CUTTING THE FINGERPRINT READER from the Pixel 4 was just the beginning for Google, it seems. Its latest phone can't make calls, send texts or connect to the internet. It is the thinnest and lightest handset the firm has ever made, folds without breaking unlike other handsets we could name, and unlike the Pixel 4 the battery seems to go on forever.
Google has teamed up with design studio Special Projects to see how much of a phone's essential functionality can be decoupled from screens, apps and Android. The solution is the Paper Phone.
Yes, it's a bit silly, but at least you won't be a target for muggers. It gets even more silly when you realise that you can't set up your Paper Phone without an accompanying Android app.
But once you have it installed, you're good to go. Just pick what functionality you want your ‘handset' to have, and the appropriate apps will be printed on a piece of A4 paper, ready for you to fold up and pocket.
The idea is to keep the essential functionality - knowing where you're supposed to be on a daily calendar, having people's phone numbers on hand, knowing the weather, etc. - without the inevitable distractions smartphones bring.
That means it'll print a handy map of the area, and you can replicate Google Pay by adding the Contactless app (it has cuttable notches to put your credit card in.) There are even optional apps including a phrase book (take that Google Translate), recipes (take that BBC Good Food) and games (well, Sudoku anyway).
"A lot of people feel that they spend too much time on their phones and struggle to find a balance with technology," the app description reads. "We hope this little experiment can help you try a digital detox from technology and help you focus on the things that matter the most."
Yes, it does feel a little bit smug, but it does at least show how easily the idea that phones are essential to our lives comes apart with a little critical thought. That said, if you thought our 24-month upgrade culture was bad for the planet, then a new phone that needs to be printed every day doesn't feel like a big improvement. Still, it might make your printer feel a little more loved. µ
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