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Sometimes we can forget how young computing technology is. It was only in June of 2007 that the iPhone was first announced, and computers in homes, let alone pockets, have themselves only been around for a few decades. It’s understandable how excited we’ve been to explore everything technology could do: how fast it could be, how many features we could cram in.

But in that rush, we never really stopped to consider what we really needed. It’s hard to design for a technology that don’t understand yet, and to design for a world that you haven’t yet experienced. Now that we live in that future, it’s perhaps worthwhile to stop to consider what we truly need. How powerful should our phones be? Are there any downsides to more, more, more?

To be clear, I adore technology. My entire life has been about the designing and building technology and it’s empowered us to do things we literally never dreamed we’d be able to do. But sometimes, we can get carried away by design for technology rather than design for people.

About eight years after the smartphone revolution, a new kind of device came around. This is The Light Phone.

It was, and still is, unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. A tiny cell phone (the height and width of only a credit card and the thickness of only several such cards stacked). It’s tiny enough to fit into your pocket without you even noticing it’s there. And that’s exactly the point.

So of course I ordered one. It was exactly $100—not $99—one hundred dollars even. Even the pricing was minimal.

Unboxing

When it arrived, it didn’t disappoint. Firstly, it doesn’t come in a box, because of course it doesn’t. It comes in a book that walks you through the brand story. Only at the end do you turn to a page that is like many pages stuck together with a box cut out to fit the phone, like a classic improvised book safe. It’s a design meant for precious things and it works by blending into the environment. Both of these felt really appropriate for a device like this, designed to protect your precious time and mental clarity by blending in.

Light calls this temporary transition away from high intensity technology, “going light”. All you need to do is forward your calls to your Light Phone, and just go.

Setup

When I first used it, I set up call forwarding per the instructions, and then called myself to check that it worked. It did, and I’m not entirely sure why I checked. It almost seemed too good to believe. I’m accustomed to the idea that phones are these big things that to hold something that small and light felt like it couldn’t possibly communicate with cell towers.

But beyond that, I needed to make sure I wouldn’t be, I guess, disconnected. It was bizarre to just leave without my regular phone. What would I do when I became bored for even a moment?

Living light

Later, I went for a run. It was amazing to just run without the burden of my iPhone but still be connected if I needed to be.

Today, I use an Apple Watch with cellular connectivity for this purpose and even after years of use, it’s still a magical experience to be connected anywhere without a phone.

The impact of “light” technology like this doesn’t get enough attention. Once you’ve experienced it, it really changes your perspective. It seems to give you more of your humanity back. You’re no longer tethered to an easily breakable and somewhat heavy device (especially for running) to be connected.

I used to try so many different devices to hold a phone, from an ineffective armband that seemed to signal me as one of the militantly athletic to a sort of belt that holds the phone on your lower back.

That belt option was very effective by the way; with the phone’s weight on your spine/pelvis you don’t even notice it. A great study in carry of weight from a human factors standpoint.

But all of these seem sort of ridiculous in hindsight. Why don’t we just design technology for these use cases?

Photo by Gian Prosdocimo on Unsplash

The only other technology that has been able to give me this feeling are AirPods. What an incredible product.

Here’s Lil Buck (who I once had the pleasure of working with on a branding project) dancing Memphis jookin. He and his dance style is a perfect for this ad because it perfectly conveys the profound sense of freedom AirPods gives you. You feel weightless wearing them. I never realized what an impact a tiny wire on traditional headphones has until I got to live without them. I don’t go anywhere without AirPods and more recently, AirPod Pros.

And the best part is that they connect directly to Apple Watch for the ultimate lightweight experience.

The new Light Phone

Since the release of the original Light Phone, there is now the Light Phone II. To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed in it. I’m disappointed that a sequel would go more in the direction the original was trying so hard to avoid.

The new Light Phone has a screen, a menu, texting, and more. It even looks a lot like the iPhone SE. From a product strategy standpoint, I think this falls into a no-man’s-land between real features and hyper minimalism.

The new Light Phone does texting
The new Light Phone does texting

The story of the evolution from the first to second Light Phone kind of tells the story about all such radical returns to basics. Eventually, you miss the luxuries that you originally moved away from. For all that less is more, most of the time, more is in fact more.

But let’s remember, the first Light Phone was never meant to replace your smartphone. It was envisioned to work alongside it. Nothing can replace everything the smart phone does, but sometimes, you can take a vacation from all that it entails with a radically minimal, lightweight experience.

The only thing I really missed in the original Light Phone was a camera. For me, having a camera on me at all times is an incredible capability and almost never one that I’m aching to get away from for a moment like I do with social media.

Like the first phone, it comes in black too, like a low-fi dark mode
Like the first phone, it comes in black too, like a low-fi dark mode

I’m excited to see how, as technology and its design matures, we can get some breathing room as designers to explore less intensive integrations of technology into our lives. Technology integrations where design, asking first what you truly need and how technology can best solve that problem, leads rather than simply showing off everything that technology can do.

Because once you can do everything, the more relevant question becomes, “what should you do?” And that’s the most exciting kind of technology design of all.

Field Notes

Going Light

Sometimes we can forget how young computing technology is. It was only in June of 2007 that the iPhone was first announced, and computers in homes, let alone pockets, have themselves only been around for a few decades. It’s understandable how excited we’ve been to explore everything technology could do: how fast it could be, how many features we could cram in.

But in that rush, we never really stopped to consider what we really needed. It’s hard to design for a technology that don’t understand yet, and to design for a world that you haven’t yet experienced. Now that we live in that future, it’s perhaps worthwhile to stop to consider what we truly need. How powerful should our phones be? Are there any downsides to more, more, more?

To be clear, I adore technology. My entire life has been about the designing and building technology and it’s empowered us to do things we literally never dreamed we’d be able to do. But sometimes, we can get carried away by design for technology rather than design for people.

About eight years after the smartphone revolution, a new kind of device came around. This is The Light Phone.

It was, and still is, unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. A tiny cell phone (the height and width of only a credit card and the thickness of only several such cards stacked). It’s tiny enough to fit into your pocket without you even noticing it’s there. And that’s exactly the point.

So of course I ordered one. It was exactly $100—not $99—one hundred dollars even. Even the pricing was minimal.

Unboxing

When it arrived, it didn’t disappoint. Firstly, it doesn’t come in a box, because of course it doesn’t. It comes in a book that walks you through the brand story. Only at the end do you turn to a page that is like many pages stuck together with a box cut out to fit the phone, like a classic improvised book safe. It’s a design meant for precious things and it works by blending into the environment. Both of these felt really appropriate for a device like this, designed to protect your precious time and mental clarity by blending in.

Light calls this temporary transition away from high intensity technology, “going light”. All you need to do is forward your calls to your Light Phone, and just go.

Setup

When I first used it, I set up call forwarding per the instructions, and then called myself to check that it worked. It did, and I’m not entirely sure why I checked. It almost seemed too good to believe. I’m accustomed to the idea that phones are these big things that to hold something that small and light felt like it couldn’t possibly communicate with cell towers.

But beyond that, I needed to make sure I wouldn’t be, I guess, disconnected. It was bizarre to just leave without my regular phone. What would I do when I became bored for even a moment?

Living light

Later, I went for a run. It was amazing to just run without the burden of my iPhone but still be connected if I needed to be.

Today, I use an Apple Watch with cellular connectivity for this purpose and even after years of use, it’s still a magical experience to be connected anywhere without a phone.

The impact of “light” technology like this doesn’t get enough attention. Once you’ve experienced it, it really changes your perspective. It seems to give you more of your humanity back. You’re no longer tethered to an easily breakable and somewhat heavy device (especially for running) to be connected.

I used to try so many different devices to hold a phone, from an ineffective armband that seemed to signal me as one of the militantly athletic to a sort of belt that holds the phone on your lower back.

That belt option was very effective by the way; with the phone’s weight on your spine/pelvis you don’t even notice it. A great study in carry of weight from a human factors standpoint.

But all of these seem sort of ridiculous in hindsight. Why don’t we just design technology for these use cases?

Photo by Gian Prosdocimo on Unsplash

The only other technology that has been able to give me this feeling are AirPods. What an incredible product.

Here’s Lil Buck (who I once had the pleasure of working with on a branding project) dancing Memphis jookin. He and his dance style is a perfect for this ad because it perfectly conveys the profound sense of freedom AirPods gives you. You feel weightless wearing them. I never realized what an impact a tiny wire on traditional headphones has until I got to live without them. I don’t go anywhere without AirPods and more recently, AirPod Pros.

And the best part is that they connect directly to Apple Watch for the ultimate lightweight experience.

The new Light Phone

Since the release of the original Light Phone, there is now the Light Phone II. To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed in it. I’m disappointed that a sequel would go more in the direction the original was trying so hard to avoid.

The new Light Phone has a screen, a menu, texting, and more. It even looks a lot like the iPhone SE. From a product strategy standpoint, I think this falls into a no-man’s-land between real features and hyper minimalism.

The new Light Phone does texting
The new Light Phone does texting

The story of the evolution from the first to second Light Phone kind of tells the story about all such radical returns to basics. Eventually, you miss the luxuries that you originally moved away from. For all that less is more, most of the time, more is in fact more.

But let’s remember, the first Light Phone was never meant to replace your smartphone. It was envisioned to work alongside it. Nothing can replace everything the smart phone does, but sometimes, you can take a vacation from all that it entails with a radically minimal, lightweight experience.

The only thing I really missed in the original Light Phone was a camera. For me, having a camera on me at all times is an incredible capability and almost never one that I’m aching to get away from for a moment like I do with social media.

Like the first phone, it comes in black too, like a low-fi dark mode
Like the first phone, it comes in black too, like a low-fi dark mode

I’m excited to see how, as technology and its design matures, we can get some breathing room as designers to explore less intensive integrations of technology into our lives. Technology integrations where design, asking first what you truly need and how technology can best solve that problem, leads rather than simply showing off everything that technology can do.

Because once you can do everything, the more relevant question becomes, “what should you do?” And that’s the most exciting kind of technology design of all.

Updated continuously • Last edited on
9.11.23
Field Notes

Going Light

Updated continuously •
Last edited on
9.11.23

Sometimes we can forget how young computing technology is. It was only in June of 2007 that the iPhone was first announced, and computers in homes, let alone pockets, have themselves only been around for a few decades. It’s understandable how excited we’ve been to explore everything technology could do: how fast it could be, how many features we could cram in.

But in that rush, we never really stopped to consider what we really needed. It’s hard to design for a technology that don’t understand yet, and to design for a world that you haven’t yet experienced. Now that we live in that future, it’s perhaps worthwhile to stop to consider what we truly need. How powerful should our phones be? Are there any downsides to more, more, more?

To be clear, I adore technology. My entire life has been about the designing and building technology and it’s empowered us to do things we literally never dreamed we’d be able to do. But sometimes, we can get carried away by design for technology rather than design for people.

About eight years after the smartphone revolution, a new kind of device came around. This is The Light Phone.

It was, and still is, unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. A tiny cell phone (the height and width of only a credit card and the thickness of only several such cards stacked). It’s tiny enough to fit into your pocket without you even noticing it’s there. And that’s exactly the point.

So of course I ordered one. It was exactly $100—not $99—one hundred dollars even. Even the pricing was minimal.

Unboxing

When it arrived, it didn’t disappoint. Firstly, it doesn’t come in a box, because of course it doesn’t. It comes in a book that walks you through the brand story. Only at the end do you turn to a page that is like many pages stuck together with a box cut out to fit the phone, like a classic improvised book safe. It’s a design meant for precious things and it works by blending into the environment. Both of these felt really appropriate for a device like this, designed to protect your precious time and mental clarity by blending in.

Light calls this temporary transition away from high intensity technology, “going light”. All you need to do is forward your calls to your Light Phone, and just go.

Setup

When I first used it, I set up call forwarding per the instructions, and then called myself to check that it worked. It did, and I’m not entirely sure why I checked. It almost seemed too good to believe. I’m accustomed to the idea that phones are these big things that to hold something that small and light felt like it couldn’t possibly communicate with cell towers.

But beyond that, I needed to make sure I wouldn’t be, I guess, disconnected. It was bizarre to just leave without my regular phone. What would I do when I became bored for even a moment?

Living light

Later, I went for a run. It was amazing to just run without the burden of my iPhone but still be connected if I needed to be.

Today, I use an Apple Watch with cellular connectivity for this purpose and even after years of use, it’s still a magical experience to be connected anywhere without a phone.

The impact of “light” technology like this doesn’t get enough attention. Once you’ve experienced it, it really changes your perspective. It seems to give you more of your humanity back. You’re no longer tethered to an easily breakable and somewhat heavy device (especially for running) to be connected.

I used to try so many different devices to hold a phone, from an ineffective armband that seemed to signal me as one of the militantly athletic to a sort of belt that holds the phone on your lower back.

That belt option was very effective by the way; with the phone’s weight on your spine/pelvis you don’t even notice it. A great study in carry of weight from a human factors standpoint.

But all of these seem sort of ridiculous in hindsight. Why don’t we just design technology for these use cases?

Photo by Gian Prosdocimo on Unsplash

The only other technology that has been able to give me this feeling are AirPods. What an incredible product.

Here’s Lil Buck (who I once had the pleasure of working with on a branding project) dancing Memphis jookin. He and his dance style is a perfect for this ad because it perfectly conveys the profound sense of freedom AirPods gives you. You feel weightless wearing them. I never realized what an impact a tiny wire on traditional headphones has until I got to live without them. I don’t go anywhere without AirPods and more recently, AirPod Pros.

And the best part is that they connect directly to Apple Watch for the ultimate lightweight experience.

The new Light Phone

Since the release of the original Light Phone, there is now the Light Phone II. To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed in it. I’m disappointed that a sequel would go more in the direction the original was trying so hard to avoid.

The new Light Phone has a screen, a menu, texting, and more. It even looks a lot like the iPhone SE. From a product strategy standpoint, I think this falls into a no-man’s-land between real features and hyper minimalism.

The new Light Phone does texting
The new Light Phone does texting

The story of the evolution from the first to second Light Phone kind of tells the story about all such radical returns to basics. Eventually, you miss the luxuries that you originally moved away from. For all that less is more, most of the time, more is in fact more.

But let’s remember, the first Light Phone was never meant to replace your smartphone. It was envisioned to work alongside it. Nothing can replace everything the smart phone does, but sometimes, you can take a vacation from all that it entails with a radically minimal, lightweight experience.

The only thing I really missed in the original Light Phone was a camera. For me, having a camera on me at all times is an incredible capability and almost never one that I’m aching to get away from for a moment like I do with social media.

Like the first phone, it comes in black too, like a low-fi dark mode
Like the first phone, it comes in black too, like a low-fi dark mode

I’m excited to see how, as technology and its design matures, we can get some breathing room as designers to explore less intensive integrations of technology into our lives. Technology integrations where design, asking first what you truly need and how technology can best solve that problem, leads rather than simply showing off everything that technology can do.

Because once you can do everything, the more relevant question becomes, “what should you do?” And that’s the most exciting kind of technology design of all.

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