Is the Light Phone just a sleek “dumb phone”?


In a world hurling towards interconnectivity and phone dependency at breakneck speeds, it comes as no surprise that the prevalence of smartphones has seen a correlation to mental health problems, spikes in stress, and smartphone separation anxiety so common it garnered a name: Nomophobia.

The Light Phone intends be one solution to smartphone dependency. Brainchild of Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tang, designer/developers at Google’s 30 Weeks incubator in New York City, it’s marketed as “your phone away from phone.” The device is meant for one purpose only: making and receiving calls. Simply download its companion app to your smartphone to forward your calls, and then leave your smartphone at home to go about your day alert-free.

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Bereft of any features aside from speed dial, SIM card lot, micro USB port (for charging), touch pad, and others necessary for call function (microphone, speaker, and volume control), the Light Phone is a GSM phone the size of a credit card and can run for up to 20 days on a single charge. It is lightweight, comes in a sleek matte white design, and its simplicity inherently destroys any need for replacement with newer models. It weighs a mere 1.34 ounces and comes with 500 minutes of preloaded talk time, a throwback to those long forgotten data-monitoring days of yore.

Says Hollier, “We started building this because it became very clear that true happiness means being present. This has been written about by so many of the smartest minds since Seneca. So much of our days are spent connected and staring at screens that we are losing that presence in so many situations. We built the Light Phone as a way for people to find balance with their connectedness. It’s not that we think people should never connect again, it’s just that taking a break is extremely healthy in every sense of the word.”

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But despite the sometimes adverse affects of smartphones, do people want to be almost completely off the grid?

A 2012 study by mobile network 02 found that most time on a smartphone is spent surfing the web, perusing social media, listening to music, and playing games — not making calls.

Last month, Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of Americans own smartphones, and that the most prevalent reason for use among younger generations is to avoid being bored. The second is to avoid others around you. The implications of these (depressing) findings for future generations aside, if people are using these devices for things other than communication — is there a place for the Light Phone in our digital age at all?

This question is further expounded when we compare the $100 Light Phone price tag with all of the “dumb” phones already on the market serving the same single-function purpose for a tiny fraction of the cost. Why buy the anti-smartphone if it still looks similar to and costs half of a smartphone? Granted, it has a huge leg up design-wise. But is this enough to make up for the price?

We’ll find out in 38 days. As of Tuesday, Light Phone’s Kickstarter raised almost $119K out of its pledged $200K goal.

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