In an attempt to get smartphone users to look up and participate in the world around them, a New York startup has designed the Light Phone — one of the first modern devices built to connect people less.
The phone, which simply makes and receives calls, looks like a calculator designed by the creators of Tron. That's what you get when you pair a mobile product designer with a visual artist from New York's School of Visual Arts. The Light Phone can work as a standalone phone or be tethered to an existing smartphone. It's also incredibly small — the size of a couple of credit cards glued together — and has buttons only for dialing, answering, hanging up and power.
Creators Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tang, who met at 30 Weeks, Google's program for designers, call their invention "your phone away from phone." This speaks to our connected culture: The Light Phone is nothing but a phone in a world where "phone" has become synonymous with Web browsing and mobile gaming.
The Light Phone Kickstarter page still has over a month left to gain funding. But it currently has more than half of its $200,000 goal spoken for. We may start seeing these simple devices hiding in wallets and shirt pockets as early as May 2016.
For some people, smartphones keep us too connected. Mobile tech lets people read books to their kids 3,500 miles away, watch live coverage of protests around the world and conduct board meetings from overseas. But sometimes, it helps to unplug and interact with what's around us — which is all but impossible when your phone gives you constant updates from 10-plus social media platforms. That's why many millennials are choosing to reject the iPhone and keep their flip phones. The Light Phone lets us have both: simplicity without the FOMO.