Long-time readers of this magazine may recall our 2016 feature, following first shipments of the Punkt MP01, in which we questioned the sense of making a $300 investment in a phone – not matter how beautiful it is – that only allows talk and texts. Well, the time has come for Simon Balsom to look again.
A counterculture phrase coined by Timothy Leary in 1966, ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out’ was quickly viewed by many as an invitation to ‘Get stoned and quit all productive activity’. Keen to return to his original intentions where ‘turn on’ meant to trigger one’s neural equipment, ‘tune in’ to interact harmoniously with the world around, and ‘drop out’ to gracefully detach from involuntary or unconscious commitments, I’m doing this by switching off – even if only occasionally – my smartphone.
The physical presence of the MP01 is a constant reminder of my commitment to a different mind-set during this period. A reminder to look up and out. To engage with my senses and with those around me.
Although a late-adopter (the iPhone 4S of 2011 was my entry point), today a smartphone is rarely out of my hand and never (really, never) more than two meters out of reach. I regard myself as focused and disciplined, but a look back over my days makes it easy to identify the regular stream of peeks at a variety of ‘essential’ apps which, if I’m honest, much of the time provide nothing more than the diversion of a vicarious view in to the lives of others. I’m also a habitual ‘rapid responder’ to emails. Feeling productive, in truth this constant connectivity is eroding my affinity to experiences immediately surrounding me. And it’s time for change.
Simply leaving the phone at home really wasn’t an option – I want the ability to make calls, plus those who call me invariably feel they have a good reason for doing so, and they deserve to be answered. Switching off 4G and Wi-Fi was a possible solution but it felt half-hearted and, I decided, if I’m going to do this then I’m going to do this properly – with a Punkt MP01.
Be clear – Punkt’s MP01 is little more than a cellphone for making calls and sending / receiving texts. Here you’ll discover emoticons, not emojis, are the delightful order of the day. There’s a calendar and phone book too, but the Jasper Morrison-designed handset takes tech-minimalism to the extreme – and devastatingly well. A modern classic, its balance of form and function combine in ways that are all too rare these days.
My work as a Beirut-based writer has delivered me a circle of daily contacts stretching from London to Dubai. So, far from being a Luddite, I embrace mobile technology – but I want it to work for me and not the reverse. Weekends are the natural place to focus on for stepping ‘off-grid’, and I’ve embraced a digital interpretation of the 5:2 diet. Emails are browsed through on my laptop a couple of times a day when at home, but the moment I step out of my front door it’s just me, my partner and the Punkt.
The MP01’s understated looks are at odds with the huge statement this phone makes about its user. It is a cellphone for the hygge generation. It is a badge for those who want it to be known that they’re currently as far off-grid as is sensible to get in 2017, and they’re reconnecting with the time when social networking was at its purest and required just two people, one café and a couple of cups of coffee.
For sure, there’s an initial feeling of deprivation – a sense of questioning what one is missing out on but, in truth, there’s little to be lost and much to be gained. Conversations take on a new life when there’s no Siri to provide a quick and definitive conclusion to a discussion. Reflecting the experience of travel and of a balanced life, it’s a reminder that there is as much pleasure in the journey as there is in the destination.
Regardless, there’s always a mild sense of trepidation as I return the SIM card to my smartphone and switch it on for the first time in 60 hours but, after the fanfare of social media notifications subsides, I invariably find myself looking forward to doing it all over again next weekend. Once more, my phone will become a secondary instrument in my life and I’ll be afforded the greatest of luxuries – mastery of my time and the sense of being intimate with the world and people around me.
Many words, based largely on anecdotes, have been written about the effects our ‘always on’ lifestyles are having on our wellbeing as individuals and as a wider society – it’s a point ably made, and supported by neuroscience, by Elizabeth Segran here.
Will you take our #EidDigitalDetox2017 and go offline for all or part of Eid al-Fitr? Use the time to reconnect with friends, family and – most importantly – yourself .
And find out more about the Punkt MP01 here.