The Light Phone, seen here, is about the size of a credit card, can last up to 20 days on a single charge and only makes phone calls. It's among a small niche in the phone market that favours stylish design and purposefully lacks bells and whistles. The Light Phone. They only buzzed for calls and texts, were free of time-consuming apps and could end conversations with a satisfying snap. The Light Phone is a credit-card sized phone that never beeps or vibrates unless someone calls.
The Light Phone is a credit-card sized phone that never beeps or vibrates unless someone calls. With ride-sharing, it's like, I'm trying to get to this Bare phone. In an era when Apple unveils its newest iPhone models on a yearly basis, why opt for a phone without the latest bells and whistles? Don't Miss false. Daniel Oberhaus. A phone is a thing Bare phone makes us anxious, something we reach for like a nervous tick.
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For half a year, Joe Hollier has been living without a phone. At least, without anything you'd recognize as a phone. He carries around a pocketable device, the color of graphite, that makes calls and sends text messages and does little else. To see it in his hand, or pressed up to his ear, looks as much like using a phone as pretending to call Pizza Hut with a ripe banana.
Hollier, an artist and designer, created the first version of this device in with fellow designer Kaiwei Tang. The Light Phone , back then, was meant to be your "phone away from phone. For the family vacation when everyone you need is there IRL. For days, or even a few blissful hours, when you need a break from your always-on, attention-stealing, dopamine-overload smartphone. It didn't look like a phone because it wasn't supposed to be one.
The Light Phone promised a reprieve from the travails of modern technology, if only temporarily. But with a limited address book of nine numbers and the singular ability to make phone calls, this was never going to become your permanent phone. This second version of the Light Phone—the one Hollier has been dogfooding since early this year—is meant to unleash you from you smartphone, forever. To make that possible, it comes with a few new tricks: text messaging, an unlimited address book, faster connectivity speeds, and a dashboard where new features will flow onto the handset in future updates.
Consider that to be the point. You're free now. This is your life. What are you going to do? Tang and Hollier met in , at Google's 30 Weeks incubator program in New York, which encourages attendees to develop and launch a product or company in just seven months.
The blond and baby-faced Hollier and the dark-haired and bearded Tang gravitated toward each other right away with a shared understanding that, during their 30 weeks, they would not be building the next great app. Instead, they would build an escape hatch. Hollier, in particular, felt that his relationship with technology was broken. He recalled the internet of his childhood, when he'd wait 10 minutes for the modem to connect on the computer in his mom's study.
There, he was online. It was contained, finite. When he left the study, to hang out with friends or hit the pool on a nice summer's day, he was no longer online. He'd set an away message and tell people where to find him. Hollier wanted to build something that would bring back the duality of being online when you wanted to be and just being yourself the rest of the time.
Tang, who has a background building mobile phones for companies like Motorola, Nokia, and BlackBerry, agreed that the solution might lie in another phone. Just not one that behaved like the phones we've come to know. The original Light Phone was small, barely bigger than a credit card, with a light-up dial pad that made the handset look like a calculator.
Tang and Hollier are both designers, and the first thing they agreed on is that they should not crib from conventional phone design. A phone is a thing that makes us anxious, something we reach for like a nervous tick. Some research suggests that just seeing one on a table—face down, turned off—makes us distracted and unhappy.
So no, this wouldn't be a phone , not the kind you're used to. This would be, as Tang likes to call it, a "tool. Tang and Hollier blueprinted it in the incubator, then launched it on Kickstarter in June of It wasn't designed to be a consumer product so much as an experiment. Its backers on Kickstarter didn't see it that way.
Another 50, people joined a waitlist to get their hands on one, while the secondary market for used Light Phones saw them going for triple the original price. The Light Phone's surprise success proved to its creators that people weren't as interested in what this new gadget could do, but what it couldn't.
People told him that the Light Phone made them feel less stressed or that it made them feel better about giving a phone to their kids. He and Tang also heard that people couldn't "go light" for as long as they'd like to, because of the phone's limitations. It's hard to give up a smartphone when that means giving up Uber and Lyft, listening to music, and text messaging.
Plus, the Light Phone could store only nine phone numbers in its address book. But Tang and Hollier sympathized with the idea that people wanted to ditch their smartphones for good.
So they set out to build something new—something that Tang says isn't meant to be a temporary escape from your smartphone, but a permanent one. The Light Phone II doesn't come with many new capabilities out of the box. It now offers text messaging and an alarm clock, and you can import your entire address book. This new version supports 4G connectivity—an upgrade from the 2G Light Phone—and it has a new e-ink screen.
But the dream is to design an entirely new operating system, where Light Phone II owners can download a selection of apps from an online dashboard. Ride-sharing, turn-by-turn directions, and a find-my-phone feature are all in the works.
Everything has to have a clear intention. With ride-sharing, it's like, I'm trying to get to this destination. Everything on the phone should be there for a clear reason. No email, no news. Tang and Hollier aren't quite sure when those new features will land, though they say it will be soon.
Even without them, though, people can't seem to get enough of the idea. Everyone knows there's a market for people who want to lighten up. The question is, how much are people willing to give up to do it? But using one requires some humility. The miniature keyboard on the e-ink screen is cramped and difficult to type on.
This is not a phone for long conversational volleys or for animated group threads. The messaging interface can take a while to load, distorting texts into cryptic pixels. Emoji, while supported, often populate as Frankensteinesque shapes. It demands a nearly sanctimonious dedication to avoiding that—even if it means you will text your friends less, take a while to reply to emails whether social or work-related , and miss out on the things your family posts on social media.
Hollier says his many months with the Light Phone II have helped him reclaim his attention, his creativity. He didn't say that the Light Phone II may have dramatically changed, for better or for worse, some of his social interactions. Still, the option to blissfully ignore the damage from our smartphones seems increasingly unreasonable. It's no longer just an anecdotal experience of techno-anxiety—even the phonemakers, like Apple and Google, know what they're doing to us.
I love this thing! I can't put this thing down. Maybe the Light Phone II is the kind of wake-up call we need. Not the perfect solution, but the perfect demonstration of the problem.
We could all stand to lighten up a bit. Just maybe with a slightly bigger keyboard. Andy Greenberg and Excerpt. Megan Molteni. Andrew Yang Wants a Thorium Reactor by Good Luck, Buddy. Daniel Oberhaus. Peter Rubin. Should you worry?
Never fear—check out our iPhone buying guide and favorite Android phones. Previously she was a senior editor for VICE. She is an alumna of the University of Pennsylvania and lives in San Francisco. Senior Writer Twitter. Featured Video. Topics phones internet addiction. Jesse Jarnow. Adrienne So. Michael Calore. Lily Hay Newman. Jonathon Keats. Scott Gilbertson.
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