This beautifully designed ‘dumb phone’ can only make calls and send texts — and it might be the key to curing our addiction to apps

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Light

  • The Light Phone 2 is a gorgeous, minimalist “dumb phone” that can do only a handful of things.
  • The phone doesn’t have any apps. Instead, it can make calls, send texts, handle simple directions, and set alarms.
  • Light, the company behind the phone, wants to make a device that is used as little as possible to get people off their smartphones.
  • This is an installment of Business Insider’s “Your Brain on Apps” series that investigates how addictive apps can influence behavior.

The Brooklyn-based startup Light has set an impossible goal of getting people to put down their smartphones.

Light launched in 2014 and a year later debuted its first product, the Light Phone. It could only make calls and tell the time, and the company described it as a “quite a smart ‘dumb’ phone.”

Light intended for it to be something of a companion to your smartphone and a way to get people to leave their phones at home and go enjoy life.

Now, Light is back with its second product, the Light Phone 2, an upgraded version of its phone that might just replace your smartphone for good.

The second-generation device couldn’t be coming at a better time. There’s increased scrutiny on how too much screen time affects our brains, and a movement among even the most tech-savvy parents to limit their kids’ access to smartphones.

Meanwhile, apps that discourage too much smartphone use are gaining steam, and people are becoming wise to the tactics their favorite apps use to lure them in and keep them hooked.

This is why Light’s new device is intentionally limited. The Light Phone 2 is designed to manage some of the tasks that keep us connected – calling, messaging, and getting directions – while eliminating time-wasters like social media and games.

Here’s how it works.


Light was founded by Joe Hollier and Kai Tang.

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Hollier is on the left, and Tang is on the right.
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Light

Hollier’s background is in art, design, and filmmaking, and he used to run a studio and skateboarding company called Five on That.

Tang worked in product design and development and spent 10 years traveling the world.


Hollier and Tang met in 2014 when they were asked to design smartphone apps at a Google incubator. But they agreed that the world had enough addicting apps and decided to create a phone intended to be used as little as possible.

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Light

Even back in 2014, Hollier and Tang were onto something.

Recent data from the analytics company Flurry found that people in the US use their mobile devices for five hours a day, while a study from the tech-support firm Asurion found that Americans check their phones 80 times a day on average.

Much of that time is spent in apps. Several of the most popular smartphone apps – like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat – have been designed to use psychological tricks to grab your attention.

At this point, even Silicon Valley parents – some of the same ones responsible for building these addictive apps and devices – are raising their kids to be tech-free.


Light launched its first product on Kickstarter in 2015. Called the Light Phone, it was capable of only making and receiving phone calls.

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Light

The Light Phone couldn’t text, connect to Twitter, take photos, or send emails.

Hollier and Tang designed the phone as something of a security blanket for smartphone users – you could leave your phone at home and “go light” using only the Light Phone. People could still reach you, but you’d be forced to look up from your phone and experience the world around you.

The Light Phone wasn’t just technical – it had a philosophical message. Hollier and Tang wanted to encourage people to consider the importance of disconnecting from the digital world.

“We are becoming scared of boredom, scared of solitude,” they wrote in a blog post about how the company got its start.


Light’s message must have clicked with like-minded customers — the company says it sold more than 10,000 Light Phones in more than 50 countries.

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Light

Now, Light is back with its second-generation phone: the Light Phone 2.

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Light

The Light Phone 2 is a more powerful version of the original device.

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Light says it falls somewhere between the first-generation device and a smartphone; it isn’t as basic, but it still doesn’t have apps.

“Light Phone 2 encourages you to spend more quality time doing the things you love most, free of distractions,” Light said in an announcement about the new product.

“Enjoy a morning jog, a drink with an old friend, a night on the town or day at the park with your kids, waking up with a coffee and a good book, a trip to the beach, or simply some time away from your Instagram.”


The new Light Phone’s most important new feature is the ability to text.

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Light

The original Light Phone could only tell the time and make calls. But the Light Phone 2 can send and receive text messages – something likely to entice more people who are afraid to give up their smartphones completely.


The Light Phone 2 also has an alarm clock, a larger speaker, a microphone and physical buttons.

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Light

Light says the Light Phone 2 is easier to use than the original device and could even be your only phone.

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The original device was intended to be a companion to your smartphone. You could set up call forwarding through Light’s computer app, then leave your smartphone at home for short periods.

But since the Light Phone 2 has more features, it could theoretically handle long-term, daily use. Light is hoping to target smartphone users frustrated by the complexity of iPhone and Android devices.


Unlike the original phone, you’ll be able to add contacts to the Light Phone 2, program it to call you a taxi, or use it to get simple directions.

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The Light Phone 2 has 4G LTE connectivity and a USB-C charging port.

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Plus, the phone has a headphone jack.


The Light Phone 2 has an E-Ink display and comes in black or white.

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It’s only 6.5 millimeters thick and about the same length and width as a credit card.

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The Light Phone 2 will be able to slip into a shirt or pants pocket with no problem. Because of its size and slimness, it even fits into some wallets.


You can preorder the Light Phone 2 for $250 starting Thursday.

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Light

The phone will eventually cost $400 but is available for the discounted price for the next 25 days of Light’s Indiegogo campaign.

Light says the phone will start shipping early next year.