Useless Tech Episode 6: The Substitute Phone

Every now and then, I run across a tech product that leaves me speechless. Not the kind of speechless that happens watching Tom Brady lead a 28-3 comeback against the Falcons. More of a “I can’t believe this is an actual thing”, shake my head in disbelief speechless. In the tech world, there are endless supply of products that are created to solve some sort of problem. More often than not, products are simply created without understanding the real problem at hand. The Substitute Phone is one of these products that looks to solve the problem of phone addiction.

The Substitute Phone is the product of Austrian designer, Klemens Schillinger, that aims at helping smartphone addicts cope with their smartphone addiction. The Substitute Phone is designed to look like the average smartphone, without any smartphone functionality. It is basically a piece of black polyoxymethylene plastic in the shape of a smartphone with stone balls that let you perform the same swiping and scrolling motions on a smartphone. Schillinger views the Substitute Phone as a “therapeutic approach” for smartphone addicts to cope with withdrawal symptoms.

The Substitute Phone is basically a fidget spinner in the form of a phone. Fidget spinners are toys which are marketed to help with children who have autism or ADHD. In reality, the majority of people who have fidget spinners use them as toys. The Substitute Phone is nothing more than a toy with no practical benefits.

People aren’t addicted to their smartphones because they constantly need to be in the act of swiping or playing with their phone. If this were the case, you could just turn your phone off and aimlessly swipe instead of buying a separate toy to do this. People are addicted to software and platforms that consume their attention and time. Platforms like social media encourage people to publicize their life and the attention it generates is addicting. I know when I put up a post on Instagram, I am constantly checking my phone every couple of minutes to see how many likes I get.

I totally agree with Schillinger that there is a big problem with people spending too much time on their phone. I see people walking across the street all the time with their eyes glued to their phone. I know whenever I’m bored, I’m automatically on Reddit without a second thought. However, the Substitute Phone is a solution that doesn’t really solve the problem at hand. Swiping stone balls is not going to solve your smartphone addiction. I have a simple, free solution for people who just need to cope with the withdrawal symptoms that Schillinger refers to. Turn off your phone, and swipe to your hearts desire. You save money and don’t look like a fool for playing with stone balls on a fake phone.

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