Having a charged phone in your pocket means you can always check social media. You can consume news reports from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep. And you never have to be bored. We don’t have eye implants with Facebook built-in yet. But you know what? We might as well.
I don’t want this anymore. The Samsung Galaxy S6 that I bought five years ago has ruined more days than it’s made better. I’m not proud to admit that phone checking has become my way of dealing with stress.
And I’m willing to bet that there aren’t many people in 2021 who believe smartphones add joy and meaning to their lives. That is why the Light Phone, and other similar devices, have caught my attention.
This isn’t an endorsement or review. It’s a meditation on what life would be like if your smartphone wasn’t a factor, and whether the Light Phone could make that reality possible.
The Purpose and Features of the Light Phone II
The Light Phone (currently the Light Phone II) is a minimalist phone designed not to be addictive. It was created by Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tang in defiance against tech monopolies who seek to manipulate your attention for profit.
The developers’ mission is to free people from infinite feeds, social media, echo chambers, and constant negative news.
Here is what a Light Phone II can be used for:
- Music/Podcasts (Downloadable. There is no music app.)
- Basic tools like an alarm, a calculator, and a GPS
It’s small and unexciting to look at. Your color options are black and white. It gives the impression of an iPod from 2006.
When I first came across this thing, I had high hopes. But then I started having doubts.
Is it pretentious? Does it even work? What is it going to cost me? Are these developers actually supporting a cause, or is this just some overpriced piece of style over substance? Let’s look at the pros and cons.
With a phone like this, freedom is possible. You won’t have to fall down miserable rabbit holes. You can sleep soundly by not filling your mind with anxiety and blue light before bed. You can get your attention span back. You can make use of your time in more fulfilling ways without getting lost in trivial bullshit.
You can leave the internet on the internet while you go live your life. If you feel like your phone makes your life worse, then you are their market. I definitely fit this category.
2. Environmentally Friendly
Assuming you can adapt to a dumb phone lifestyle, you won’t go back to buying a new smartphone every couple of years. This will impact your carbon footprint in a positive way.
1. Expensive for What You’re Buying
The Light Phone II is $299. That’s relatively cheap for a smartphone, but expensive for a dumb. The monthly payment is $30; $70 if you want to turn the phone into a hotspot.
I’ve heard people ask, “Why don’t you just buy a $10 Nokia burner if you want to disconnect?”
You would have to go back to texting with a dial pad, and I don’t think anyone wants that. The Light Phone has useful features like alarms and music players, and more are still being developed. You can also group text. The developer’s goal, of course, is to never let it become a full-fledged smartphone.
I look at it like purchasing my next smartphone, but it’s cheaper, and they toss in freedom. You get the essentials without the distraction or the Nokia drug dealer vibes.
2. People Will Lecture You About Discipline
“Why don’t you just keep your smartphone and be disciplined about not checking it?” Because, as much as I’d like to believe I could tough it out, I know I will have weak moments. Weak moments lead to weak habits. I want to cut off my weak habits at their source.
If you were a recovering alcoholic, would you carry a flask around in your pocket? Would you grit your teeth every day resisting temptation? Or would you sever yourself from the problem?
3. You Won’t Be Able to Do Certain Things
This is why you bought the phone. But there are still some things you would probably miss.
- Notetaking Apps
- Dating Apps
- Chat apps like WhatsApp and Telegram
- Ability to look up random facts during arguments
- Stuff to browse when you’re bored
These are nice things. But once you make the jump, I don’t think you’ll miss them. A PC can pick up the slack if you’re an active dating app user or you need to use Whatsapp. If these things are important to you, then you can carve out the time. Otherwise, you never needed them.
People have reported some glitchiness with the phone, as it is still a work in progress from a small team. Calls are occasionally missed. Bluetooth is available, but you often disconnect. There is some slowness and typing frustration.
At worst, you would have a few pains in the ass. At best, you could consider it a small price to pay for freedom. Did I mention freedom?
The Light Phone II and the Idea of Freedom
Maybe I’ve been bewitched by a creative marketing campaign, but going light is looking more appealing by the day. The price, glitches, and limitations don’t mean much when you consider the lifestyle this device could help create for you.
I want my smartphone days to become a memory. I want to remember what it feels like to feel bored. I want to feel the creativity boredom allows for. A lack of distraction is fertile ground for new ideas.
Buying a Light Phone might be more of a statement than anything. It’s for anyone who recognizes the damage that smartphones are causing. It’s a little tool against dystopia and a rebellion against the big tech attention economy.
That’s a cause I’m down with. If you feel like there is something profoundly wrong with where tech is bringing us, then I hope you do what’s best for you. I hope you find your freedom.