We can’t argue with the fact that our smartphones are addictive devices. Not only because they provide a world of information at the end of our fingertips, but the very experience of holding the phone has been found to provide us with a sense of pleasure, so much so that you probably want to feel this sensation even when you don’t have your phone in your hand. To combat this, a Vienna-based designer has created Substitute Phones.
Klemens Schillinger has created five of these devices, all of which use stone beads to allow you to imitate the different motions used on smart devices such as scrolling, swiping and zooming. Digital functions have been replaced with stone beads, creating a range of therapeutic tools that help frequent smartphone users curb their desire and control their withdrawal symptoms by providing them with a substitute via physical stimulation.
Schillinger told Dezeen, “The touchscreen smartphone has made it possible to ‘escape’ into social media. 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’ behaviour.”
He explains that inspiration for the project came from the Italian writer and philosopher Umberto Eco who, when trying to give up smoking, substituted his pipe with a wooden stick. “It was the same thing, but without the nicotine, just the physical stimulation,” he said. “I remembered this and thought to make phones that would provide the physical stimulation but not the connectivity.”
The devices are heavy pieces of high-quality plastic in which stone beads are embedded. The beads roll in place, giving a similar feel to smartphone usage.
The Substitute Phone is the second in a series that Shillinger is working on, all of which relate to our relationships with our electronic devices. The first of these projects is Offline Lamp, which will only turn on when you put a smartphone-size object inside its drawer. Both of these were created for Vienna’s Design Week earlier in the year.