Pick up a mobile that’s brighter than a smartphone

Meet the man behind the slick new phone he’d like you to use as little as possible.
The feature-light Light Phone
The Light Phone © Light
By Ally Koehler

In this super connected world, our smartphones are never too far from our side. But instead of throwing your phone down in a fit of rebellion and going cold turkey, Light Phone co-founder Joe Hollier suggests taking a wee break from the hussle with the new credit-card sized cell phone that does nothing but make and take calls.

Hollier describes the Light Phone as “your phone away from phone.” It’s not designed to replace your smartphone but it does let you disconnect without dropping off the grid.

The idea came about as Hollier and his co-founder Kaiwei Tang sought to create a conscious way for people to take back their time and attention, even if only for a few important moments throughout the week.

“Our smartphones have become our nervous habit and we don’t even realise how connected we’ve become,” Hollier says. “We have different shoes for different occasions, so why do I only have one giant smartphone computer that I take with me everywhere?”

“The Light Phone is the only phone designed to be a second phone, supplementary to a user’s primary smartphone. The entire experience we’ve created makes the Light Phone a seamless extension of your other phone and the interface is so simple that it makes going light and leaving your other phone behind feel special.”

Light co-founders Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tang
Light co-founders Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tang © Light

So how exactly does it work? Well, the Light Phone is a 2G phone that operates independently of your current plan, using a unique software platform that allows you to keep your same number as your existing handset. It’s easily set up and controlled via an app on your smartphone, but its functionality is limited to ten speed dials and a time display. The team opted for credit card size to make the phone as invisible and easy to carry as possible and, although it’s incredibly simple, the phone actually runs a stripped down version of Android making it quite a smart ‘dumb’ phone. It’s this aspect that Hollier says will allow the Brooklyn, New York-based Light Phone team to continue to perfect the “light experience”.

Like many recent innovations, the Light Phone gained momentum through a Kickstarter campaign – raising over US$400,000 in June 2015 and proving to potential partners it fulfilled a valuable need. Hollier says development simply would not have been possible without the support of early adopters and believes the concept resonated as “multi-tasking is a myth” and typical smartphone habits are leaving many people overwhelmed.

© Light

Hollier’s background is in art, design and skateboarding, while Tang is a product designer and developer. He says the small team behind the Light Phone come from a mix of backgrounds but share an appreciation for simplicity, good design and enjoying life.

“We’ve learned a lot of lessons so far,” Hollier says. “We’ve spent an enormous amount on the lighting effect of the interface and shrinking everything to its current form while still meeting FCC and other regulations. We’ve struggled with keeping an accurate timeline of our software schedule. Software in general has been our biggest learning curve.”

Despite the challenges, the Light Phone is now almost ready to ship and, out of an initial batch of 10,000, many have already been sold to early supporters. While the team cannot provide SIM cards beyond the US, the phone will come unlocked and work anywhere in the world that has a GSM carrier.

Light Phone
Going light is no excuse to ignore Mum © Light

“The Light Phone is the start of a conversation about where we want to see technology going,” Hollier says. “Light is our platform to create products that support a healthy lifestyle that is not anti-technology at all, but that creates beautiful, technologically smart objects that serve a single purpose well.”

He also says when life gets hectic, “don’t forget to call your mum”.

You can pre-order your very own Light Phone for US$100 plus shipping and handling from Light. First shipments will be made in December 2016.

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