Why is it that we don't disconnect?
The answer is simple: the internet lives in our phones.
This wasn't always the case. Looking back to AIM, we used to have 'away' messages and we used to sign off. It didn't follow us. We're now capable of bringing the internet everywhere, because of the fact that it lives in our phone. And it wouldn't make sense to go out without a phone.
Our smart phones are computers that can make phone calls, but you don't always need a computer.
It's a hole. Answering a simple message leads to 20 minutes of scrolling; almost unconsciously. We knew that the solution had to involve leaving the smart phone completely.
This is a sketch of our original concept. The idea was that your smart phone would become a "smart answering machine". It stays at home and forwards only the most important phone calls. All of the other notifications would stay at home waiting for you to return. The solution was a phone away from phone.
We wanted to test our hypothesis: that people would enjoy disconnecting from their smart phones, as quickly as possible.
We used flip phones and simple call forwarding to simulate how we imagined the experience working. Once we made an "ON" and "OFF" contact on the user's smart phone, calling "ON" would turn on call forwarding. We also gave the users a hand written list of their speed dials. This wasn't the ideal solution, but it was the quickest way to test our key feature.
During our testing we noticed a few key insights. For one, most users only used 3 or 4 of their speed dial contacts. Almost all users described an initial sense of anxiety, the act of not having their smart phone on them affected them more than they imagined it would. There were many phrases used to describe this, from "phone separation anxiety" to "F.O.M.O." to "feeling an air about myself, I felt physically different". This feeling, though uncomfortable, always managed to turn into a huge relief.
Another interesting thing we noticed was that no one used the flip phone. What that told us was that the value lied not in the object itself, but rather in the lack of smart phone, the act of disconnecting. We would take this learning and apply it to how we went about designing the phone, constantly editing and simplifying to the most core essential features. Ultimately we designed a phone that was meant to be used as little as possible.
Marty Cooper, the man who invented the first cell phone in 1973, has been a huge inspiration to us as well. We came across this video while exploring the Light Phone and it really got us excited. The cell phone had brought up a very genius idea, the idea that for the first time ever a phone number would represent a person, and not a place like an office or home. It was a very human centered idea. It's obvious that the smart phone has completely drifted away from the value proposition of a cell phone and we were excited to bring some of that humanity back into the world of technology.