EletiofeThe New Hot Handset Is a Cute and Transparent...

The New Hot Handset Is a Cute and Transparent Dumb Phone You Can’t Buy

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We’re only spending more and more time staring at our smartphones, and over the past few years, tech companies have tried to offer salves to this very problem they created. Apple and Google launched tools within their respective mobile operating systems to curb screen time. Devices like the Light Phone, designed to act as a secondary phone with limited features so you’re not staring at Instagram when you’re at a social gathering, are enjoying some popularity. This kind of digital-detox mentality is also behind a wave of AI-powered gadgets like the Humane Ai Pin, which promises to offload some smartphone-native tasks to voice controls on a screenless interface.

The latest to hop on the trend is The Boring Phone, announced today ahead of Milan Design Week. The company manufacturing it is Human Mobile Devices (HMD), better known as the company making Nokia-branded phones since 2017 thanks to a licensing partnership. The Boring Phone is cute, transparent, and retrolicious. But it is not a phone you can buy.

The Boring Phone is all retro vibes. Even the Heineken ad is lo-fi.

Courtesy of HMD

At Mobile World Congress in February 2024, the Finnish company announced it was leaning in on the Human Mobile Devices branding versus the acronym HMD and that it would broaden its scope by collaborating with other brands outside of Nokia as a white-label phone manufacturer. The big announcement at the time was the Barbie flip phone—stemming from a partnership with Mattel—coming this summer. We don’t have any new details about that device, but The Boring Phone hails from a collaboration with Heineken (yes, the beer brand) and fashion brand Bodega.

This feature phone (colloquially referred to as “dumb” phones) can only text and make phone calls. There’s a camera, Dual SIM support, 4G connectivity, a headphone jack, and a Micro USB port for charging. The battery can last a week in standby time, but there are no apps. Except Snake. Yes, you can play Snake on this gadget.

Bodega is behind the design, citing the rise of “Newtro” (new and retro) as inspiration with Gen Z—the modernization of popular gadgets from the 1980s and ’90s. That has resulted in a transparent flip phone with holographic stickers and green accents in a nod to the Heineken partnership. Honestly, the look of this handset is half the reason I’m writing this piece. It’s gorgeous.

Courtesy of HMD

The pitch is simple: Leave your smartphone at home and bring this device along when you’re heading out to socialize or enjoy the outdoors. Eliminating the possibility of opening TikTok when there’s a moment of silence will perhaps reduce your doomscrolling habits. If you’re confused about the whole Heineken partnership, well, the brand wants you to enjoy a beer (of course) with a friend as you enjoy this newfound freedom from smartphone screens.

HMD is positioning the upcoming Barbie flip phone in the same way—to “empower connections and enable some quiet amidst digital noise and interruptions.” You will be able to buy that phone when it arrives. HMD is one of the top feature phone manufacturers, and in 2022 its feature phone sales grew in the US.

Courtesy of HMD

HMD hasn’t been able to make much of a dent in the smartphone space, so it makes sense that it continues to focus on relatively simple and cheap feature phones. That said, we’re still expecting a few new HMD-branded Android smartphones this year—many of which will purportedly be user-repairable, as that aspect is another big focus for the brand—as well as a device with modular components called the HMD Fusion, coming later this year.

HMD says The Boring Phone will make its debut at Milan Design Week on April 18. The company will be handing it out to people “around the world” through competitions and various consumer engagement events. This will start in Italy but will then spread to the UK and other markets later this year. HMD will produce only 5,000 units total. Good luck!


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