and we look forward to bringing you breaking news from this fast-moving area of aroma-technology.

This is one of the first pieces of kit which could get us some of the way there – though it’s still in its babyhood, really.

First off: it’s a sexy-looking bit of kit – though to use the oPhone, you need two people with an iPhone. (That shouldn’t be a problem.) Then, you both have to download the oSnap app from iTunes (we’ve already done that). After that, the idea is that you can start ‘scented texting’. (Thousands of people around the world have apparently downloaded the app to date, even though you can’t actually use it yet.)

The idea: you take a photograph, or choose one from your iPhotos library. Then you can ‘tag’ it with different smells, to ‘bring complex scent texting into your mobile messaging life, and share the sensory experience with anyone, anywhere,’ as the oPhone people put it. You can choose up to eight different smells for one photo, building up something quite complex. When the kit’s up and running, your oPhone-owning friend will get the text – and be able to smell what you’ve tagged through the sleekly-designed gadget, pictured above.

At the moment, it’s very foodie-orientated. The aromatic ‘vocabulary’ of scents that you can choose from includes ‘grilled toast’, ‘walnut’, ‘buttery’, ‘caramel’ and ‘yoghurt’, together with ‘jasmine’, ‘zesty’ and ‘green vegetation’ (these last more useful from a fragrance perspective). No doubt the oPhone team will be increasing the phone’s smell lexicon, over time. (We’d love to help them with that!) This is certainly going to add a whole new dimension to photographing your brunch before eating it (which we think of as ‘the new grace’).

We had a go ourselves. Chose a seaside panorama, from our photo album. In truth, the only appropriate smell we could select from those currently available on the phone was ‘fishy’ – and we didn’t have anyone with an oPhone to send it to! But we’ve high hopes.

If you have, too, you might want to check out crowdfunding opportunities on, where Harvard professor inventor David Edwards is looking to raise $150,000 for the next stage of his project. (Crowdfunding is not, of course, like normal ‘investment’ – you’ll never see your money back, but there are perks. In this case, if you invest $199 and all goes to plan, you’ll get an oPhone DUO – and before you know it, you’ll be taking foodie bragging to a whole new level.)

Though the phone isn’t working yet as a means of private communication, there are two locations (below) where you can check out the technology in more depth, and we’ll be doing just that on an upcoming trip to Paris. Via these locations, the very first smell message was sent from the oPhone HQ in Paris to the American Natural History Museum: an evocative Champagne-and-chocolate smell-o-gram.

There’s a really cute film about it here.

All very, very interesting – so watch (or maybe sniff) this space.

And we definitely look forward, one day, to waking up – and smelling our friend’s coffee, from the other side of the world…

oPhone hotspots: Le Laboratoire, 4 rue du Bouloi, Paris 75001 (open every day from 1:00 pm to 7:00 pm)
American Museum of Natural History, Central Park W and 79th Street, New York, NY 10024

Written by Jo Fairley