Studio Zenkai

Bold and Clear, without excess • Kaizen 改善 • With Purpose

Studio Zenkai is dedicated to the craft of programming, hardware hacking, photography, machine learning and how to live sensibly.

All I want for Christmas is a small phone

I got an iPhone 6S Plus a few years ago. I was impressed by the screen, the biggest I’ve had. Look! I can use it as a tablet. Watch videos everywhere, or showcase my latest work at a tech meetup.

The dreams shattered in many pieces. I was biking happily, the phone was sticking out of my pocket and crashed to the ground.

I bike a lot, hike, run around hilly tracks and never cracked a screen before the iPhone 6S Plus. Previous phones could fit in a normal pocket. In an instant, I realized why large screen phones did not work for me.

Since the iPhone 6S Plus, electronics manufacturers seems to compete against each other in size. More screen real estate, more cameras.

I do not want big screens anymore. Even today, I do not know how to hold it when I run or exercise. Do you keep it on your hand? Or buy a special attachment and put it on your shoulder? I run for peace of mind, and having a big dangling phone seemed to defeat the purpose.

I get in a similar akward situation when I meet friends for lunch. When phones are big, you do not want to keep it in a pocket. It finishes on the table. This separates us. The phone becomes a talking point and becomes part of your identity.

I also use my phone for two factor authentication. This means the phone is the key for assets worth $10k - or $5k depending on cryptocurrency prices… I don’t want to put such a key asset on a table.

The tools I like best are forgettable when I do not use them, are user friendly, and do not require special treatment. And they definitively do not define my behaviour. This is not the case of phones with 6 inches display.

So for this Christmas, I will go against the grain to want less, not more.

What I want:

  • 4 inch would be a good size to start with. I could forget in my pants pocket. I could put it in my runner shorts and go run for a couple of hours, without noticing the weight. 6 inches would not fit in those short shorts.
  • Make it waterproof, dust-proof and a minimum shock-proof so I don’t have a heart attack when a baby plays with it.
  • Fingerprint sensor. Please, no face recognition. Showing my face doesn’t mean I want to unlock it.
  • Headphone jack
  • Large camera (12.3 to 1”) with computational photography.
  • Ideally, an expandable phone, such as being able to connect it to a raspberry pi.

What I don’t want:

  • a phone made of glass or other luxury material. In the real world, a phone falls, is a toy for kids, is covered by sweat when you run, and bumped against coins and metal keys. And it not an object I am willing to replace by the latest trendy gizmo every 18 months.
  • a notch
  • a phone that costs $1000.
  • an assistant that spies your browsing history, your location or your audio to serve ads.

All this somehow describes an iPhone 5S with an upgraded camera, with the durability of a Nokia 3310. I would get one. Wouldn’t you? Let’s hope a product manager hears this somewhere.