This credit-card-size phone does one thing, and one thing only

The Light Phone bills itself as your "phone away from phone," and does nothing but make calls. Think you need one?

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
3 min read

A phone that's just a phone. What a concept! Light Phone

I knew things were getting bad when I was hiking the other day and stopping to text photos of the woods to my wife while also messaging her on Facebook about our plans for the night. So much for immersing myself in nature. If I had the Light Phone, there's a good chance I would have soaked up my surroundings -- instead of the glow from my phone screen -- a bit more.

The concept of the Light Phone, now raising funds on Kickstarter, is simple. It's, um, just a mobile phone (remember those?). No screen, no browser, not even the ability to text -- though it does have a clock built in.

The inventors are betting that people like me will welcome the chance to get away from all the distractions that phones bring while still having the ability to make and receive calls in a pinch. For example, if I had twisted my ankle on my hike, I'd still have wanted to call for help, but was it really important to sort out, while I was on the trail, which band we were seeing that night?

When not in use, the Light Phone looks like a slim white credit-card-size block (it measures just 5 millimeters -- less than a quarter of an inch -- thick). When activated, LED lights turn on and show through the case, which gives the whole thing an elegant, modern feel. Light Phone will have a battery that lasts 20 days, its creators say, which makes it a good backup for your main phone, or great to take along on trips where you won't have access to regular charging opportunities.

The phone has its own number and takes its own prepaid SIM card. It can also hold 10 speed-dial numbers.

An app on your main phone can be used to forward calls to the Light Phone, which makes it similar to the TalkCase concept we covered last October. That phone, now in production, has the additional benefit that it can sit in a case attached to your iPhone if you'd like.

Both phones work as stand-alones when they have SIM cards inserted. The major differentiator is that the TalkCase will sync up to your main phone via Bluetooth, which lets you make calls through it and access your contacts -- but, of course, that means you have to have your main phone with you. The Light Phone lets you leave your main phone home and forward calls to it through an app.

If you'd prefer to wait for the Light Phone, you can get one for a pledge of $100 (about £64, AU$127). The TalkCase, on the other hand, is currently selling for $69 (about £44, AU$87).

Light Phones are expected to ship in May 2016. So far, the concept seems to be a hit with backers, who have collectively pledged over $150,000 of the $200,000 fund-raising goal so far with over a month left in the campaign. I guess I'm not the only one who wants to take Facebook-free hikes, eh?