Why did the “dumb phone” that can’t access the Internet suddenly become popular?

This is Sony's high-resolution music player-NW-WM1AM2, commonly known as the "Black Brick". You can listen to high-quality music, like a mobile phone but can't make calls. Compared with the more popular MP3, it is indeed a bit larger.

This is another black brick that looks like a player, but it's really a mobile phone that can listen to music and make calls. Put next to the popular smartphones at the moment, it is a bit smaller and its proportions are a bit "out of balance."

In 2024, when small-screen mobile phones are about to disappear, but there are still a large number of small-screen enthusiasts calling for the mini to come back soon, the mobile phone company Light seems to have heard the voices of the niche and launched its third-generation model Light Phone III.

What’s even more radical is that they not only cut off the screen, but also tried to separate the smartphone from the phone.

"Stupid cell phone" that has lost its color

It’s hard to imagine that this is a device born in the first year of AI mobile phones.

Compared with mainstream smartphones, the most obvious difference of Light Phone III is that it has removed the large and colorful mobile phone screen and replaced it with a 3.92-inch black and white OLED panel.

Although it looks like an ink screen, it is almost the same as the screen of the Kindle reader.

Indeed, the previous generation of Light Phone used an e-ink screen, which is highly consistent with the founding purpose of Light: to use the simplest parts to build the simplest machine.

Although e-ink screens have certain inherent advantages: eye protection, low power consumption, and more suitable for long-term use. However, more than 50% of old Light Phone users reported that they could not get used to such a low refresh rate. The machine with no functions was even more difficult to use with the "blessing" of the ink screen.

The abandonment of many users also led Light to use OLED screens on its third-generation phones that are more in line with this era.

The screen resolution of the Light Phone III is not high, only 1080 x 1240, but the screen refresh response is very fast.

On the one hand, a better screen can make many former fans consider joining the game again. On the other hand, it also lowers the threshold for smartphone users who want to try Light Phone. At least in terms of screen look and feel, Light Phone will not be the same as smartphones. The machine opens up too big a gap, creating a strong sense of fragmentation.

Light Phone writes in the introduction on its official website:

It doesn’t have the unlimited capabilities of the internet, social media, news, email, or any of that bait-and-switch stuff.

It does not have any commonly used applications built-in and cannot be downloaded. Although the device can connect to Wi-Fi, it cannot access the Internet.

While even children's watches are all in AI, the Light Phone III has gone back to being a feature phone: making calls, sending text messages, playing music, setting alarms, timers, map navigation and voice memos. This is almost what the Light Phone can do. all of.

To a certain extent, the Light Phone is even worse than a Nokia that can crack walnuts, because even small games such as Snake are excluded from this system.

But Light has accumulated some experience in the previous two generations of models – what users want is minimalism, simplicity, not simplicity.

Therefore, based on the previous generation device, Light Phone III has added many mobile phone configurations that "should have" in this era.

From the appearance point of view, the Light Phone III adds the currently popular metal middle frame. Compared with the overall plastic of the previous two generations of models, metal can always give the phone a bit of a high-end feel and is more durable.

In addition, the third-generation models are also equipped with:

  • USB-C 2.0
  • Noise reduction microphone×2
  • Stereo speakers×2
  • 1800 mAh battery
  • Fingerprint recognition
  • flashlight
  • NFC and 5G chips

If you put all the above configurations on the second-generation Light Phone, you will still feel a little panicked when you go out, because a mobile phone without a camera is really inconvenient. Even you and I can give up the habit of taking photos, videos and recording every moment of our lives. However, placing an order and scanning a QR code to pay still require a lens, which is also one of the most criticized shortcomings of second-generation phones.

Therefore, the Light Phone III, which was corrected after realizing the mistake, added a lens, 50mp on the front and 8mp on the rear. It can scan codes and take videos. Although the photos taken with it are not as good as those of mainstream mobile phones, it has the texture of old photos taken with CCD.

What's even more surprising is that although the screen is black and white, the photos are in color after exporting.

Taken individually, these small features are not major updates, but when they are put together and placed on a minimalist phone, the company's intentions become very clear:
They hope that the Light Phone can become an independent device rather than a backup machine. Even if you only take it with you when you go out, you will not worry about being disconnected from the world.

Light Phone’s Guiyuan Tianju

Light founders Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tang said that together with their team:

The result is a phone that has very few features and will last almost forever.

The permanent use of the Light Phone III does not mean that all parts are durable, but the easy-to-disassemble design makes it easy to replace the battery and other parts, so this phone can be used for many years.

No matter from which angle you look at it, Light’s third-generation phones have a “twisting” feeling that interweaves the past and the present.

Compared with the 1GB+8GB Light Phone II, the memory combination of the Light Phone III has been upgraded to 6GB+128GB. With the limited functions and larger memory storage, the third-generation phone is indeed much more durable.

Of course, the price of the Light Phone III at US$799 (approximately RMB 5,800) is also nearly three times more expensive than the previous generation (US$299).

However, the current pre-sale price on the official website is US$399 (approximately RMB 2,895), which is a 50% discount. It is not difficult to see from the halved price that Light urgently needs a group of users who will try it and become fans of the minimalist mobile phone model.

But, is Light Phone, or minimalist phone, really feasible?

In 2014, Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tang met in a Google experimental project. They were initially paid to make smartphone applications, and learned at a deeper level how different products are built, funded, and the cause and effect relationships behind them.

The duo, who were supposed to be concentrating on the Killer App for mobile phones, ended up co-founding the company that kills the App – Light. This sense of rebellion is perfectly reflected in every generation of Light Phone.

They hope to use their understanding of the product to free modern people from the harassment of mobile phone notifications and return to their real lives.

According to Hollier and Tang, LightOS had two core concepts at the beginning of its design:

  • The last thing the world needs is another smartphone app vying for our attention, because the interests and nature of these ad-driven platforms will never match the actual quality of our lives.
  • Our mission is to give people back their most valuable asset – their attention.

It was under this concept that the Light Phone took shape.

The first step in the mobile phone desensitization plan is to reduce the attraction and temptation of the device to people. Therefore, starting from the first generation of Light Phone, all "non-essential" functions that may distract the user's attention have not appeared on this device. On a minimalist mobile phone.

Light Phone I should be the most radical of the three generations of models. Not only does it not have an app, it doesn’t even have the most basic functions of music, Bluetooth, and text messaging. This mini pixel screen can only display the time, and the only external function of the phone is to make and receive calls.

Saying it is a product, I prefer to think of it as a concept. It is the tone laid by Light for its future expansion into a wider market. Although the sales volume was mediocre, it also caused a lot of discussion. At that time, there were also imitation Light Phones on the market. I's copycat phone.

Light Phone II, in a rough house built in the first generation, has been decorated a little, but not much:

The 2.8-inch E-Ink electronic ink screen, the compact body of 78g, can send and receive text messages, and functions such as calculator, alarm clock, music, navigation and ride-hailing services have also appeared on the second-generation machine.

However, the second-generation Light Phone is still radical:

Originally we thought the camera was a good tool, but it was "inducing", that is, people would be used to uploading what they took to social networks and then see the number of likes they received, so we decided to remove it.

The two generations of models so far, even in the year they were released, were slightly exaggerated in their pursuit of "minimalism". Put together with the popular mobile phones nowadays, the Light Phone gives people a feeling of isolation. It's a pity that I went not to the Peach Blossom Land, but to the prison.

This kind of actual experience of being forced to deprive everything is daunting to many users who want to try it. They do not belong to this era, nor do they belong to most people.

But even with such a crazy product, the first two generations of Light Phone still sold more than 100,000 units.

There is a market for minimalist mobile phones, but if such a minimalist Light Phone wants to go further, it needs to continue to dig deeper: What do these niche users really need?

What makes people inseparable and addicted to mobile phones is the various apps in the mobile phone rather than the mobile phone itself. Therefore, this kind of one-size-fits-all approach to software and hardware not only hurts oneself by mistake, but also loses many people who are interested in Light. people.

The reason is very simple. When you go out with a first- or second-generation Light Phone, you can’t do many things at all. You originally had to use a desensitized phone, but now you may have to cut off your relationship with society.

Therefore, Light Phone III is the complete version of what was originally envisioned.

It not only provides you with the possibility of living a minimalist life away from apps, but also can prevent you from being disconnected from the world in an environment where mobile phones are needed everywhere.

In the past two years, the "self-discipline artifact" that claims to be able to get rid of mobile phone addiction has been very popular among those who are studying for public examinations and postgraduate entrance examinations, as well as those who enjoy a light life.

Put your phone in the box, set the time, and shut it down. Then you won’t be able to take out your phone to watch videos or Weibo before the countdown ends.

Although the artifact claims that "the entire life cycle can only be paused twice to take out the phone. After using it, you can only wait for the timer to end, otherwise it cannot be opened." However, there are two obvious bugs in it:

  • As long as you want to open it, no one can stop it;
  • The self-discipline artifact is only an intermediary and auxiliary. In the end, you still have to rely on yourself.

This is also true for the healthy screen usage time of mobile phones and the Pomodoro clock, which is very popular among students, including Light Phone.

It is still a bit of a fantasy to think of relying on a mobile phone, a software, or even a box to lead a self-disciplined life. Therefore, the greatest significance of such devices is: when you want to change some living habits or living conditions, they will Some nice tools.

Just like the slogan of Light Phone III:

Whether you're dreaming of getting rid of digital gadgets, want to pay more attention to your kids, or are buying your first phone, the Light Phone III is a tool that makes life better.

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