Feb 16, 2016 | By Benedict

Being “addicted” to one’s smartphone is a problem that most people take only half-seriously. The large majority of us would freely admit that we spend too much time glued to the screens of our portable tech, but most of us laugh the problem off as something not worth worrying about.

This easy dismissal of smartphone addiction could be down to the handful of semi-essential smartphone features which we tend to use non-compulsively, such as GPS mapping and email access: Since we “need” our smartphone for these features, what’s the harm of spending a little extra time on the device? Or perhaps we turn a blind eye to tech addiction because of its negligible health risks: Other common addictions such as gambling, drinking, and substance abuse can have far more devastating consequences than an overindulgence in Twitter.

Think about it though: What benefits are you really getting from those many hours a day spent tapping on Candy Crush or leafing through Instagram? Sure, there isn’t much else to do while waiting on the bus (you could read a book) but we all know that smartphone use extends beyond the daily commute. Be honest: Could you spend a month, a week, or even a day without your iPhone or Galaxy?

One company taking smartphone addiction more seriously than most is Serbian architecture and design studio Alter Ego Architects, which has designed a 3D printed phone with an ultra-minimalist interface. The “O Phone” has been designed to completely prohibit the endless and mind-numbing browsing that smartphone users now treat as a normal way to spend an afternoon. The only features of the phone’s interface are numbers and symbols, restricting users to good old-fashioned calling and texting. No more apps; no more distractions.

"We're spending on average more than three hours per day–almost one day per week!–looking at our cell phones," said Alter Ego. "In order to 'be more productive', we're trying to fit too much stuff in our day, and smartphones 'help' us with this, but we are actually losing our focus and making our lives complicated.”

The O Phone would be roughly the size of a credit card and would be 3D printed to keep costs at a minimum. Its simple interface would be accessible to children and the elderly, making it more practical than everyday smartphone in cases of emergency. Interestingly, the 3D printed concept phone has been designed with no lettering, only numbers, so it could be used by all users regardless of language. "It will be the first phone ever built without language barriers," said Alter Ego Architects. Quite how the phone’s texting feature would work using only numbers and symbols is not yet clear.

The 3D printed phone also addresses another curse of modern technology. Right now, the sun is shining gloriously outside, while I’m hidden in the shadiest corner of the room with my laptop set to max brightness, trying in vain to read the words of this sentence. Despite boasting higher resolutions than ever, the reflective surfaces of most displays remain unsuitable for use in direct sunlight.

It would be fair to say that, thus far, only one major tech manufacturer has seriously prioritized this display problem: Amazon, the global digital megastore, whose Kindle line of e-readers all feature a paper-like E Ink display, suitable for use in bright sunlight and requiring minimal energy usage. The O Phone would also adopt high-contrast E Ink, making it highly usable even in bright sunshine and giving it a long battery life. The display would also feature an optional backlight for use in darker environments.

At present, the 3D printed O Phone is just a concept, but if we ever reach a large-scale smartphone saturation point, the ultra-minimalist design of the O Phone could be exactly what people want.

 

 

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Alex Restivo wrote at 3/3/2016 9:10:46 PM:

If you ever star manufacturing it, I´ll be more then glad to perches one.

MFuller wrote at 2/18/2016 1:17:47 AM:

It's been done. MotoFone F3 https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_Fone One of the better Motorola phones I've owned. $30 retail. Painful texting killed it in the market. But I liked having to charge only once a week.



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