The NoPhone is an interesting phenomenon. If you would have asked me if I thought a plastic fake smartphone could generate $20,000 worth of interest on Kickstarter a year ago, I would have responded with something like, “in your dreams.” I love it when the world proves me wrong. To preface this review, I want to tell you a bit of the back-story behind why I’m reviewing it.
I wrote a news article a few weeks back regarding a study that showed separation anxiety amongst iPhone users when separated from their phones. Within a week of that article’s release, NoPhone reached out to us stating that “the NoPhone is a technology-free alternative to constant hand-to-phone contact” implying that they had a solution to smartphone separation anxiety.
As I initially researched the NoPhone it was difficult to perceive as to whether their product was intended to be a joke/gag gift, or a legitimate product for the purpose of helping you break free from the reigns of your smartphone addiction. When you visit their bio, they explain that it was originally a satire idea in response to always going out and spending time together needing to be attached to their phones. However, they discovered that demand for such a technology substitute existed. This demand caused them to launch their successful Kickstarter campaign. In light of the NoPhone’s back-story, I’m going to review the NoPhone from both sides of the coin; as a non-technology smartphone alternative, and a satire idea in light of our smartphone addictions.
Design and Specifications
The NoPhone has definitely taken a few pages out of both the iPhone and Android playbooks in terms of its design. The device is a little bit smaller than the iPhone 6 plus. It has a (fake) reflective screen, (fake) volume buttons on the side, a (fake) silence switch, in addition to a (fake) home button, (fake) speakers, and a (fake) camera.
The adhesive “selfie-sticker” is a simple reflective stick-on that allows you to look at yourself in Ultra-Ultra-HD; also known as RL (Real Life). It is worth noting that my selfie-sticker had a dimple in the middle of it which caused my face to look distorted when I would look into it. There is nothing worse than a mirror that makes you feel like Golem from Lord of the Rings every time you gaze at yourself. (though this may not have been caused exclusively by the mirror’s dimple)
The NoPhone has some interesting specs. The following are the company’s provided specs in comparison to the iPhone:
As you can see from their specs sheet, the company clearly has a sense of humor. On a more serious note, Real Face Time is something we need more of in the world around us. If their product can drive an increase in face-to-face interactions, the NoPhone has the potential to make a real difference in the world. In my testing, all of the specs proved to be true except for one: being shatter-proof. During the rigorous testing (which you will see below) I lost a few chunks of plastic from the phone. The NoPhone is, however, sufficiently durable for regular use.
Overall, the device is well designed according to the standards which we expect from smartphones on the market today.
Anxiety-Free Technology Replacement
To test the NoPhone’s ability to be a smartphone replacement in an actual scenario where I might be better off without a phone, I decided to ditch my iPhone for the NoPhone while going to church. (Definitely a place that might be better off without phones.) One of the first things that I noticed while I had the NoPhone at church is that I did exactly what I do with my regular phone: hold it, flip it, and play with it.
The NoPhone’s “Real FaceTime” feature is actually surprisingly more effective than you would think. As I played with the NoPhone, many people would ask what it was. It ended up turning into an excellent conversation starter and helped me get to know more people around me. It also forced me to look outwards and interact as I didn’t have apps to steal away my attention. On a separation anxiety note, I didn’t feel any high levels of anxiety without my iPhone while carrying the NoPhone; although I don’t have any objective data from the experience to compare to my baseline stress and blood pressure levels.
Being critical of the NoPhone as a technology replacement, there were a few times when I really needed a ‘functional’ smartphone to either contact someone, take notes, or view my calendar. We’ve become extremely reliant on our smartphones in so many ways that anxiety aside, we’re practically dysfunctional without them. A non-technology smartphone substitute is good in theory until you have a legitimate need for a real smartphone. A better alternative to the NoPhone might be a smartphone without facebook/instagram/games/ etc…
Overall, the device does a surprisingly good job of helping you be more social and engaging with the world around you. It is not, however, a substitute for technology. You’re going to need to keep a smartphone nearby for use when necessary.
Satire: The NoPhone As a Utility Device
The NoPhone was originally intended to be a gag-gift, or joke of sorts; and it is an excellent one. While using the device, I got quite a few laughs out of the Misses with terrible jokes such as Verizon’s: “can you hear me now” or just sitting there endlessly tapping on the non-existent touch screen until I got the attention of people around me. After spending some time with the device, I began to wonder what other uses the NoPhone might provide. Below are some examples of my testing of the NoPhone as a multi-purpose utility device:
Hammer – Fail
The NoPhone does not serve well as a hammer. While the nail definitely slowly penetrates the wood with each strike, the NoPhone would not be an effective long-term hammer replacement. After a few millimeters of hammering, there were already chunks missing out of the side of the NoPhone. Stick to your regular hammer.
Soup Stirrer/Spoon – Success
The NoPhone was a surprising substitute for a spoon or a spatula when making soup. The NoPhone’s solid waterproof design ensured that the liquid from the soup didn’t cause damage, while the width of the phone provided just enough drag to properly mix the soup. Disclaimer: We are in no way responsible if stirring hot soup causes chemicals from the plastic to inflict food poisoning. Proceed at your own risk.
Slicing Fruit – Success
As you can see from the slow-motion image above, the NoPhone can cut through bananas like katana cut through flesh. The banana did not stand a chance. It’s worth noting that I felt almost zero resistance while cutting through the banana, just ensure that you’re cutting at high speeds. A slow slice could lead to a mushy banana, something not even a baboon would touch.
Slow Motion Device Gymnastics – Success
This above video was initially a test of the NoPhone’s durability, however, in slow motion it became one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. As a result, an added utility of the device is slow-motion-device-gymnastics, something the NoPhone invented today.
Self-Defense Tool – Success
Being the hard piece of plastic that it is, the NoPhone could certainly cause some damage in the event that you need to use it as a weapon. While my testing was limited (for the sake of my face), it did a number on my ear. See image above for details.
Television Remote – Fail
Being the shape of a remote and about the weight of a remote, I was optimistic that it would function like a television remote. Unfortunately, due to the device having zero electronics inside, it did not perform well as a TV remote. Don’t waste your time.
In short, the NoPhone performed surprisingly well as a multi-purpose utility device. While certainly not a hammer or television remote replacement, you can use this hunk of plastic to accomplish a wide variety of tasks. Overall, using the NoPhone as a multi-purpose utility device was a success.
After spending quite a bit of time with the NoPhone, I’m not sure that I would ever purchase the device for myself intentionally. However, this doesn’t mean my wife wouldn’t purchase it for me to help curb my smartphone addictive tendencies. I would also likely buy this as a gag-gift for friends that don’t know where to draw limits in their phone usage.
If you actually intend to use the NoPhone as a phone replacement to help curb addiction, it does a surprisingly good job of giving you something to play with. It’s also a great conversation starter to help you improve upon your social skills. While I’m not sure how niche the market is for such a device, clearly $20,000 dollars raised on Kickstarter has shown that a market does indeed exists. If this device interests you, you can purchase the NoPhone on their website for $12 dollars.
What are your thoughts on the NoPhone? Would you buy it for yourself? As a gag-gift? How else have you used the NoPhone as a utility device? Sound off in the comments below.