Cell phones vs. toothbrushes: Sounds like an opportunity

I recently received a pitch from a flack that contained a disturbing but interesting statistic: More people own a cell phone (5.1 billion) than own a toothbrush (4.2 billion).

The figures were unattributed, however, and my first reaction was: Really? I want to look that up.

I started looking online and fortunately found that someone already had done the work. Nicole Hall, self-described data junkie and account manager at BKV Digital and Direct Response, wrote about her research in a blog post back in October.  

It turns out that this is an oft-quoted “fact” and, despite the difficulty of finding reliable figures for ownership of either cell phones or toothbrushes, she concluded that “in all likelihood, more people own a mobile phone on the planet than own a toothbrush.”

My second thought was that this sounded like an opportunity. There was a fortune to be made in supplying this unmet demand with a smart cell-brush. I pitched the idea to GCN Lab Director John Breeden II, who has an entrepreneurial as well as a technical bent. Unfortunately, he was only cautiously optimistic.

“Good idea,” he said. “Though I’d be concerned it would lead to people brushing their teeth while driving.”

Given the Transportation Department’s recent campaign against distracted driving, this might be an idea whose time has not yet come. Hmm, I wonder how many people own combs…


About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

inside gcn

  • When cybersecurity capabilities are paid for, but untapped

Reader Comments

Tue, May 22, 2012

A cell phone that would brush your teeth while you talk would be ideal. Kill two birds with one stone for a lot of people. Or there's no reason the phone could not have both a toothbrush and a comb.....

Mon, May 21, 2012 Cowboy Joe

A VERY long time ago, there was a gas-powered toothbrush you could buy as a gag gift. I reckon it'd fit right in with the rest of this R&D proposal.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group