Paper Phone is an experimental app which helps you take a break from your digital world, by printing a personal booklet of the information you’ll need that day. Printed versions of the functions you use most such as contacts, calendars and maps let you get things done in a calmer way and help you concentrate on the things that matter most.
We’re interested in digital wellbeing, how leading technology companies are now integrating wellbeing features into their software, and particularly in the idea of a digital detox, which usually involves spending some time away from your smartphone. Existing approaches often involve going cold turkey and completely avoiding a digital device, but this is sometimes inconceivable to people who rely heavily on their devices and can put them off the idea entirely.
Our research uncovered people terrified at the idea of leaving their phone behind, even for their own good. “What would I do without my maps?” and “I don’t even know my boyfriend’s phone number” were common observations. We discovered a condition called Nomophobia: the fear of being without your mobile phone.
These insights shaped our approach to taking the risk out of being away from your mobile phone for a short period of time, in a gentle, empathic way. Rather than removing all functionality from your digital world we wanted to keep some of it, in a calmer, more human way.
Our research explored other functionality that people might experiment with. We included optional space for your contactless card, enabling your Paper Phone to make payments, and added space to take notes in a more mindful, analogue way. We were heavily inspired by personal diaries and agendas which often include some pages of useful information like tide times and multiplication tables. We created a section called “Paper Apps, such as recipes, phrasebooks and puzzles which let you explore something in a more calm and passive way.
With 224,442 views of the film, and a variety of opinions expressed in the comments, we feel that we have contributed to a healthy debate about the nature of wellbeing and the role smartphones play in our sense of a balanced relationship with technology. Paper Phone was well received by the press, with coverage in FastCompany, The Washington Post, MIT Technology Review, Independent, Euronews, La Stampa, Domus, Boston Public Radio, Tech Times, The Enquirer, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Design Taxi, Tomsguide, Techcrunch, Daily Mail, Digital trends, Slashgear, NDTV, Beebom, Android Police, El Nacional, Techradar, Xataka Android, Heise, Frandroid.
Our research involved a wide range of disparate sources, interviewing experts, interviewing users and analysing parallel user journey experiences in other fields. We distilled our research into a strategic framework as a tool to design the user experience, ensuring user needs were met and delight created throughout all digital and physical interactions with Paper Phone.
To make this as accessible as possible the app is free and all code is open-source. You just need a phone and access to a printer.
Collaboration with Google.