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This $300 Minimalist Phone Finally Allows Me to Live in the Moment

The Light Phone 2 is basic, on purpose. Let's break down what it can and can't do and why it almost replaced my smartphone.

The Light Phone 2 doesn't tout high-end specs like Apple's iPhone 13 or Samsung's Galaxy S22. Instead, its most striking feature is what it lacks. It doesn't have many common phone tools like a camera and internet browser because it's made to be used as sparingly as possible. As a smartphone-fatigued gal who is chronically online, I was instantly fascinated by the minimalist phone and needed to try it. So, I ditched my iPhone 11 for a week and used the $299 Light Phone 2 instead. I wanted to see if it could become my new everyday phone, and it almost could. 

There is no email, web browser, news or camera and no social media apps like Instagram or TikTok. The only feature I initially missed was social media, but that was quickly replaced by getting more comfortable with using my phone less, which is the whole point of this phone. I loved how much more present I was with my friends, family and surroundings as a result. What this phone doesn't have ended up being my favorite part about using it.

Light Phone 2 outside

The Light Phone 2 has an E Ink display.

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What's inside the Light Phone 2? 

The phone comes in two utilitarian colors: light gray and black. It can call, text, be used as a hotspot and alarm. Tools for music, podcasts, navigation and calculator can be added. Additional features, like a voice memo tool, are anticipated for the near future. Unlike most modern phones, it does have a headphone jack. There's also Bluetooth support for connecting wireless headphones and an electronic paper or E Ink display similar to what you would find on e-readers.

Light Phone 2 tools and headphone jack

The Light Phone 2 works with select US carriers or its own service plan.

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Depending on your location, you can choose between a US or international version of the phone. It comes unlocked with 4G LTE connectivity, and while it's compatible with select carriers, Light also has its own service plans for US users. Since this phone isn't compatible with my current smartphone carrier, Xfinity Mobile, I opted for the $70 per month Light service plan with unlimited calls, text messages and data. There's also a $30 per month plan with unlimited calls and text messages and 1GB of data.

Unlike using an iPhone or Android, you oversee your Light service plan, add phone tools, contacts and up to 1GB of audio files onto the phone from a website called the Dashboard. Once files are uploaded through this interface, they appear on the Light Phone in minutes as long as you're connected to Wi-Fi or LTE.

Back of the Light Phone 2

It doesn't have a camera on the back, which forced me to use my actual camera to take photos instead. 

Jessica Fierro/CNET

What can the Light Phone 2 do? 

While this depends on location, in my experience, LTE and hotspot tethering work seamlessly. When I connect my laptop to my personal Light hotspot network, I'm able to stream videos just as easily as when I'm connected to Wi-Fi. The phone's 4G LTE works well for quickly applying updates, importing Dashboard files onto the device, and accessing directions.

I also enjoyed the music experience on this phone. One GB of audio is enough to store music for a week, and I really liked the focused listening that came with not having a seemingly endless library at my fingertips. It made me more intentional when selecting music for download and more present when listening to the songs. Since I knew they were all I had, I listened more closely and, as a result, enjoyed the music more. The songs appear in one playlist, but the search bar makes it easy to find specific artists and songs. New podcast episodes automatically import once a series is selected from the Dashboard if the device is connected to Wi-Fi or LTE.

As for battery life, with regular usage, I went one to two days before I had to charge. However, if I did something more data-intensive, like importing files from the Dashboard on LTE, I'd have to plug in twice a day. When it comes to directions, Bluetooth, the alarm and calculator, these tools work well and exactly as you'd expect.

The only feature I never quite adjusted to was texting because of the phone's E Ink display. On one hand, this screen doesn't radiate blue light and can be read outside because it doesn't create a glare, which I love. After all, looking at blue light can cause stress on the eyes and can have an adverse effect on your sleep.

Light Phone 2 texting

Typing on the Light Phone 2 is slow.

Jessica Fierro/CNET

But the E Ink screen is also less responsive than a typical phone's, and I couldn't get used to its slower typing pace. Sending a simple text became pretty time consuming as I waited for each letter to input. However, since I last tested the phone, autocorrect, copy-paste and auto-period features have been added, so that could help compose messages more quickly. Additionally, the phone's voice-to-text option is very accurate, which can also help speed up texting if you'd rather speak than type.

The Light Phone 2 currently sells for $299, which is a lot less expensive than my iPhone but more expensive than many budget phone models. Unless you're truly seeking out a simpler type of phone, Samsung's Galaxy A series offers several options well under $300 -- like the $250 Galaxy A13, which includes 5G support. And if you're not ready to give up your smartphone but want to use it less, maybe consider turning on screen time controls.

Light Phone 2 and iPhone

The Light Phone 2 and the iPhone 11.

Jessica Fierro/CNET

I loved using the Light Phone 2 because its features are generally strong and what it doesn't have allowed me to live in the moment in a way I'm not used to while using my iPhone. That being said, it doesn't really make sense for me to make the switch permanently because I work in social media and need some form of mobile access to apps like Instagram and TikTok to stay up on trends.

While it isn't feasible for me to exclusively use the Light Phone 2 at this point, this challenge did inspire me to think about using the Light Phone 2 as my primary phone and my iPhone as a secondary phone. At the very least, it's helped me be more intentional with how I interact with my smartphone. Less time spent scrolling aimlessly on TikTok, and more face-to-face time with family, friends and the world around me.

For more about my time with the Light Phone 2, check out my video trying out the phone in my daily life.