Colin Nagy | December 2, 2021

The Dumb Phone Edition

On attention, old school tech, and forcing functions

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The Light Phone
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Punkt. MP02 4G Mobile Phone
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Colin here. I don’t like to admit it, but I’m glued to my phone for most of the day. The worst perpetrators for me are the messaging apps: I have Signal, Whatsapp, Telegram, and iMessage and they do a lot of inbound all day, not including work messaging. And then comes email—across work, personal, and side projects. That alone is enough to siphon a lot of attention before you layer on social apps, news apps, and podcasts all competing for a finite amount of attention. Pre Covid in NYC, any downtime was promptly eaten by one of the aforementioned. Cab rides turned into feverish catch-up sessions and literally small spaces like an elevator ride were time to indulge. It is very much an affliction that many of us are familiar with every day. But I’ve also realized that to solve difficult problems, be creative, and arrive at insights (necessary for both work and daily WITI!) that the brain needs some uncluttered space to just exist. So, naturally, I have been intrigued for a long time about the dumb phone concept.

It’s just swapping your normal feature phone with a phone of whatever provenance that just makes calls and does the most rudimentary things. The emails, the messages, etc. can wait until you’re back on the computer. 

Why is this interesting? 

The simple idea of the dumbphone has spawned a mini-industry of sorts. Some of the old-school players are reissuing classics for this very reason. Nokia is releasing a new version of its 6310 complete with the classic Snake. Light Phone is a high concept phone described as:

The Light Phone II is a premium, minimal phone. It will never have social media, clickbait news, email, an internet browser, or any other anxiety-inducing infinite feed...It's a phone, it calls and texts. There is a customizable menu of simple tools, and a dashboard website to manage everything. There is a headphone jack, Bluetooth, and it can be used as a personal hotspot.

But there is an inherent irony to buying tech to replace your tech, though they do spin a good yarn about it. Some friends of WITI like Rett use a classic BlackBerry due to ease of typing and lack of distractions and notifications. 

I’m most intrigued by the Punkt phone designed by Jasper Morrison

It feels good in the hand, has a nicely designed interface, and allows for a hot spot to connect another device like your laptop if you’re out and about. For those that must have a messaging app, Signal runs on it, as well. It seems like the compromise of giving up just enough functionality while still retaining some. But in my attempts to flirt with the dumbphone concept, I do find myself needing a Google map for orientation from time to time or some of the daily conveniences afforded by our feature-rich phones. So I am still trying to find the sweet spot, and will report back if it does, in fact, exist. (CJN)

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Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)

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