John's Phone: the minimalist anti-smart-phone

John's Phones sell no-frills mobile phones that send and receive calls and pretty much nothing else (though there's a place to keep your pen). Warren Ellis likens it to a phone from minimalist Japanese housewares/clothing company Muji.
Finally a separate unit with no frills and conditions. A simlock free phone with large keys, an address book, a pen and over three weeks time standby... John's Phone is simple and easy for young, old, holiday, grandfathers, grandmothers, athletes, national and international business traffic.
John's Phones (via Warren Ellis)


  1. Oh, I long for a surge in popularity of dumbphones like this. Or, especially, the Motorola F3. Sad thing about the F3 was that they never released the CDMA version (F3c) in the States. If anyone here knows how to score one, let me know!

    1. I’m in the same boat. I have a GSM F3 as a back up phone from my AT&T days, but now that I’m on Sprint I need the CDMA version! They seem pretty hard to come by.

  2. I like the idea, except for the tiny, akward display on the top of the phone. That kind of ruins the whole design. The display needs to be as simple and easy to read as the buttons.

  3. See also, Jitterbug. Mind you, I believe Jitterbugs are tied to their phone service, which has somewhat abysmal rate plans (and no unlimited service plan). It’s very much targeted toward the elderly, with add-on services like daily check-in calls.

    I can’t say I like the design of John’s Phone, but I hope t’see more of this sort of thing in the future. The side controls look like they’ll constantly get bumped around and the pen looks like a piece of crap, although I like the idea of a paper address book you can slip into the phone housing. I’m not sure how I feel about the display.

    I can’t help but notice that his store doesn’t appear to sell replacement batteries or chargers. Is this thing intended t’be disposable, or does it use some sort of standard parts? I can’t read the site well enough t’work it out.

    1. John’s Phone has an integrated battery. Every phone comes with an earphone, an address book, a pen, a charger and a manual. Replacement chargers will be available in the store very soon.

      John’s website will be available in English by the end of next week.

    1. En englais

      WTF is englais? If you need things translated to Anglais, Chrome does it automatically for you.

      WRT the phone, why would I spend $150 on a crappy barely phone, when I could spend a $150 on a phone that helps me stave off that incessantly nagging ADD? The smart phone was the greatest thing to ever happen to my mental health.

      1. Oh, this phone is a serious WANT! It’s like the cellphone you’d find on Madmen, except with a woodgrain finish. Rosewood, please!


        Chrome does A LOT of things automatically for you, especially when you pair it up with Verizon. ;)

    1. That phone has the best functionality description I’ve ever read:

      “The unit will retain its functionality as a phone even if blasted with water projected at all angles through 6.3mm nozzles at a flow rate of approximately 12.5 liters/minute for more than 3 minutes from a distance of approximately 3 meters (IPX5).”

      Specific. I wonder what happens if the water is projected through a 6.4mm nozzle? Why are people projecting water at your phone anyway?

  4. Ok, I’ve seen the light! This, and a decent medium-sized tablet and I would be happy (from a tech-savvy developer/designer)

  5. The Motorola E3 is my anti-iphone/smartphone/etc. It’s quite an interesting phone with an e-ink display and big calculator style digits. It does calls, text messages, alarm and it has a simple phone book.

    There’s no menus of settings, just 5 ring tones to choose from. Advanced settings are typed in the phone through short-codes, which always reminds me of hacking old Nokia phones.

    The best part is that the phone is old and it’s not marketed towards trendsters, so it’s only $20-40 second hand (better for the environment than any “Green” Apple product).


  6. I don’t like this. Owning a phone like this means you will have to talk to people. That sort of thing can ruin a stress free life.

  7. I think this is an excellent idea, particularly for travel/nights out, although I’m less sure about the link to “John’s Winkel” on the website.

  8. Since many use textmessaging to communicate these anti-movement phones will never be really useful escept as the ultimate accessorie with your real phone hidden in a pocket somewhere.

  9. Not even remotely a new idea. You’ll probably get a new wave of these with every new generation of smartphones, and they’ll be aimed at people who are a little freaked out by the new features, who have forgotten that they want to be able to play Bejeweled when they’re waiting in lines.

  10. $90? I dunno. Since you can buy a pay-as-you-go for a whole lot less that is better designed, I’d say this thing is marketed to those who are willing to pay extra to have less.

    Plus, it looks like a tv remote.

  11. Still rocking my 4-year-old LG VX5300. Rock-solid reliable, amazing battery life. Very basic little flip phone. Yes, it sort of has some “features” like some lame web portal, but I never touch that button. The camera is crappy, but I don’t take pictures much. Certainly not important ones. Verizon keeps bugging me to upgrade, but this little guy just keeps going and is really all the phone I need.

  12. Now how about the next cell-phone innovation: feedback of your own voice into the earpiece when you talk. Real phones do this, with the result of people not unconciously shouting into the phone like they do with cells. A thankful nation yearns for this invention.

  13. If someone will make a phone that’ll bounce like a golf ball when I drop it on concrete, I’m sold.

  14. I think what’s needed is an app the deletes all other apps and leaves a rotary dial on your screen so you can have a trendy iPhone that does bugger-all else.

  15. been rocking a feature phone from SonyEricsson and a Nokia N800 this way for a couple of years now. Pondering upgrading to one of the recent Archos tho as the N800 is starting to show its age in cpu terms.

  16. Do cell-phone service plans exist that make the monthly cost of owning such a simple device even remotely worthwhile?

  17. I love it!
    I travel a lot and to have a sim lock free phone is ideal. Plus the battery seems to last for 3 weeks.
    As an iPhone user that seems impossible;-)

  18. The problem with these “minimal phones” is that they are under the impression that a cell phone is for voice. That has to be the absolutely least useful feature of a cell phone — I have only made one voice call this whole week. Yes, I don’t really *need* to surf the web, play games, etc., but email and texting is essential.

  19. I do have to say that i like the design of the pictured cell phone, but as others have mentioned. I would prefer if it had a larger screen for texting, and ideally it’d be a color screen to at least receive pictures.

    Still i am quite fond of simplistic cell phones. I own an Envy3 LG phone and all the features on it go ununsed with the exception of texting, phone calls, and occasionally taking/sending pics.

  20. I love the comments here by people who think it needs txt and who disparage voice! As far as I can tell, they’re not parodies, just straight opinions.

    Personally I prefer txt, my life is saved by my smart phone, and I go nuts with the crappy built-in camera. But to not see how some people would strongly prefer to have all these features removed? Amazing!

    I think one lesson (and this isn’t the only example I’ve seen, although a lot of examples have been about cell phones now that I think about it) is that featuritis isn’t just caused by designers wanting to reach every marginal customer. Instead it seems consumers will latch onto a product that’s far from what they want, and, rather than look for a suitable product elsewhere, complain that it should be morphed into the thing they do want. Premature brand loyalty followed by bitching.

    Gee, that also explains a lot of relationships. Also politics. And a lot of my comments on bOINGbOING.

  21. The only way to improve this would put a camera on it and usb hook up. No screen, just a viewfinder like old plastic cameras i had as a kid. And I’d have no idea what the picture looks like until I put em on my computer, just like not knowing what your photos look like until picking them up at the developer.

  22. I think it’s brilliant. I have an iPod Touch and will upgrade that to the newest one when it comes out. At that point I don’t need a smart phone AND the iPod Touch, and I don’t want to be locked into a plan for phone (which is why I bought the iPod in the first place).

    What I LOVE about the JohnsPhone is that it is quad-band AND simlock free. I can use it with a pay-as-you-go sim card from any country, and have local pay as you go rates. Whether I use it in Canada or in Mexico or in Holland or Australia, I don’t need to make many phone calls, but I don’t have to rent a phone or buy a super expensive world phone with roaming plan either.

    So with my iPod and a phone like this, I’d have everything I wanted, AND nothing I don’t want (expensive plans that I have no use for).

  23. This is the only device in decades that could cause me to fight in a queue to get to the front.

    (Apart from when fighting to get on to buses in Malta that is)

    A mobile PHONE – what a wonderful invention – So far all that has been available has been toy cameras and clumsy telex style pocket machines with phones as a peripheral function and the stupidest of complicated plans to service them

    How about plans with rented lines and individual call rates – one unit to cost ten cents- no STD rates within Australia and each unit to be at least three minutes

    You won’t get people like me as a customer unless and until

  24. i loved the idea of simple phone and bought johns phone as soon as a read about it. today it arrived. first of all – it doesn’t work. i inserted sim card (rogers/canada), still no network. second – it looks like crap. very cheap. i have a feeling it is just an empty box with buttons and a buzzer. the only thing i believe about johns phone – it is made in china as it says on the back. $100 wasted.

  25. Understandable in this era that most people need options. John’s phone is almost okay for octogenarians. Older people need large numbers, large screen and no features. Most eighty and ninety-year-old people I know (about 130 of them) don’t need, can’t use and don’t want features…………but they do want to get and make calls to younger family members. If there is an even more simplistic phone than John’s, I need to know about it.

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