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  • 11.30.10

Wanted: A Cell Phone That’s as Simple as Possible

John’s Phone is a rebuke to all the smartphones out there that ooze useless special features.

Wanted: A Cell Phone That’s as Simple as Possible

At a time when smartphones seem poised to supplant laptops, John’s Phone looks like a risky proposal: It’s a cell phone that makes and accepts calls. That’s it.

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As the designers, John Doe Amsterdam, tell it, the idea here is to restore a modicum of simplicity to modern communication. Your average cell phone has more special features — cameras, GPS, ringtones galore — than most users know what to do with. Paring it down to the most basic service and doing it up in an ultra-basic, almost toy-like interface with an oversized number pad and graphic call and hangup keys makes cell technology accessible to everyone, whether an 8-year-old kid or an 84-year-old granny. And the price is right: John’s Phone costs 70 to 80 Euros ($90 to $105), which is cheaper than most smartphones (especially when you factor in elaborate monthly plans).

[Adding to the appeal for older users, the phone includes a paper pad and pen for jotting down numbers and addresses]

The question is whether John’s Phone can find a market beyond kids and grannies. We reckon so, but it’s limited. John Doe have smartly designed the phone to work anywhere in the world, giving them an in among tech-savvy users frustrated at all the rigmarole they have to go through to get their smart phone to work abroad. John’s Phone could be a temporary fix in the same vein as the pay-as-you-go phones you buy at airports. In other words, it wouldn’t replace smart phones — people are too attached to features John’s Phone happily eschews, like text messaging and email — but it’d be a handy second line for travelers.

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The catch: John’s Phone doesn’t fill orders in the United States, owing to “custom and insurance formalities” — whatever that means. Of course, you can always have it shipped to your great-aunt in Canada. But watch out: She might wanna poach it for herself.

[Images via John’s Phone]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.

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