I was chugging coffee and eating currywurst in the press room at Messe Berlin, scrolling through the IFA app when I found Muffin Computer. Or should I say Muffin Computer found me.
What is Muffin Computer? Muffin Computer is a Russian tech startup—a fact that initially caught my eye as I was hoping to find some interesting European vendors at Europe’s biggest consumer tech conference. I was tickled by the name – Muffin Computer! – so I tapped the company name to find out more information.
Friends, Muffin Computer, makes the Muffin Case, which is designed to stop smartphones from dying in cold weather. I guess this is a common problem in Russia where I’m told the winters are brutal enough to destroy a German army. It also doubles as a battery case, because even in Russia it isn’t always the dead of winter.
The first time I passed by, the booth was still under construction, and I was on my way to another meeting. The second time, a representative gave me a big smile. She seemed relieved, as Muffin Computer’s booth was quite small and hidden away. I asked if I could see the smartphone case, and then she sighed.
“It’s, ah, not here right now. Our CEO has it, and he is not here.”
I promised to come back later.
After wandering around Messe Berlin for a while, I returned. This time, there was another Muffin Computer representative, and an older man who I assumed was the aforementioned CEO. I asked to see the case again.
The Muffin Case looks like your average phone case, with a bit of a protruding butt—presumably to house the heating element and extra battery. You can adjust within a companion app whether you want to heat or charge the phone, as well as program a temperature range. Muffin Computer told me it keeps your phone at the ideal operational temperature, within a 5-10 degree range in Celsius. You also get 6 hours of battery life while in heating mode.
All this was relayed to me by a Muffin Computer representative, but I started to feel bad. He was clearly nervous and would take breaks to let out deep sighs. I wanted to tell him he was doing fine, but his boss was watching with the gaze of a hawk. Every so often, he’d interrupt in Russian and point at the case—and the rep would tell me about a new feature.
At the end, he barked one last time, and the rep sighed.
“Can you tell me what company you’re from? It is very hard to get the funding.”
“Oh, I’m a reporter from Gizmodo.”
“It’s a tech blog in America!”
“Oh,” he replied, but it was pretty evident on all three of Muffin Computer’s representatives that they were devastated I did not have billions of dollars to invest and had never heard of our site. To lighten the mood, I tried to tell a story about how one time during a polar vortex, the 7 train just quit working and I had to call an Uber home—only to find the cold had killed my battery. I said, sincerely, that at the time I would’ve liked a Muffin Case. They politely nodded, handed me a flyer with their press information, and went back to talking to each other in Russian.
I couldn’t really let it end there. Before I left, I asked—Why Muffin? Before coming to their booth, I had perhaps judgmentally theorised it was a mistaken attempt at muffler or muff, both items designed to keep you warm.
“Oh.” The Muffin Computer rep shrugged. “Because you know, like, muffins are fresh. They’re fun. We don’t want to be like, ‘Enterprise blah blah’ or whatever.”
I don’t know what the future holds for Muffin Computer, but after visiting its booth, I solemnly vow to keep my phone warm on cold nights.