Why We Designed A Phone To Be Used As Little As Possible

Light is very different technology company.

We design beautiful objects that respect and empower. Technology that helps us appreciate life more; that serves, not enslaves us.

In a time when products and apps are being built at an exponential rate, it is more important than ever to ask the question of “why?”.

Light Co-Founders Joe Hollier & Kaiwei Tang

Google invited 17 designers to NYC in September 2014 for an experimental incubator. They wanted to test the idea that designers should be at the founding table of companies, and if given the proper resources, guidance and mentorship, could they lead innovative new start ups that solve unique problems with empathy? A wonderful hypothesis which attracted Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tang, the founders of Light, to join the 30 week program.

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

The program encouraged us to build apps. We met with founders, investors and technology experts daily, learning on a deeper level how and why software products were being built and funded. 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.

We couldn’t help by feel that the last thing we felt the world needed at the time was another app. There were so many products coming out all claiming to “make our lives better”, but we just couldn’t believe it anymore. Being more “connected” couldn’t possible make us any happier.

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

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.

As designers and artists, solitude was something we cherished. Be it window seats while traveling, talking a walk alone, or making art for hours at a time, these important conversations with ourselves can get lost to our unconscious habit of pulling out our screens. Solitude and boredom are essential to creativity or any serious work for that matter.

Our time and attention are two most precious things we take for granted hundreds a times a day as we reach for our screens. How could we encourage people to consciously choose to leave their smartphones at home, while maintaining the peace of mind that they are still reachable. How could we make that experience special? We have different shoes for different occasions, we thought why not a casual second phone for when I want to unplug? This was the beginning of the creation of the Light Phone.

what is the Light Phone?

Designed to be used as little as possible, the Light Phone is your phone away from phone. The Light Phone is your second phone, a casual phone for going light. The goal is not to use the Light Phone to place lots of phone calls, but to disconnect from the internet at large, the temptations and anxieties that come with it, and enjoy quality time in the present. 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 Light Phone only makes and receives phone calls. It uses your existing phone number as a supplement to your smartphone for those times where you do not need the internet in your pocket. The Light Phone can store 9 speed dials. It is intentionally limited to this feature set and is the only phone designed to be used as a second phone.

Going Light

Going light is the experience of using the Light Phone. The value lies not in what the phone itself is capable of doing, but rather what you are capable of experiencing once you get away from the smartphone.

There is an initial anxiety that happens when you first try going light. You might tap your pockets, feel bored or even frustrated. However, there is always a point in which you overcome the FOMO and are able to feel present, and that is where the magic lies. It could be lost in a great thought with yourself, or in a real conversation with your best friend. You feel alive. When you return home, there is a sense of self-pride that happens because you were your best self today. You chose to own your time, and to take that on that responsibility.

We’ve also learned that sometimes the simple, frequent ‘light trips’ are the ones that are most profound. We are so habitually overwhelmed that even just a half hour coffee break, leaving your phone at your desk, can do wonders for your ability to focus and make great work. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars of weeks off the grid to relax when you are so exhausted. It is about finding balance, and maintaining that healthy relationship with technology.

Thank you for spending some time with our project, we really appreciate it. Learn more about the Light Phone on our website, thelightphone.com.