These Phones Want to Help You Disconnect

The innovative ways some companies are trying to make it easier to unplug.

Dumbphone. Throwback Phone. Barebones Phone. Y2K-Makes-a-Comeback-Phone. Call them what you will, the anti-smartphone market is booming, offering simplified devices as an antidote to our screen obsession.

Creating a mindful relationship with your smartphone can be as simple as switching on “do not disturb” mode or getting some Space from your favorite apps, but these phones offer extra help staying in the moment by eliminating the option to plug-in altogether.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

While each product differs in exactly how it helps you unglue your face from your screen, the main idea is to limit the temptation to scroll through social media or text when you should be unplugging (dinnertime, anyone?) by making it impossible to do so. There’s no reason to turn off push notifications because they don’t exist, and no compulsion to check social media because the home screens (if there are home screens) don’t have apps.

Here are a few notable anti-smartphone offerings:

Light Phone: As the name suggests, this credit-card sized phone is a literal and figurative “light” version of your smartphone, so thin that it can slip into your wallet. This phone is perhaps the most pared-down of all : It doesn’t have Internet capacity, a camera, text or access to apps. It’s meant to be used as a second phone during times when you want to truly disconnect and is designed only so you can be reached in an emergency, and vice versa. The phone can be synced to your smartphone via call forwarding, but doesn’t connect to WiFi or Bluetooth.

Siempo: Dubbed “The Phone for Humans,” Siempo is mindfully designed to help you live in the moment. It has many of the perks of your current smartphone, like a camera, messaging, Google Maps, notes and a few other basics, but doesn’t offer email or social media. It also includes a “pause” button that lets you mute notifications for a set amount of time and a mindful morning feature that helps encourage healthy a.m. habits.

Nokia 3310: Unlike other simplified phones looking towards the future, Nokia is taking us back to the 90s with the 3310, a $50 phone equipped with a T9 keyboard and no social media. While this phone would likely supplement existing phones, it could offer a way to unplug on camping trips or concerts, helping you take in your surroundings through your own eyes rather than through a screen.

The invention (or for Nokia, reincarnation) of these phones marks a poignant shift: More people are recognizing that our current relationship with technology — smartphones in particular— is flawed. If you’re not quite ready to embrace the anti-smartphone movement, there are other ways to help you break your technology addiction (which, as we’ve explored, is by design). Try setting your phone to do not disturb during dinner, turning off all push notifications and, of course, leaving your phone outside of the bedroom at night.