[Tinkerphones] Strategies for sustainable phones

H. Nikolaus Schaller hns at goldelico.com
Mon Mar 21 17:51:13 CET 2022

Hi Paul,
for e-paper displays Andreas has worked a lot on improving and trying to
upstream the epdc driver for i.MX6.

And we have Letux OS and kernels running on some Kobo / Tolino readers.

Yes, they are not at all power hungry... So they can potentially be used as
a basis for "dumb smartphones" :)

With that I mean reduced in some aspects (display colors, lack of high speed
video capabilities) but full power (e.g. memory capacity giving flexibility of
standard Linux) in others.

Technology is available (e.g. chips, pcb design, radio modules, displays, software).
Maybe also people wanting to pay for it as your crowd-funding examples seem
to demonstrate. What is lacking is some group willing to work on something.
And some leader wanting to make it a success.


> Am 21.03.2022 um 17:36 schrieb Paul Boddie <paul at boddie.org.uk>:
> Hello,
> Sorry to bring up an old thread, but I would probably only end up repeating 
> myself in a new thread, anyway! See here for the quoted message in the list 
> archive:
> https://lists.goldelico.com/pipermail/community/2019-September/002046.html
> On Monday, 23 September 2019 16:28:46 CET Paul Boddie wrote:
>> On Saturday 21. September 2019 15.48.50 H. Nikolaus Schaller wrote:
>>> Yes, we thought about it - but where are the real users?
>>> There is for example hyped LightPhone2 but I don't see that it is a useful
>>> device. Minimizing functions can also go too far.
>> The stupid Web site for the LightPhone needs all my computer's CPU and half
>> of its RAM. I guess nobody will be viewing it on a LightPhone2. But I guess
>> this illustrates my point about ever-expanding hardware requirements for
>> mundane things.
> So, today I came across a new article about low-end phones that mentioned the 
> Light Phone:
> "Not smart but clever? The return of 'dumbphones'"
> https://www.bbc.com/news/business-60763168
> It focuses mostly on the quality of life aspects of rejecting smartphones and 
> their associated culture of distraction, which is something that even has its 
> own Wikipedia article:
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problematic_smartphone_use
> Obviously, the Light Phone 2 chooses a fairly extreme approach, although not 
> nearly as extreme as its predecessor which had no screen at all. This was 
> considered earlier...
>> As for that device itself, it takes the interesting but troublesome idea of
>> using e-ink or e-paper displays for something that people might expect to
>> support animated or rapidly updated content. Apart from the use-cases of
>> reading e-books or showing one's boarding pass barcode at the airport
>> security gates, people struggle to consider things that are compelling
>> enough for people to want one (other than the fashion aspect of having
>> something different).
> Having seen e-readers used for interactive applications, I don't think that e-
> paper is a bad idea inherently (if you can avoid sensitive information being 
> persistently visible), and there are seven-colour screens broadly available 
> now, but user expectations need to be managed. It is interesting to read a bit 
> more about the design considerations when they followed up the first 
> screenless model with the e-ink model:
> https://medium.com/the-light-phone/why-a-screen-eca598f37159
> Coincidentally, I was recently reviewing coverage of the Psion MC notebook 
> computer that was launched in 1989:
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psion_MC_series
> That was an ambitious product which had a high-resolution monochrome LCD 
> screen without a backlight, a touchpad, and which used flash memory for 
> storage. Although it was never likely to appeal to laptop power users, 
> particularly as screen technology improved, it had a battery life of 60 hours 
> or more and was fondly remembered by journalists and writers (as were more 
> modest machines like Amstrad's NC series).
> It seems like software availability is a perennial problem, though. The 
> strategy for Light Phone appears to involve developing specific applications:
> https://support.thelightphone.com/hc/en-us/articles/360031128671-Tool-Availability-Status
> Despite some focus on ethical issues, I find it interesting that the voice-to-
> text feature uses some cloud service (with assurances made about privacy 
> concerns) and that a possible ride-sharing application might partner with Lyft 
> or Uber. I wonder how many users of this device don't just get their 
> smartphone out for much of their needs.
> Being based on Android, users could obviously obtain a much broader range of 
> software, although the screen would impose practical limitations on how usable 
> such software might be. Then again, maybe there is a growing range of Android-
> based applications for e-readers that could be suitable.
> The positioning of products like these is also a recurring theme. The Psion MC 
> mentioned above was considered as an accessory to a desktop computer, and this 
> was also the emphasis of the Palm Foleo, which arguably founded the modern 
> netbook product category. Palm's mistake was not to develop and emphasise the 
> product to be useful in its own right.
> Finally, I found it somewhat intriguing/amusing that the Light Phone 2 raised 
> over $3.5 million when crowdfunded, or around $350 per backer:
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_Phone
> The device itself is available for sale now at around $99. Well, I suppose 
> there is a market for such devices, after all.
> Paul
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