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Friday, November 12, 2010

Taking a Look at the World's Simplest Cell Phone

Posted by on Fri, Nov 12, 2010 at 11:24 AM

John's Phone is advertised as an incredibly simple cell phone. It doesn't text, e-mail, or browse the internet. It doesn't even store phone numbers (instead, the phone comes with a little compartment to store a small address book for you to write your phone numbers in). GOOD just ran a video of someone unboxing a John's Phone:

While I don't think this is going to take off like wildfire or anything, I think there is a growing market for single-purpose devices that do their job exceptionally well. Sometimes when Android is laggy, I wish I just had a phone that just worked as a phone. As I've said a few times before on Slog, I love my AlphaSmart Neo, which is a single-purpose word processor that is sturdy, simple, and runs forever on a few AA batteries. It's a way to write—virtually anywhere, anytime—without all the distractions provided by a laptop. There will be more devices like this, and some folks are going to get very rich by capitalizing on this market.


Comments (23) RSS

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Banna 1
If you've been using the phone for the past two weeks, it's not an unboxing video.
Posted by Banna on November 12, 2010 at 11:32 AM · Report this
mackro 2
How will this stack up against the CincoPhone?
Posted by mackro on November 12, 2010 at 11:36 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 3
I'd gladly take it.

The best cell phone I had was the first one, and even that one had annoying issues. Every phone I've had since then has gotten progressively worse. The add more and more "extra features" that can't be modified or removed and interfere with the normal operation of making/receiving calls. I've found that cell phones are moving further away from being a great invention and convenience and further towards being an annoyance and inconvenience.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on November 12, 2010 at 11:42 AM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 4
You can't take away my BlackBerry. Sorry.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on November 12, 2010 at 11:48 AM · Report this
Neat idea, but the address book in lieu of storing phone numbers seems like one step too many in the direction of being a mite too precious and not super useful.
Posted by Levislade on November 12, 2010 at 11:53 AM · Report this
MacCrocodile 6
@5 - Seriously. You might as well take away all my buttons and make me turn a crank to ring the operator so she can connect me to my party.
Posted by MacCrocodile on November 12, 2010 at 11:56 AM · Report this
@3, I'm with you. I live in a hilly area with a lot of trees. I had no reception problems with my StarTac flip phone, which I had about a decade ago. Now, with cell phones in my house, you have to walk around looking for a good spot.
Posted by Jamie in Pittsburgh on November 12, 2010 at 11:57 AM · Report this
Also, at about $120, it's a pretty steep price, considering you can go find a Nokia candybar for way less, without a contract or carrier lock-in.
Posted by doceb on November 12, 2010 at 12:01 PM · Report this

I've always been a fan of specific-purpose devices. Pure.

Like high-end audio.
Posted by balmonter on November 12, 2010 at 12:01 PM · Report this
I like the idea and definitely think this will target a broad market. However, like 8, I guffawed at the price tag. A product like this should be accessible by everyone.
Posted by Sarah L. on November 12, 2010 at 12:04 PM · Report this
Why is it so big?! If all is does is phone calls, can't they design it to be smaller? If I am going to put something as big as an IPhone in my pocket, I might as well get an IPhone.
Posted by It's So Big! on November 12, 2010 at 12:16 PM · Report this
Michael of the Green 12
problem is, if you have a separate device for taking pictures, another for emailing, and another for listening to music, the situation stops looking so "simple".
Posted by Michael of the Green on November 12, 2010 at 12:17 PM · Report this
My $8 Virgin Mobile cell phone (bought at 7-11) works just dandy (and the instructions are in English!)

It has a timer, alarm, address book of sorts, probably supports texting (although I don't bother.)

I buy the $50 a month plan, but you can buy the 10 cent a minute plan.

$89 fucking dollars for the same thing?

Mmmmmm, no.
Posted by judybrowni on November 12, 2010 at 12:19 PM · Report this
Mike 14

While I don't think this is going to take off like wildfire or anything,

Certainly not for 89 Euro. When I was in Greece this summer I bought a local phone with a pre-paid plan. Two hours of talk time, unlimited text messages, the local phone number, voicemail, and the phone itself were 45 Euro total. The phone was tiny, lightweight, and held a charge for a week. It was exactly what I needed for a great price. I can't imagine paying more than that for just the phone, one with fewer features and that looks like something Fisher Price would design as an afterthought accessory that goes with a toy M-16.
Posted by Mike on November 12, 2010 at 12:26 PM · Report this
I can't wait to end the contract on my smartphone, whose features I never, ever use.
Posted by gloomy gus on November 12, 2010 at 12:34 PM · Report this
Mike 16
Michael of the Green @12:

problem is, if you have a separate device for taking pictures, another for emailing, and another for listening to music, the situation stops looking so "simple".

Agreed. For something like a word processor, which will be used for long periods of time, I can see the appeal of a single-use appliance-style device, one that does its job very well. But for functions that are used on an ad-hoc basis or where portability is important, like snapshot photos, phone calls, text messages, GPS, mobile music, etc, convergence is where it's at.

By way of example, on that same Greece trip, I used my local Greek cell phone for phone calls and taking text messages from the Europeans I was interacting with. I used my Android phone as my camera, laptop (email, internet, file management, translation, travel planning & booking), ipod, travel clock, and GPS. Convergence was huge in that case, because it meant I didn't need to pack a laptop, camera, ipod, clock and GPS. I was able to pack lighter and avoid skanky internet cafes.

But for professional or intense use of any of those things, you generally want a dedicated device. A professional photographer won't give up his SLR in favor of an Android device, and Paul isn't going to start writing 30 day novels on his phone.
Posted by Mike on November 12, 2010 at 12:39 PM · Report this
Fox in Socks 17
The problem with phones isn't precisely that they have too many features. It's that they compensate for bad design by tossing in too many features.

Stripping away features unmasks the problem, but you're still left with the design problem, and the basic failure to make something that is effortlessly functional in ways that matter. (Which obviously includes storing your address book. Jesus.)

It's confounding that nobody has yet designed a decent phone. I suppose these guys get points for starting to understand the problem.
Posted by Fox in Socks on November 12, 2010 at 1:04 PM · Report this
veo_ 18
I'm not sure if I'm just because an early adopter or if I'm an outlier in some other sense, but I am literally baffled by everyone's complaints about mobile devices today.

I bought my first cell phone in 1996 and it wasn't even close to "the good ol' days of mobile phones" like some here seem to indicate it was. No. the phones sucked. It made calls but could only store like 50 contacts on a SIM card and it was a hassle to migrate or update them. Then in 2001 I switched to smart phones.. well, what counted as smart phones at the time... it had a touch screen and the web at least. But it was underpowered and still kind of sucked

Move forward to 2010 and OH MY LORD! We're living through a a FABULOUS EXPLOSION in mobile technology, folks! Things we never DREAMED ABOUT are now available literally at our fingertips. We can seamlessly integrate entire digital lives (email/files/tasks/calendars/contacts) between home and work and our mobile with zero effort. You can talk to your phone and have it do web searches and it'll automatically localize the results based on your exact location on the globe. You can pull up a virtual window to any intersection in the developed world and see what shops are on the corner. And if that's boring you can just watch a movie or something. ON YOUR FUCKING PHONE.

It's amazing, folks. Sure it's not perfect, there are problems...mostly with the service providers themselves in the US, but the newest generation of phones are simply startling in their technical abilities.
Posted by veo_ on November 12, 2010 at 1:39 PM · Report this
Fox in Socks 19
...If by "zero effort" you mean approximately the amount of effort it takes to do the simplest thing on the latest version of Word.
Posted by Fox in Socks on November 12, 2010 at 2:14 PM · Report this
18 FTW. Far too many tired luddites around here ... sheesh!
Posted by Stowe on November 12, 2010 at 2:26 PM · Report this
crazycatguy 21
I long for a single-purpose device that will grant me immortality.
Posted by crazycatguy on November 12, 2010 at 2:51 PM · Report this
CharlesYFarley 22
I have an infallible cell phone treatment: my 16-pound sledgehammer.
Posted by CharlesYFarley on November 12, 2010 at 7:04 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 23

This is the whole reason that PDAs have failed and failed. The screen and keyboards are way too small, yet because people want a "portable computer" they keep buying them (or buying into them).

Think of how many people bought Palms and really really tried to put all their information on them, and really use them. It's the same thing with phone apps. What people like is the "Idea" of having this device...but the implemenation is wrong still!

That's why my minimal portable device is my 10" Asus netbook. I bought a boarding bag at REI that fits it perfectly and I carry it around like a man purse (you got something to say about that, mofos?!?!)
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on November 12, 2010 at 9:42 PM · Report this

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