Product designer Kaiwei Tang spent years developing smartphones for big companies choose Nokia and Motorola. But he started to feel bothered through a single, recurring image: whether it was a restaurant, subway car, or the park, the bulk of world he observed were liven staring at your phone, swiping away.

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The smartphone, that felt, to be no longer a neutral device. Silicon Valley, after all, has actually admitted the it is engineered come keep people hooked. For this reason Tang, in ~ an technology incubator in 2014, started doing study on what happened when world went without their phones glued to their hands. Human being experienced an “initial anxiety,” tang said. “They say that there’s naught to perform or lock bored…. But after 15 come 20 minutes, they start to pay fist to the buildings, the clouds, the sky, their friends. It to be encouraging.”

Seventy-seven percent of Americans very own a smartphone, follow to a 2018 factsheet from the Pew research Center. A growing body that research argues owning one comes v costs.

“They say that there’s naught to do or they’re bored…. But after 15 come 20 minutes, they start to pay attention to the buildings, the clouds, the sky, their friends.”

The cost of being always available. The price of having fragmented conversation. The expense of a rewired brain. The cost of our privacy. The literal, spiraling price of to buy the latest technology. For these and also other economic reasons, sales the iPhones and other smartphones have actually recently plateaued and even declined.

At the very same time, some people have gone ago to the simpler, much less addictive phones supplied in the so late 1990s and also early 2000s: the upper and lower reversal phone, the “candybar” phone, and other basic “feature” phones that deserve to only talk and text.

At the incubator, Tang and also an artist the met there made decision to produce a smartphone alternative, a basic phone that could only make calls. They called it the “Light Phone,” and intended it to it is in a “phone away from phone.” flavor said many of your customers are choose him: “Sick the smartphones, the notifications.”

“Sometimes I just want to take it a walk down the street or invest time with my girlfriend and family, rather of being bombarded,” the said.

Smartphones have actually been about for much more than a decade, however Adrian Ward, one assistant professor at the university of Texas in ~ Austin, who has actually authored number of studies top top the cognitive aftermath of smartphones, said he believes there has been a lag period for world to an alert the an unfavorable effects.

“It takes civilization time to realize that they’re personally getting ‘more’ than they meant from modern technology — not just productivity tools and also instant access to cat videos, but additionally an attentional black hole,” he composed in an email. That, that added, coupled v rising issue at a societal level, and tech service providers who have gotten even better at capturing consumers’ attention, may have led to a climbing resistance come smartphones and renewed interest in simpler phones.

According to the study firm IDC, sales of basic “feature” phones have recently grown. Part 24.2 million simple feature phones transport in the U.S. In 2015, almost 2 million more than the year before. In the intervening years, countless writers and journalists have written stories explaining how trading a smartphone for a upper and lower reversal phone, at least temporarily, “revolutionized” their life. They expressed trickster focus, a widened society register, and a mind the was free to wander.

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At the very same time, a group called “Wait until 8th” currently urges parents to wait until eighth grade prior to gifting their child a smartphone. Part tech sector players have actually publicly claimed they view the dangers of display screen time and stringently limit your children’s exposure (includes the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs). It’s additionally a parenting philosophy that countless parents say they just can’t afford.

In 2018, one story asserted the flip phone as “the new protest statement,” because it to be affordable, more durable, and less distracting. Actors Daniel Day-Lewis and Frances McDormand, along with pop star Rihanna, to be reported together being upper and lower reversal phone adopters. It no long before the trend was co-opted for the market.

“The return that the icon,” boasts Nokia top top its website, announcing its current re-release of the “banana phone,” a yellow slider phone the was popular ago in the day and was featured in the 1999 movie “The Matrix.” other than now, the machine not only permits users to play the retro video clip game Snake, but likewise check your Facebook and also Twitter, take it beautiful photos, and also create a mobile hotspot. The banana phone call of old, that is not.

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The banana phone no alone. There’s an entire brand-new generation of flip phones the are much more like an elaborate smartphones in disguise. The supposed, impending return that the Motorola Razr, for example, is rumored come come complete with a foldable screen, a widescreen element ratio so civilization can watch TV there is no the pesky black bars, and also a selfie camera. And it’s supposed to price a lining $1,500, much more than nearly any smartphone. Samsung, which recently said its revenues are expected to fall 60 percent due to a slump in smartphone demand, freshly released the W2018, a upper and lower reversal phone that has two touchscreens. The new Huawei friend X, meanwhile, is being marketed as the world’s an initial 5G foldable AI phone.

These phones aren’t resolving the troubles of smartphone use, yet Kostadin Kushlev, an assistant professor of psychology in ~ Georgetown college who has studied the topic for years, said he didn’t believe companies have to be intended to. He added that some modern technology gatekeepers are currently launching attributes to limit a smartphone’s distractibility, such together the “Do no Disturb” function, which prevents notifications, and the “Screen Time” app, which permits people come see exactly how much time lock spending on your phone. According to Kushlev’s research, the optimal amount of time to be bugged by her phone is gaining just three batches of notifications a day. I m sorry raises the question, wouldn’t it be simpler to just gain a cheap flip phone?

Left: room we seeing a increasing resistance to smartphones and also renewed interest in easier phones? picture by Adobe stock


Elizabeth i cry is an live independence journalist who reports on justice and also gender. She can be reached at elizabethflock