‘Dumb’ phone that’s already sold out
AS smartphone brands try and outdo each other with the craziest new designs and cutting edge technology, to keep us glued to our phones, a Swiss company called Punkt is taking a decidedly different tack.
In the smartphone wars, Mobile World Congress is the annual battleground where the major brands (except Apple) jostle for attention with the most ostentatious displays and press events showcasing their latest offerings.
But tucked away, in a small stall in one of the outer halls of the sprawling event is a Swiss company that is doing it differently.
They make sleek, minimalist dumb phones, for people who want to take their time back.
If you're anything like me, you'll have those worrying moments when you snap out of a momentary stupor to find yourself scrolling away on your phone. You can't remember why you picked up your beloved gadget but you're pretty sure you've been absent-mindedly scrolling through Twitter for who knows how long.
We are so attached to our devices that even when the notifications, ring tones and alerts aren't going off, some of us imagine that they are. This sad phenomenon is often called phantom vibration syndrome. It's considered a sign that you've become too dependent on your mobile, the experts say.
If that's you, perhaps you should think about getting a Punkt MPO2 phone. The company just began shipping the 4G LTE phone to Australia late last year and has already sold out of the first batch.
"We're just talking thousands", says the company's head of communications Marcia Caines. "But we have a lot of demand from there".
The MP02 is just the company's second phone and it is hoping to capitalise on the rising tide of "digital wellness".
It has 4G LTE connectivity but only functions as a hotspot if you want to tether it to your laptop or tablet because the phone itself doesn't have web browsing capabilities.
Sometimes referred to as "the detox phone", the MPO2 has simple tools including a calculator, calendar, a clock and timer and a notes function. Otherwise it's just about calling and texting.
At $329 in the Australian market, you can find cheaper smartphones than this, let alone a dumb phone. But it's the lightweight, ergonomic and solid design of the Punkt device that generates appeal.
The company started about 10 years ago with the help of renowned British industrial designer Jasper Morrison as the company's art director. This year is the company's first MWC. Previously you were more likely to find them spruiking at a design fair.
The MP02 has a solid yet light body reinforced with fibreglass and finished with an abrasion-resistant coating. The phone is fitted with "sunlight-readable" LCD screen underneath gorilla glass.
"It is a phone for keeping, not replacing," the company says.
It runs on an Android operating system and has what Punkt claims is a world first BlackBerry Secure Protection.
The phone is advertised as being able to get up to 12.5 days of battery life from a single charge but a recent software bug has reduced that, which an upcoming firmware update is expected to fix.
The MP02 is available in 17 languages and Australia is an increasingly important market for Punkt.
"Our philosophy seems to resonate well there," one employee told me. Which is hardly a surprise given that Melbourne software company Bugbean recently found that Australian men unlock their phones more than anyone else in the world, on average 45 to 46 times a day, while for Australian women it is around 42 times a day.
With the Marie Kondo craze of decluttering our lives sweeping the country, true believers might consider extending the idea to their smartphone apps. Just ask yourself: Does Instagram bring me joy?
Improving our digital wellness is a theme at this year's MWC event. Among the usual suspects of buzzwords like Connectivity, Industry 4.0, Artificial Intelligence and Immersive Content, the idea of digital wellness is also a key topic.
"As smartphones have become pervasive, there is also rising concern about the addictive nature of technology, as well as, connections to mental health," the MWC organisers note.
Perhaps it's time to go back to basics. At least that's what Punkt is pushing.