The news: A new Kickstarter project is making something so simple and so stupid that it's actually kind of brilliant.
Under the name NoPhone, a group of inventors based in New York City are developing what they're calling a "a surrogate to any smart mobile device, enabling you to always have a rectangle of smooth, cold plastic to clutch without forgoing any potential engagement with your direct environment." In other words, it's a black, plastic, rectangular brick about the size of an average smartphone. The only difference? It doesn't actually do anything.
Image Credit: Kickstarter
Some of the frequently asked questions:
"Does it have a camera? No. Is it Bluetooth compatible? No. Does it make calls? No. Is it toilet bowl resistant? Yes."
The NoPhone also comes with an optional "Selfie Upgrade" (a mirror sticker):
Image Credit: Kickstarter
Boasting features such as "battery free, no upgrades necessary, shatterproof [and] waterproof," the NoPhone is an ideal replacement for your pesky iPhone or Android. The Kickstarter team behind the NoPhone is currently seeking $30,000 in funding to make their dream project come true. But again, to be perfectly clear, it does not actually do anything.
Wait ... what?
Isn't the NoPhone just a blank piece of plastic? Well, yes. So why would you give them any money? Good question. It's very possible this is just a fun gag a group of friends put together, but that doesn't mean it's not making a good point about a broader issue.
As the NoPhone's Kickstarter page points out, "Phone addiction is real. And it's everywhere. It's ruining your dates. It's distracting you at concerts. It's disrupting you in movie theaters. It's clogging up sidewalks. Now, there is a real solution."
Their solution? "The NoPhone is [a] technology-free alternative to constant hand-to-phone contact that allows you to stay connected with the real world."
Cellphone addiction: Sure, the NoPhone may be taking things to the extreme, but cellphone addiction is becoming a very real problem for many people. (If you're wondering whether you're one of them, this BuzzFeed quiz might be helpful.)
A number of studies have already begun to look at the potential medical side effects of excessive cellphone use, but there haven't been any definitive conclusions. However, though the science is still out on the extent of the effects excessive cellphone use can have on a person's health, the numbers on use are astounding.
According to a survey by Gazelle, a high-end consumer electronics trade-in site, "more than 25% of survey respondents report that they 'almost always' use their iPhone while in a social setting such as during a meal or while at a party ... A combined 58% of respondents say they use their iPhone in a social setting either 'usually' or 'occasionally.'"
A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions found that "female college students spend an average of 10 hours a day on their cell phones, while male students report spending nearly eight," reports the Huffington Post. The study also found that "approximately 60% of college students admit they may be addicted to their cell phone, and some indicated they get agitated when it is not in sight" researcher James Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing in Baylor's Hankamer School of Business, said in a press release.
On top of all that, as Louis C.K. points out, they're just kind of terrible:
So how does the NoPhone play into this? Admitting there's a problem is often the first step toward fixing it. The fact that an idea like NoPhone even exists should alert us to the fact that cellphone and smartphone usage has hit a dangerous fever pitch. It's time to reevaluate our relationships with these magic boxes.
But besides just stirring up some possible controvery and awareness, for people with a really bad cellphone addiction, the very act of holding one in your hands can be soothing. As mentioned above, NoPhone describes itself as "a surrogate to any smart mobile device, enabling you to always have a rectangle of smooth, cold plastic to clutch." As silly as it sounds, not having something to hold on to or play with has become an all-too-real problem. That's where the NoPhone comes in.
Image Credit: Gifrific
But, who knows, maybe the NoPhone will actually take off. The Internet is a strange place, and we did recently see the infamously successful Potato Salad Kickstarter that raised over $55,000, which was roughly 550,000% of the original $10 goal.
And even if it doesn't, even if the NoPhone sizzles into nothingness, it will still have raised some surprisingly important questions about our addictions to technology and cellphones. It's just too bad that we need to buy a NoPhone just to have no phone.