From endless social media apps to wave after wave of notifications, my phone is a source of distraction and stress. I try to limit these interruptions by setting ground rules (I don't check my email after 6 p.m. and won't download Slack on my personal handset), using certain apps and enabling settings that curb the need to check my phone. Moment and Freedom are a huge help here, for example, as is Do Not Disturb mode in iOS.
But sometimes, that's not enough. These workarounds are easy to disable and bypass, after all, and getting a feature phone may be too drastic a solution. Especially considering how our jobs and modern life don't always allow us to go completely without the internet.
Enter the Siempo phone. Currently on Kickstarter, this device offers the essentials (a camera, 4G LTE, maps and navigation) but it strips away distractions such as social media apps and the Google Play Store. I demoed its software features on a Google Nexus 5, but this device, if funded, will be its own phone that costs $349 unlocked (converted, that's about £287 and AU$463). It limits the distractions of a modern phone in four notable ways.
You need an 'intention'
Siempo has a minimalistic, bare-bones interface. While it has a handful of apps (a web browser, an email client, for example), all you'll see on the screen is an "intentions field." To do anything on the phone, you have to type out an intention. For example, you can type out the name of the contact you wish to call or text, or type out a reminder for yourself and save it in a to-do list.
Pecking out each intention every time you use your phone is really annoying, but that's sort of the point. It discourages you from passively or casually using your handset. Every time you pick up the Siempo, you'll have to have a planned purpose.
Get your notifications in batches
Notifications make us subconsciously check our phones hundreds of times a day. With Siempo's Tempo feature, you can schedule notifications in timed batches. The interval can be as long as one hour, and you can adjust it using a dialer wheel. This reduces the compulsion to check your device throughout the day.
There are extra settings so calls and your favorite contacts can come through. And to avoid an overwhelming deluge of information every time a ton of notifications come in (think the last time you turned off Airplane mode and your phone let out a cacophony of pings) Siempo says the notifications will come in a sensible, smooth manner.
Or pause them altogether...
If you're in a meeting or need an extended break, you can silence notifications for a given time period. You can press a quick-access button on the side of the phone to instantly halt notifications. In my demo unit, this feature was programmed into the Nexus' volume rocker.
Set up a routine
Siempo lets you set up a "mindful routine" for small goals you want to accomplish at a set time. You can set timers for tasks such as journaling, meditating or exercising.
This feature is meant to keep you focused and more goal-oriented on (preferably healthy) daily tasks that you actually want to do. And while it sounds similar to setting up and labeling different alarms on your phone, these are recurring timers that you press to start and they'll count down for a designated length of time.
Other specs include
- 4-inch display
- 1,600-mAh battery
- Android 6.0.1
- USB Type-C charging
At $349, the Siempo is pricey -- especially considering it doesn't offer all the bells and whistles of the latest flagships. But again, this phone doesn't aim to do that. Siempo isn't for the regular phone customer -- it would actually severely disappoint anyone in the market for a regular phone. Rather, I imagine two groups of Siempo users: there are the people who, try as they might, can't disentangle themselves from their phones' distractions and need that push. The other are the extra-crunchy types (I mean that in the best way) who already prioritize mindfulness in their life and want their phones to reflect that.
If neither group describes you that's fine. You can buy another $400 phone -- there are plenty! But if you identify even a little bit with either group and you want a calmer and (I know this sounds cheesy, but bear with me) more peaceful experience, Siempo could be a way to finally achieve that.