Kendrick Lamar and Dave Free I Getty Images

WHAT DO POOR sleep, reduced cognition, concentration issues, creative blocks, emotional irritability, impaired memory, anxiety and loneliness all have in common? They are all negative effects associated with phone addiction. But, most of us know that by now. 

Over the past few years, a number of ‘dumb phones’—AKA phones without apps, advertisements, the internet and the ability to distract—have been released into the market, promising simplicity, peace of mind and a better way to stay present in the 3D of daily life.

But few have ever been as cool as what’s dropping this month, by none other than Kendrick Lamar and Dave Free’s company, pgLang.  Over the past few years, the collaborative project has been dropping hints as to what it’s been up to since its 2020 launch, mostly in the form of visuals, mood boards and short films. Now, we all get to see something we can literally hold in our hands—if you’re lucky enough to bag one—a limited edition ‘dumb phone’ called the Lightphone.

Designed in collaboration with tech company Light, which already boasts the coolest anti-smart phones in the market, what we know so far is that pgLang’s drop is based on the Light Phone II but comes in a calming sky blue colour and will be limited to 250 units worldwide from November 2. The materials released by pgLang simply say: “just a phone”. No email, no camera, no internet browsing. How nice. 

These anti-smart phones have been having a moment of late, with more and more Gen Z and burnt-out tech employees becoming evangelists for the technology, claiming that it’s helped them regain time, attention, mental wellness, sense of self and how they engage with the real world around us. Of course, the challenges that arise with not having a smartphone, let alone the FOMO that comes with it, have seen a lot of people turn their noses up at the concept.  

Mental health aside, the case for the dumb phone extends beyond the self because these kinds of app-free devices also offer a more affordable way to stay connected in the ways that actually matter—they’re free of apps that commodify your emotions and your attention, that track your data and treat you as the product. And as Light has stated in the past, this doesn’t need to be a forever choice. These phones are sim-based, so you can pop yours in whenever you feel the need to pause the notifications. It could act as a vacation for your attention span, help regulate your dopamine baseline, as a way to reclaim all that time lost to doom scrolling and help you get back into practising being present in the moment.  

This is what makes Lamar and Free’s move so genius. With the ever increasing data to show how our phones and their apps are contributing to mental health decline and loneliness, perhaps this is the beginning of a cultural shift that needs to happen. And hype aside, what this technology offers is a break from the pressures of modern life enabled by the big-tech ecosystems. It’s a noble middle finger to Apple, Meta, Google and their competitors, essentially. And what’s cooler than that?  


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