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You Don’t Need to Spend $299 - Here’s the Light Phone Alternative People are Getting for Free

The hip crowd has moved on from juice cleanses. Today, one of the trendiest “cleanses” you can partake in is digital detoxing, and the Light Phone was one of the earliest companies to capitalize on this trend. The Verge may have summarized this product best: “The Light Phone is about as stripped down as one can get: it can receive and make calls, store up to nine numbers, and tell the time. That’s it. No texting, email, or anything else.”

Consumers loved the idea - and after a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, the original Light Phone was released in 2017 to great fanfare. However, actually using the Light Phone came with some pretty sizable roadblocks that prevented it from being the game-changing minimalist tool its creators may have envisioned. Here’s what went wrong, and why the minimalist phone app is a viable Light Phone alternative.

The Light Phone is One Option - but it Isn’t the Only One

Although users wanted to love the Light Phone, on a practical level it became difficult to use. Not receiving texts doesn’t stop people from sending them, and anyone reliant on the Light Phone as their only phone often missed important messages - especially from friends and family who didn’t realize, or didn’t remember, that they couldn’t receive texts.

The original Light Phone ultimately floundered because it was too minimalist - which meant that users struggled to use it as a main phone. 

“Texting is a fact of life in 2018, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Forcing users to make phone calls to relay every message is unrealistic,” noted an earlier review on The Verge

The original Light Phone ultimately floundered because it was too minimalist - which meant that users struggled to use it as a main phone. 

So it was back to the drawing board, and by 2019, early adopters were receiving their very own Light Phone 2 - an updated, slightly less minimalist phone than the first one. The Light Phone 2 eliminates distraction by allowing only texting, calls, and the use of simple tools (like an alarm clock, or a music player). Even color has been eliminated from The Light Phone display.

While The Light Phone 2 represents a positive step forward in phone-based minimalism, for practical reasons, it still isn’t a solution that works for everyone. The company struggled to address the answer of what to include, since most people have one or two favorite things they want to keep - not a whole lot - but each consumer was requesting a different feature. 

If you can’t open Facebook Messenger, are you going to miss the group thread for planning your cousin’s birthday? If you want Netflix and chill, are you going to have to buy a second phone in order to cast? 

Another highly requested feature for The Light Phone 2 was a navigation tool like Google Maps, but as of this writing (April 2021) this is still not available - and plenty of users may not be ready to go back to the days paper road maps.

For minimalists who don’t want to juggle having two phones simply so that one can be a “dumb phone,” there’s another solution: the minimalist phone app.

The Light Phone and the minimalist phone as its alternative.

The Minimalist Phone is “Light,” But Practical

Unlike The Light Phone, the minimalist phone isn’t a physical phone: instead, it’s an application that serves as a custom phone home screen. Rather than limiting you to only texting and calling, the minimalist phone app re-organizes your phone to eliminate distractions. Less mindless scrolling, while still retaining key accessibility for when it’s needed. 

The minimalist phone allows you to pick a few favorite apps to keep handy, while the rest are available out of sight. For many users, it’s the ease-of-access to colorful app buttons on their home screen that often triggers the hours of mindless scrolling. 

By paring down the home screen - and making users complete an extra step if they want to access an app like Instagram or Facebook - the minimalist phone encourages a more conscious usage of one’s smart phone.

In this way, the minimalist phone accomplishes something The Light Phone can’t: it teaches users how to manage their cell phone usage and focus, rather than simply going cold turkey.

Another plus: The Light Phone II is currently sold for $299. That’s a pretty hefty price tag, especially when there are plenty of reliable “normal” smartphones available for $200 or less. The minimalist phone app is completely free for users, and an optional upgrade is available for under $10. 

Is the World Ready for Digital Detoxing?

While most of us would love to step away from our phones (or maybe chuck them over a bridge for a weekend of bliss), practical reasons keep us tied to them. Our phones are our calendars; our note pads; our fertility trackers; our music players. If your goal is to be a smarter phone user, rather than a “no phone” user, download the minimalist phone app today - available for Android phones.

About author

Mari Rogers

Mari is an experienced content writer and has worked with technology startups, Fortune 5000 companies, and more over the past 10 years.
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