Whenever I head off into the Great Outdoors I do like to be prepared, which is really just the Scouts way of saying ‘planning for the worst’. Fortunately, ‘the worst’ for a few days away (certainly here in the UK) usually just means inclement weather with a fair certainty of rain, so with this in mind all of my ‘valuable’ (read not-exactly-waterproof items such as smartphone, car keys and wallet) go into a small dry bag which is duly stuffed into my rucksack.
Unfortunately, the expensive brushed aluminium member of this group just doesn’t play well with being tossed around in the bottom of a pack and is certainly something I wouldn’t want to accidentally leave up a fell or behind a handy lunch-stop boulder. And one does have to question exactly what purpose my iWonder serves in the hills with guaranteed zero wifi, patchy mobile reception (at best) and no power source. Fancy camera and last-ditch emergency line?
One of main reasons I get away is to do exactly that – get away. Strip away all the trappings of modern life and escape to hills (or even just for a walk in the woods with our children) – perfect. Having an ‘emergency’ phone is often a good idea, but an expensive yet redundant-under-the-circumstances-computer-in-my-pocket, maybe not so. Do we really need all this functionality available all of the time? Will I be checking my email in the woods? Perhaps the question is really ‘should I be checking my email in the woods?’. Stepping back from our connected lives and providing ourselves the opportunity to disconnect is certainly a topic de jour, but maybe we need a little help in only being able to access the ‘right’ services at the ‘right’ time, guiding us to place our time and attention on the things that matter, when they matter?
As I sit and write this nursing a drink in the pub, glancing around the numerous groups of friends deep in conversations with their smartphones, it makes me wonder just how many situations could benefit from a reduction in tech availability – as much as I love technology, the changes in our social behaviours, skills and interactions have definitely suffered as a result of its prevalence.
It seems sadly ironic that we might ‘need’ technological solutions to encourage us to use technology less, but if we do need help getting offline, then a great place to start could be The Light Phone – a replacement phone that uses your existing phone number and allows you to leave your smartphone at home. The Light Phone only makes and receives calls and is ‘designed to be used as little as possible’, something which helps to reinforce the idea of switching off and getting away from it all. The entire design is produced to this end – light in physical form, but also a sleek piece of minimal engineering, ideally suited to the phone’s limited functionality. The result is not only aesthetically pleasing, but one that appears to seamlessly combine form, function and great intention all in one palm-sized package. Beautiful.
I was recently reminded of The Light Phone (and similar ‘less-tech’ projects such as the re-release of the iconic Nokia 3310) when packing my dry bag for a few days away, and it turns out that the original Kickstarter project from 2015 has been fully funded and orders are currently being fulfilled. So, if you’re in need of a connection break, more focussed pub conversation or a low(er)-cost-out-in-the-hills emergency option (although $150 does seems a touch steep) maybe The Light Phone is the thing for you.
However, this all said, you could always throw caution to the wind, leave your smartphone at home and follow in the words of the late, great J.J. Cale – “…travelling light – it’s the only way to be.”