John’s Phone Review: The “Worlds Simplest Mobile Phone”

A look at an extremely minimalist device that strips away all but the essentials of telephone communication.

The last straw occurred during a phone call to arrange an event. I was literally screaming into the iPhone as I stood outside the Apple store in Soho, New York. I gave up.  At that point I decided to give up on the iPhone and its muffled conversations, the dropped calls, the ever present social media and emails.

Up until that moment I would describe myself as an iPhone fanboy – I lined up for 9 hours to get the original, and bought the subsequent 3G and 3GS on launch day. Lovely, mind blowing devices but I just need a phone that works.

I also wanted something different — everyone has an iPhone these days ,and to my mind, they have lost their cache somewhat.  I don’t define myself by my brands and don’t seek to be cool but I like interesting, quirky products and I felt the iPhone (and other smart phones) had become a bit “everyday.”

Enter, stage left, John’s Phone.

Created by John Doe Amsterdam, a Dutch design company, John’s Phone is billed as the “worlds simplest mobile phone.”

It was mentioned on boingboing but beyond that, the only information I could find was via unintentionally hilarious Google translated web pages and early reviews from Holland.  Info on the phone was refreshingly rare. No massive PR or ad campaign, no celebs, no smug mega-CEOs blabbing about revolutionizing the world. Just a simple phone with big buttons, cool colors and quad band functionality.

It can’t text, access the web, take HD pictures or movies, it doesn’t make birds angry, have a calendar or even tell you the time, it simply makes and receives calls competently.

What it lacks in functionality it more than makes it up with charm and wit. Every time I get it out of my pocket I smile.

Technically speaking It’s quad band and accepts any sim card, so it works any where in the world apart from Japan.

After 2 months of obsessing over it, My John’s Phone arrived in the UK this week (via a Phineas Fog style journey to Hong Kong and New York).

The packaging looked good enough to prompt a quick unboxing video. Inside, the phone, an ear piece, a John’s Phone sticker, a charger and mini USB cable.



I chose the grass green color which is understated, smart and unique. The phone is light in the hand and ergonomically feels just right. The front facing buttons are the exact fit for the finger tip.  There is no screen on the front, just a black and white display on the top reminiscent of a pager.  John’s sweet Tamagotchi-like character appears on the screen when the phone is turned on or off. Despite such a small amount of screen estate, it manages to convey a strong sense of personality and some sweet Easter eggs hidden away for you to discover.

Turn the phone over to access a little door, inside which is your phone book to jot down  numbers using a little pen that slides out of the top of the phone. The book includes a game of tic tac toe and a few “message pages” where you can write a note, cut it out and give it to someone. Silly but very endearing.

Frequent numbers can be assigned to the 10 keypad numbers.  Pressing the subsequent number down for a couple of seconds activates the call.

The screen only displays numbers, no caller ID. No matter, my John’s Phone number will be given to the sort of people I would never send to voice mail.

Physically, the only downside are the side buttons which feel a bit cheap and need a decent thumb nail to move. At 79 euros ($109), this is to be expected but I hope they address this for the next version.

I’ve been using the phone for the past week and I’m absolutely in love. Call quality is decent, no drops or muffles.

It’s a phone that works but for me but it’s more than this. I leave the house with no more distractions, foursquare, tweet updates, texts, Facebook alerts or apps. No more checking the phone in public like some kind of nervous tick. If the phone rings, I answer it knowing it’s someone I want to talk to.

I’m also enjoying the reaction it gets in public. It’s guaranteed to make people rotfl when they see a physical door in the back.

It’s a solid product with a real personality and I’m sure it will enjoy the commercial success it deserves.

The company are aiming it towards global travelers, youngsters and senior citizens (they need to sort out the side buttons to really work for this group though).  Im confident it will also find a home with folk like me, people who’s lives have become overly complicated and fragmented with the constant distraction of an always on media.

John’s Phone

Floyd Hayes

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