Vodafone Webby

Vodafone Webby product image

The Webby was a curious little device.

Designed by Italian firm Paolo Villa in 2007 and manufactured by Korean firm Avantis in 2009, it was described as "a revolutionary new gadget" that connected to your wireless network and provided a touch-screen terminal with widgets for a clock, an RSS reader, a photo viewer, a weather forecast, an email client, a local voice message board, and a host of other features. Widgets for Facebook and Twitter were announced but never made it to market.

Apparently, the Webby also allowed you to play MP3/WMA files off SD media although its on-board USB interface was never extended outside.

Its major selling point, however, was internet radio. It had a pair of small but capable speakers.

Here's a link to the designer's portfolio page. Here's an archive of the manufacturer's promotional page which lists all its features, and here's a promotional video by Promelit, its distributor in Europe.

Keep in mind that tablet computers were still a small stretch away from becoming common utility. (The first one, the iPad, only came out in 2010).

In France and Italy the gadget was marketed as Hubster and Uebbi, respectively.

Vodafone Germany also began selling it in early 2010 as part of their "Connected Home" marketing offensive but for reasons over which only rumours exist, the device was removed from their product portfolio a scant few months later. Leftover stock was dumped via stores such as MediaMarkt and Reichelt.

One fan made an effort to sniff out the inner workings of the device and published a range of hacks. It runs on Linux. Within a short span of time, the Webby had built up quite a devoted fan base.

However, it also had an Achilles heel: the Webby required a content server for almost every single function. On 15-01-2012 the (external) provider took down the server for undisclosed reasons. Customers were left stranded. All hell broke loose. A colleague was tasked with containing the damage, and by February 2012 the server was online again, along with instructions on how to point "patched" devices to it. My colleague also began to maintain a list of internet radio stations and took requests for new ones via the official Vodafone forum. Users were happy again.

I'm not entirely sure how it was that I personally came to have a Webby; I vaguely recall that I "inherited" one from a then-colleague somewhere around 2013.

The only function that was truly useful to me was internet radio. Despite the small speakers and narrow streams, the Webby's sound quality was remarkably good. I requested a handful of South African radio stations and took the device home to where the wife enjoyed listening to it while painting in her studio.

And then, out of the blue, sometime in 2014 it simply refused to boot up: The Webby showed the Vodafone logo – and nothing else. None of the recommended tricks and hacks worked.

Vodafone logo display device

Installation guide (German) | Large photos: Side view | SD card slot | Nameplate sticker

Since support had officially ended in November 2014, I packed away the device to play with during a rainy day. "Maybe I'll get it to work or find another use for it," I thought.

We're in May 2019. Discover, unpack, rethink, trash. Bye-bye!

This page last updated: 05-05-2019