Disposable phones...

Thanks again Chris.

Hop-On.com's new disposable cell phone, touted everywhere from Time Magazine to CNNfn as a landmark innovation, may be less original than it seems. In news releases and interviews, the publicly traded California company says it has developed and manufactured an "innovative, technologically advanced" phone so cheap that customers can toss it away when they are done. Hop-On says the phone will retail for $30, including 60 minutes of calls.

But after cracking open several samples with Hop-On's name and kangaroo logo, The Chronicle found the "revolutionary" device appeared to be little more than a jury-rigged Nokia in a new plastic shell. Underneath the red plastic casing, one sample was clearly labeled inside as a "Nokia 8260."

Another Hop-On cell phone contained a part with Cingular Wireless' name and logo. Cingular spokeswoman Monica Mears said the part, called a SIM card, came from a batch of 100 Nokia 8290s it sold Hop-On last year. A white rechargeable battery in the phone also looks identical to one used in Nokias, though the name has been etched off. Only the circled R, denoting a registered trademark, remains.

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