It was at a retreat in the middle of nowhere in Canada that two young entrepreneurs unveiled the next big thing in tech. They called it “the least advanced NoPhone ever”. The device inside the sleek, slimline packaging had no buttons, no screen and no way to tweet, take a selfie or even make a call.
In fact, the NoPhone Air was nothing but an empty package, the size of a smartphone.
It was a joke. But the dig at the relentless pace of reinvention in the mobile phone industry, at the same time as Apple launched the iPhone 7, tapped into something very real: the growing desire to turn off, tune out, unplug.
The signs suggest smartphone addiction has hit iPeak. Next month, the Light Phone — which is the size of a credit card and can make calls, store ten numbers and do nothing else — will be launched in the US by two friends who met at a Google “incubator” for whizzkids and grew jaded by the constant pressure to come up with increasingly addictive and life-consuming apps.
The Light Phone Video
In London, Liverpool, Berlin and Los Angeles people are participating in “killyourphone” workshops, creating their own signal-blocking pouches with glue and copper-coated cloth, and dipping their devices into cement to take a symbolic time-out from Tinder and Twitter.
Even Kanye West has called time on his timeline, declaring: “I got rid of my phone so I can have air to create,” in a tweet that has so far been retweeted 38,000 times by people who have, presumably, yet to embrace his example of digital detox. The singer Katy Perry appeared to agree, replying: “Unplug to connect.” The actor Eddie Redmayne also confessed to having swapped his smartphone for an old-fashioned handset because he was sick of “being glued permanently to my iPhone”.
Given that the average user taps their phone 2,617 times a day, with 89 per cent of us unable to resist checking our device at least once between midnight and 5am, it is perhaps inevitable there has been a reaction that has prompted a surge of interest in “retro tech”.
Dumbphones are now de rigueur, with old, trusty, uncrackable Nokia handsets selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay. About 4,700 Nokia 3310s, a classic, 16-year-old model, have been sold on the online marketplace in the past three months — two every hour. And 23 Nokia N70s have been sold every day over the same period.
It was partly rebellion against the Apple ethos and partly a desire to return to something that had been lost, that encouraged Joe Hollier, a 26-year-old skateboarder and graphic designer from Brooklyn, and his friend, Kaiwei Tang, who spent a decade designing phones for Motorola, to launch their own bare minimum device.
The pair met on a Google program for new talent two years ago.
“Everything was about creating apps to get users hooked, rather than developing something people needed,” said Mr Hollier. “We felt that is not how it’s supposed to be.” Worst of all, he said, “they were trying to frame it as if we were making the world a better place, by getting people addicted and selling them more stuff. I couldn’t help but call B.S on that. We felt they were missing the point.”
They created the Light Phone — a dollars 100 device, available in the UK by the end of the year, which shares the same number as your main number, forwarding on calls and offering little else, for the times when email and gadgetry may not be necessary. They call it “going light”.
“Do I really need a computer in my pocket when I’m skateboarding, or going out for dinner with my girlfriend? No,” said Mr Hollier.
He realised that constantly checking what other people were doing on Instagram and Facebook was chipping away at his own contentment.
“I found I was getting lost in these scroll holes. I would always come out of them feeling not necessarily good about myself. My smartphone was sucking me in. As soon as I stepped away — I call it breaking through the fomo threshold, getting over the fear of missing out.”
“I felt free. I realised I was happier in those disconnected moments, when I can watch a sunset, appreciate my friends. We want to make a product that helps people appreciate their lives, not control their lives.”
He stressed that the Light Phone was not a substitute, but simply a supplement. “It doesn’t have to mean going completely off-grid. It could mean just taking 20 minutes to get a coffee.”
He insisted his product was refining, rather than regressing. “We’re sparking a conversation. What do I want my technology to do for me?”
Aram Bartholl, 42, a conceptual artist in Berlin, started his killyourphone workshops a couple of years ago. “We all have these little computers in our pockets but we don’t really know how they work or who’s recording our data. For me, the pouch is a way to think a little more about what they do, and how we live with them.
“Suddenly, you have a person who’s used to technology sitting down with scissors and glue and a sewing machine — a machine from another revolution — in a completely different social situation. It gives connection a whole different meaning.”
Lucy Bannerman,The Times – The Australian 24 Sept 2016
Original article here