The internet and smartphones have changed the world, but it hasn’t always been for the better. Modern cell phones are full of mindless distractions, like social media and other apps. The result? On average, Americans checked their phones more than 260 times per day in 2021 — that’s once every 5.5 minutes. So a frustrated engineer, Justine Haupt, of the Cosmology Instrumentation Group at Brookhaven National Laboratory, has come up with an unorthodox solution. She has designed a smartphone with a rotary dial that looks from the 50s.
The science and other stuff to know
After working on a prototype for three years, Haupt first went public with her invention back in 2020. Since then, she has upgraded the cell phone with new features and has officially dubbed it Rotary Un-Smartphone.
While some might argue that the Rotary Un-Smartphone is just old-school tech, they’d be wrong. It’s a fully-functional 4G LTE smartphone with most of the features you’d expect from a contemporary cell phone. For instance, you can receive SMS messages, send pre-typed messages, and also send numeric strings. But Instead of a touchscreen, it has a 10-digit dialer plus a few speed dial buttons. This feature removes many of the distractions that come with modern devices.
The Rotary Un-Smartphone also has an e-paper screen on the back for displaying missed calls and messages, a smaller OLED display on the front for other status messages, a USB-C charging port, a headphone jack, and a MicroSD slot that makes it easier to load your contacts through a simple text file. Other unique features of this phone include excellent reception — courtesy of a removable antenna with an SMA connector — and almost 24-hour battery life.
While the phone has a retrofuturistic design, Haupt explains on her website that the goal “isn’t to be anachronistic.” Her invention shows that it’s possible to have a perfect, functional cell phone that goes as far from having a touchscreen as possible. The Rotary Un-Smartphone is “designed to be an easy-build kit. No soldering is required, nor glue, nor cutting.” So, you could put it together in a few minutes with a screwdriver, tweezers, and a careful hand.
If you’re struggling with a distracting smartphone, the Rotary Un-Smartphone could be a better choice. But it isn’t cheap, as the DIY kit will set you back a few hundred bucks.
Future mobile phones are expected to be more closely integrated into our everyday lives than ever. And with tech giants continuing to push the boundaries of mobile technology, Haupt’s design is a nod to a bygone era where you had to stick a finger in a hole, turn the dial, and release — for each number — to make a call. While it is unlikely that we will be able to slow progress and our continued march toward a more connected future, designs like Haupt’s are at least providing individuals with options regarding how they interact with technologies.