Phone


The Ultimate Minimalist Phone

12th February 2022

Greg Morris, on what he thinks is the best minimalist phone:

After experimenting with older devices, I felt unfulfilled and sometimes caused more hassle than they are worth. Recently, I tried a ‘dumb phone’ in the Punkt MP02, which left a lot to be desired considering its £300 price tag. Couple this with the realisation that I need to be able to access some apps occasionally (How on earth do you do banking nowadays when the branches are hardly open?) – I was stuck. That was until I realised I had the best minimal device to replace my phone the whole time – my Apple Watch.

I’ve been in love with the Apple Watch, particularly a cellular version, for as long as I can remember. It allows me to leave my phone at home when I don’t need it but still be contactable, yet I couldn’t see its real usefulness until I took a step back. I truly think this could be the best minimalist approach to a world that seems to demand a smartphone.

It’s an interesting idea to have the Apple Watch be your “phone”, and after reading Greg’s piece, it sounds like a very viable option.

I’m not an Apple Watch wearer anymore having switched to a “real” mechanical watch recently. However, this idea of a more discreet device which performs the fundamental functions of a phone without most of the distractions is very attractive to me. I guess it’s somewhere in the middle of being cut off from the world, and being wired-in to the internet.

The Essential Phone

1st June 2017

Andy Rubin (co-founder of Android) has came out with a new product, the Essential phone. Basically, it’s a new phone that runs Android, which is built upon a few beliefs:

  • Devices are your personal property. We won’t force you to have anything on them you don’t want to have.
  • We will always play well with others. Closed ecosystems are divisive and outdated.
  • Premium materials and true craftsmanship shouldn’t be just for the few.
  • Devices shouldn’t become outdated every year. They should evolve with you.
  • Technology should assist you so that you can get on with enjoying your life.
  • Simple is always better.

Going by these principles, it sounds like something I could get behind. But at the minute, that is still in principle. With the physical implementation all that matters in the real world.

If we disregard the fact it runs Android for now (I’m not exactly a big fan), the phone has a few features that will intrigue some people.

Display

The display is the biggest part of the device, and that’s what everyone will be drawn to. It follows the theme of slimming the bezel down, which most manufacturers are doing.

The Essential phone has done something a bit strange in my opinion, by expanding the screen further up the device, but leaving a cutout for the front facing camera. You could say this is clever, in that they managed to produce a screen that fits around a camera. Or possibly sneaky, although that’s probably not the word I want to use, because it allows them to market it as a bigger screen, although that section won’t be used for the main content.

Camera

This then leads into the camera, which is a big focus point for phones nowadays. The front facing camera is 8MP and can even film 4K video, and the rear camera is 13MP and can also film in 4K. I haven’t researched too much into the camera specs, but from what I can gather, it will at least sit with phones like the iPhone 7 and the Google Pixel.

Accessories

Another feature of the phone is the ability to connect accessories. It’s nothing fundamentally new, as the iPad has the smart connector, and then there’s already a ton of Bluetooth accessories. But with the Essential phone, you have two connector pins on the top of the rear or the device, and accessories connect magnetically.

There are currently two accessories on the website, which are the 3D camera, and the charging dock. Two okay accessories in my mind. Sure they look great, but I wouldn’t get them.

It is a rather small 3D camera though, and their is an opportunity to make more accessories in the future. Then again, there are always opportunities for more accessories, so too much hope shouldn’t be put into this thought.

Final Thoughts

While I don’t think this phone will be for everybody, it’s another competitor, and that can only be a good thing for the industry.

In principle I like the Essential phone, but I just can’t imagine myself switching to Android (this is a deeper problem I’ll expand upon in the future). I would of preferred it to run a separate operating system, but I do respect the amount of work that would take to build, not even thinking about the app ecosystem.

However it is a step in the right direction for Android phones, which I believe was started by the Google Pixel. In my mind, android phones were all about quantity, and not necessarily being the best devices. But it’s started to take a different course, and it’s only for the best.

Find out more about the Essential phone on their website.