Are you having trouble putting down your smartphone and interacting with the world that is right in front of you? Yeah, neither are we. But for those who do suffer from some sort of smartphone addiction, a designer in Vienna has come up with a quirky solution to help. It is a series of smartphone-shaped devices with stone beads to mimic the feel of gestures that are commonly performed on touchscreens, such as pinching to zoom, scrolling, swiping, and so forth.
These 'Substitute Phones' are supposed to be therapeutic, allowing smartphone addicts to go through the same calming motions they perform on their electronic handsets "to cope with withdrawal symptoms." And in a way, the designer also aims to bring social etiquette back into the equation, though that seems to be a secondary goal.
"The touchscreen smartphone has made it possible to 'escape' into social media," Klemens Schillinger, designer of the Substitute Phones, told Dezeen. "We check emails and messages not only on public transport but also in social situations, for example when having drinks with friends."
"More and more often one feels the urge to check their phone, even if you are not expecting a specific message or call. These observations inspired the idea of making a tool that would help stop this 'checking' behavior'," Schillinger added.
Inspiration for this idea came from a documentary in which Umberto Eco, an Italian writer and philosopher, attempted to kick his smoking habit by substituting his pipe with a wooden stick. Schillinger figured the same concept could be applied to smartphones, that replacing the physical stimulation without the connectivity might help people to rely less on their handsets.
The Substitute Phones are each shaped like a real phone and made from black polyoxymethylene (POM) plastic. However, they don't have a touchscreen or any electronics. Instead, beads made from the natural stone Howlith are placed in rows so that users can perform the same swiping gestures.
So, why not just get a fidget spinner instead?
"Some of these finger movements—like zooming in, or moving up and down—were born with the smartphone. The Substitute Phones allow these movements to be felt by scrolling on the marbles that are integrated into the case, something which is a clear differentiation from fidget spinners or fidget cubes," Schillinger said.
This is actually the second product Schillinger developed in hopes of helping people disconnect. He also designed an Offline Lamp that only turns on when the user places their smartphone inside a drawer that sits at the base of the lamp.
Like the lamp, the Substitute Phone was designed for an exhibition called #Offline - Design for the (Good Old) Real World. It is not clear if Schillinger will attempt to market and sell either device.