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This New Smartphone Does Absolutely Nothing

Oct 12, 2015

Make calls. Take pictures. Record amazing, high-definition videos. Our smartphones do a lot of stuff — but what about a phone that does nothing at all?

That's the idea behind the ZERO, a new "smartphone" from New York-based NoPhone. It takes the less-is-more design aesthetic to its natural conclusion: No features at all. Cut in the same dimensions as Apple's iPhone 5, the ZERO is NoPhone's follow-up to its first prototype, which raised over $18,000 on Kickstarter last year.

Why would somebody buy a phone-like brick that just sits there?

“It’s a technology free-alternative to constant hand-to-phone contact,” says NoPhone Co-Founder Van Gould, half-jokingly. For Gould, the ZERO is a satirical comment on our device-obsessed culture. “We want to become the largest fake phone company in the world," he says. "That’s kind of the goal."

The NoPhone Zero NoPhone 

Meeting its Kickstarter fundraising goal in September, the ZERO offers fewer features than ever before. Its designers have stripped it of the grooves previous models included to mimic an outlet, camera, and home button, thus removing even the illusion of distraction. All that’s left is a sturdy, thin rectangle, void of any purpose aside from helping you re-focus on your life.

The ZERO works like technological methadone, satisfying a user's addiction to the familiar shape and weight of the real thing. The thoughtful construction fills the same stretched-out part of your jeans as your actual phone, but it prevents you from pulling it out, falling into a digital hole and missing out on the world around you. It’s an easier alternative to going cold turkey, providing a simulation of your comfort object while helping you slowly abandon it.

The company’s website advertises the NoPhone as a way to “never again experience the unsettling feeling of flesh on flesh when closing your hand,” striking a tone just serious enough that it's hard to tell if it's a joke or serious experiment.

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A German field telephone station in the Aisne department of northern France during World War I.
1916 A German field telephone station in the Aisne department of northern France during World War I.Paul Thompson—FPG/Getty Images
A German field telephone station in the Aisne department of northern France during World War I.
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1916 A German field telephone station in the Aisne department of northern France during World War I.
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“The most amazing part of the NoPhone is that, in the future, it could be nothing at all,” says Gould. It may seem strange to try to package a concept — until you realize that’s what NoPhone is doing already. The only way the physical product could be any less important is if it didn’t exist at all.

The original NoPhone sells for $12, but the ZERO is $5, making it a more palatable purchase for the curious. If you're so inclined, keep it in your pocket for an afternoon in place of your regular phone. Observe the frequency with which you reflexively check the brick of black plastic for any updates on your feeds. Reflect on what this means about our culture and your life. Then find your actual phone and tweet your insight to the world.

*Headphones not included.

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