We’re not anti-technology, we’re just human.

Light Co-Founders Joe Hollier & Kaiwei Tang

Joe comes from an art, design and film making background. He ran a skateboarding company and studio called Five on That. Kai comes from a product design and development background with a focus on human centered design. He has spent 10 years traveling the world bringing 12 mobile phones to life.

We couldn’t help but feel that the last thing we thought the world needed was another app. There were all of these products and apps coming out left and right all claiming to “make our lives better”. We just couldn’t believe any of it anymore, these products didn’t respect the user or their time. Being more connected couldn’t actually be what we needed to become happier.

We learned the most common metric for success of many of these companies was retention, how many hours a day does the user spend with your product. We are humans, and we are vulnerable. These products are engineered to use our vulnerabilities against us. They are built because we can become addicted to them, but not because we ever needed them.

If how we spend our days is always “connected”, always staring at our screens, that will be how we spend the rest of our lives.

We might scroll for a while, but when we snap out of what feels like a daze, not particularly happy or sad, just kind of tired. Answering a text a message can send anyone into a 20 minute hole without even realizing it.

The internet lives in our pockets. Our smartphones are computers, but we still bring them everywhere because they are our phones. We don’t even think twice about whether or not to bring our phone with us…because, you know, what if?

We didn’t always have a small computer with us at all times. In the days of AIM, “away messages” and “signing off”, there was a specific chair and a specific desk with our family computer, and when you sat in that chair and that desk and listened patiently to the modem sounds connecting, then you could be on the internet. Leaving that chair left the internet behind.

Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together and Reclaiming Conversation, and Founder/Director of MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, argues that our phones are so powerful that they are not just changing what we do, they are actually changing who we are.

We are forgetting the importance of solitude, something we once cherished. Having window seats while traveling, taking a walk alone, maybe with a camera or making art for hours at a time, these important conversations with ourselves are lost to our habit of pulling out our screens. Solitude and boredom are essential to creativity or producing any sort of serious work. We are becoming scared of boredom, scared of solitude, scared of conversations with ourself.

Just the physical presence of the phone as an object on a table in sight, whether or not it rings, will change the course of our thoughts and effect a conversation we are trying to have. The solution had to involve leaving the smart phone at home, a separation from the object itself. Here is a one of our first sketches. The idea was that your smart phone becomes a smart answering machine, filtering only the absolute most important things through to you. It was your phone away from phone.

Designed to be used as little as possible.

The Light Phone is designed to be used as little as possible, and every design decision along the way reflects that philosophy. The Light Phone is an actually an experience we call ‘going light’ in which the goal is not to use the Light Phone to place lots of phone calls, but to disconnect from the internet at large and maintain the peace of mind that your are still reachable by those you love the most. The value of the Light Phone is in it’s intentional lack of features and the self-empowerment that comes with the conscious decision to leave your smartphone behind.

The right phone for the job.

We see the Light Phone as a supplement, not a replacement. It is the first and only phone designed to be used as your “second phone”, like how we have different shoes and clothes for different occasions. A carpenter has different tools for specific jobs. There is no tool that will work for every single job, at least not well. Why is the same giant phone that is good for things like reading emails or scrolling on instagram also the same phone I take with me to the beach?

The Motorola DynaTAC on the cover of Popular Science, July 1973

In 1973 Marty Cooper invented the first cell phone, the Motorola DynaTAC. Aside from the technological breakthrough, there was also a very human centered idea behind the phone which was for the first time a phone number would represent a person rather than a place. What we have built with the Light Phone is a way for your phone number to represent you as a person across a variety of devices appropriate for the situation and user. Marty, an amazing, eccentric, wise man has some thoughts about smartphones today:

The Light Phone is very intentionally curated for a specific use case. We’ve limited the phone on purpose. We want the experience of going light to feel special, and to respect you as the user with every decision we’ve made.

Thank you for your time and attention. We would love your support in considering a pre-order of the phone or sharing of our story. We’re a small team on a grassroots mission to keep a human voice in this crazy world of technology. The Light Phone is our first product, and we will continue to design beautiful objects that respect and empower.

Much Love,
Joe & Kai

You can learn more at thelightphone.com