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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

smartphones

 

- We've had smartphones for about 10 years but between all the socialmedia networks' notifications, there's a sense that they're starting to take over our lives. Now I have an iPhone 6 andit's a pretty good phone. The problem is I spend a lot of time on it scrolling through Twitter,Instagram and whatever else. So to help me deal withmy iPhone addiction, I decided to play around withsome more minimalist phones. That includes the Unihertz Jelly, the Nokia 3310, the PunktMP 01, and The Light Phone.

And I'm gonna head toBrooklyn's Prospect Park to see how disconnected I can get. (upbeat, modern music) This is the Jelly, a tinylittle Android smartphone. Unihertz, the creators,call it impossibly small, amazingly cute, and totally functional. Only two of those things are true, but I'm kinda getting ahead of myself. First thing you'll notice about the Jelly is just how small it is. At three and a half inchesin length, it fits into the palm of my hand, costs$125, runs on Android 7, has a 1.1 gigahertz processor,and has front and rear-facing cameras that are eight and two megapixels, which isn't that great. The phone runs on 4G networkand has Dual SIM cards. Now, because of the thickness,a lot of people thought it had a slide-outkeyboard, which it doesn't. But it does have a two anda half inch touchscreen that's fully functional.

Back to those two truths and a lie. The Jelly is impossiblysmall and amazingly cute, and there's just somethingcool about having the full functionality of a smartphonein such a small package. Scrolling through anInstagram Live video on such a tiny screen is just kind of fun. And if you wanna disconnect, there's a purpose for the smallness. With the screen so smallit adds a level of friction that we're not typicallyused to, so I found myself reading less and actually just pulling my phone out less entirely. But the Jelly's small size actually threatens its functionality. Using the Jelly's thimble-sized keyboard was almost impossible and Ikept making tons of mistakes. In the end, I startedtexting less because I wanted to make less typos. The Jelly's other bigdrawback is battery life. Downloading just a fewapps made my phone hot, and I lost almost 20% of my battery. At 83% it told me I onlyhad four hours of life left, which meant that I had to carry around this huge battery pack all day long just to make it through the day. And if you wanna use the phone less, maybe that's not such a bad thing. But if you really wannadisconnect, you might wanna ditch your smartphone for a feature phone. Nokia 3310 is one of the mosticonic and popular phones of all time, and in 2017,the company rereleased it as part of its nostalgia-drivenmarketing push. Now, the new phone benefitsfrom a larger color screen and a more bubbly design thanits brick-like predecessor. It has a two megapixel camera in the back and runs on Nokia's proprietary OS.

It comes with a classic 2002era skeleton crew of apps like a calculator, acalendar, and obviously Snake. Unlike the Jelly, it has apretty good battery life, about six and a half hours of talk time, and 650 hours of standby time. And it's cheap. You can get one for $60. You'll notice the home screenhas a couple of new additions including a Facebook and Twitter button, but open them up and you get stuck in Nokia's weird Web clientthat you have to navigate with a clunky directional pad. It's so hard to use thateventually I just gave up, and maybe if you're trying to disconnect that's not really a problem. Moving over to the Nokia alsocomes with another big shift and that's going froma full keyboard to T9. And if you're like me, youhaven't used T9 in awhile, it takes some getting used to. It can definitely be clunky, but if you're tryingto text less, it works. T9ing is too slow totext-bomb, and eventually, you might just stop texting altogether.

If you really wanna get intentionalabout minimalist phones, you might wanna checkout Punkt MP 01 phone. Punkt means 'period' or 'stop' in German, and it's a Swiss company thatmakes minimalist products. A lot of times when people seethe MP 01 for the first time, they think it looks like a calculator, but I kind of actually like the design. It comes in three colors:brown, black, and white.

It's four and a half inches tall, it has Gorilla Glass and afiberglass reinforced body, so it feels sturdy in the hand. Navigating the phone isactually pretty easy, 'cause it only does twothings and it has buttons to navigate towards them, andthat's texting and calling. The only hitch is that itcosts $230, which is a lot for a phone that only does two things. And of those two things,it doesn't do one of them very well, and that's texting. So most phones when youtext, they create a thread, but the MP 01 actuallybreaks it up like email into an inbox, sent, draft, et cetera. Which is really confusing andkind of a pain in the ass. And the phone did a pretty bad job of capitalizing my sentences when I text, which is really pretty basic stuff. It kind of feels like theperfect phone for somebody who can afford to hiresomeone else to take care of the rest of their lives. Oh, and did I mention thatit only runs on a 2G network? And T-Mobile is one ofthe few carriers that still supports 2G in the U.S.? And they're gonna phase it out by 2020. All of which makes MP 01's claim that the Punkt is a timelessdevice feel kinda empty. If there's one phone thatreally represents the minimalist phone movement,it's The Light Phone, a business card sizeddevice that you can either tether to your phone of use independently. It costs $150 and itliterally only does one thing and that's make phone calls. New phones try to dazzle youwith big, bright displays and bezel-less design,but not The Light Phone. The Light Phone really doesn'twant any of your attention. It's a beautiful device and alot of people I showed it to didn't even believe it worked, but it works exactly as advertised. And there was somethingfreeing knowing that I could leave the house just withthis and reach somebody if I really needed to. At least, I hope I could,because if I'm being honest, people don't really pickup their phones anymore. I mean, I make one phone call a day maybe, but I'm texting all the time, either through Messengeror Slack or Twitter, and that makes The Light Phone feel like an experiment more than a viable product, an effort to gauge whetherpeople would really be interested in such a minimal device. And apparently they are. In 2018, the companyannounced Light Phone II, a 4G version that would haveE-ink display, a full keyboard, and possibly even somefeatures like maps and music. But loading smartphone featuresonto such a minimal device is probably gonna haveproblems of its own. I spent a lot of time with these phones over the last couple weeks,and what I've realized is that, I don't really want a phonethat limits my communication or one that makes memake more phone calls. In 2018, a lot of ourcommunication happens over text, and I don't really thinkthat's such a bad thing. What I don't really need isall the social media networks, all the notifications,the short battery life, and the bezel-less screen.

That's what kinda makesphones overwhelming, not a text from my mom or a friend. What I really want is asmartphone functionality stripped of all the gizmos. Unfortunately, a lot ofthese minimalist phones threw out the texting baby withthe social media bathwater. So until they figurethat out, I'm just gonna delete my social mediaapps and keep my iPhone. Fox.com has a video thatexplains how addictive smartphones could be. Click here to watch itand find out how necessary a minimalist phone could be for you.

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