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ITPP in Taiwan (day three): Just Mobile, Apple & how to design success

Wednesday was the most intensive day of ITProPortal's exclusive TAITRA-led press tour of Taiwan to date, with the trip's motley collection of travelling hacks – a mixture of European and Asian journalists amongst which ITPP is the only British publication represented – visiting three firms in less than 24 hours. First up was Just Mobile, and our experience at its headquarters in Taichung proved to be arguably the most eye-catching visit of my short time in Taiwan.

Just Mobile's lineage certainly has potential on paper – jointly founded by German and Taiwanese entrepreneurs in 2005, it's a firm that exemplifies the growing East-meets-West nature of the technology world in the 21st century. That said, I wasn't too familiar with Just Mobile or its product lines before today. Yet having now met with the company and some of its leading representatives, I can say with a degree of authority that it is one of the rising stars of the mobile accessory sector and, more specifically, the Apple add-on segment.

Designing the right mentality

What's most interesting is seeing a Taiwanese firm be so driven by creative, design-based concerns – Subkarma and Tools Design are two of its collaborators - as opposed to being focused acutely on the production of utilitarian hardware and components. In theory, this shouldn't really represent such a surprise, as you'd think that accessories by their very nature demand a keen eye for aesthetics. But in reality, many manufacturers simply churn out pedestrian functionality instead of anything remotely stylish - look at all the clunky, characterless iPhone cases on your local high street and you start to get the idea.

With a central focus on Apple and its iconic iPhone and iPad offerings, Just Mobile offers the kind of sleek and sexy yet super-functional products that owners of such high-end hardware actively want to possess rather than just obtain out of necessity. Having visited its Taiwanese base earlier today and seen its genuinely spirited workforce - led by über-personable CEO Erich Huang, who mingled freely with the assembled members of technology's Fifth Estate (see photo, below) - you get the feeling that Just Mobile may be trying to do more than simply make a profit on the back of Apple's wildly successful product lines. It is, to my mind at least, trying to position itself as a heavy hitting company akin to the Cupertino-based tech titan.

What's more, its take on the kind of liberal, Silicon Valley-style corporate culture I mentioned may be evolving in the Far East back on day one looked the most genuinely progressive I've seen so far - right down to the slightly cringe-inducing round-of-applause we were greeted by when we walked in, which reminded me of Apple's rent-a-mob staff at its recent London iPhone 5 launch.

One of the obvious strengths of many of Just Mobile's products are that their stripped back, minimalist design makes them easily adaptable to new generations of Apple products - specifically the recent unveiled iPhone 5. The forthcoming iPad mini, too, looks likely to fit into most of the firm's existing product templates. All of which brings us, in a roundabout sort of way, to today's news: Just Mobile showed off of its latest accessory offerings to us, which included a new, little-talked-of arrival to the European market.

Sounding out the new arrivals

First up was the AluRack (below), a high-grade aluminum laptop mount that screws together through the hole in the stand of your flat-panel Apple iMac and creates a fully integrated home for your notebook. Keeping with the idea of instant accessibility, its also compatible with the most recent Thunderbolt displays.

Its partner is the AluBase (below), a vertical stand for MacBook Pro and MacBook Air devices. Again, top-quality aluminium is the basis of the design, with Just Mobile proferring that it helps turn your "iconic laptop" into a "desktop sculpture" in line with the overriding ethos of the company: that its products should be "collectable, not disposable."

Moreover, from the perspective of the evolving one-device world, it offers a simple and stylish way to use your MacBook at home as part of an immersive desktop unit featuring an external monitor and wireless keyboard, maintaining style and mobility at the same time. Both units were designed by iconic Danish designer Jakob Wagner and are currently available via Just Mobile's online site, with a wider rollout to partners expected in the coming weeks. At present, they retail at 60 euros and 50 euros respectively, or about £48 and £40 respectively based on today's exchange rate.

The newest addition to Just Mobile's range was also unveiled today. The HeadStand (below) is a simple earphone holder that functions as both a modern storage unit and a display utility. Unlike some of Just Mobile's other, Apple-centric products, the HeadStand is compatible with nearly all over-ear headphones, and also features integrated cable storage. Set to hit Europe at the end of October - in the UK, Just Mobile said its preferred retail partner is Computers Unlimited - it's an interesting standalone addition to a company with some already exciting product lines.

A universal language

With only seven years of life under its belt, Just Mobile could still effectively be classed as a start-up and it's doing as well as any relative fledging I've seen recently: as well as a European headquarters in Germany and its Taiwanese-base in Taichung, it also boasts recently opened offices in San Francisco. Just Mobile's ties to Apple - whose products largely seem to inspire its endeavours - appear to be strengthening on a daily basis, no mean feat given the iconic US firm's occasionally ogre-like demeanour.

Among other things, Just Mobile puts its recent successes and strong relationship with the world's most valuable company - a number of the Taiwanese firm's products carry the official "Designed for Apple" certification – to a mutual appreciation of design.

"We have the same design language," said Jason Lin of Just Mobile's sales department.

And while Android fans in particular could take issue with the fact that Just Mobile focuses heavily on furnishing Apple users - though it should concurrently be noted that many of its tablet mounts are universal - with a more stylised user experience, the company did offer a slight hint that future lines could be geared towards other high-end handsets - in time for CES 2013 perhaps?

"We love Samsung, we love HTC, we love Apple. We just love gadgets," added Mr Lin.

Watch this space - or, rather, watch out for Just Mobile as it continues to come of age. The world's first truly great accessory manufacturer may already be in the making in Taichung.