Light Unveils Its Latest Minimalist Phone, Now with an OLED Screen but Still Without Addictive Apps | TechCrunch - Latest Global News

Light Unveils Its Latest Minimalist Phone, Now with an OLED Screen but Still Without Addictive Apps | TechCrunch

As Apple prepares to introduce its AI-powered features to the iPhone, another company is taking the opposite approach: instead of building a phone with more technology, it’s opting for less. Light, the maker of the minimalist phone with an e-paper screen, is announcing its latest model, the Light Phone III.

Like its predecessor, the Light Phone III offers a simple black and white display, but no access to social media, the web, or email. But unlike Light’s older phones, the Light III has a larger OLED display and an NFC chip to make room for future payment tools, as well as a camera for capturing moments you don’t want to miss when you leave your smartphone at home.

The goal of the new device is to improve its usability and performance, says Light co-founder Joe Hollier. The new Light III is larger than previous models, about the width of most iPhones, but significantly shorter; it is more similar in form factor to the BlackBerry. This will make it easier to type text messages on the phone when held vertically, the team says. In addition, only the white pixels light up on the AMOLED screen, which, combined with a matte glass, will look more like the older Light Phone II.

“It will actually retain many of the features that people love about the E Ink screen, [with it] “It feels very different than a glossy smartphone screen,” Hollier said.

Photo credits: Light

Hollier founded Light with Kaiwei Tang in September 2014, initially as a Kickstarter project for people who wanted to overcome their smartphone addiction. With its first two models, the Light Phone I and Light Phone II, the company has shipped over 100,000 units, with the latter accounting for about two-thirds of those sales.

The appeal of the Light Phone is that it doesn’t sacrifice useful aspects of modern smartphone technology, such as built-in access to maps and navigation, calls, SMS, notes and voice memos, a calendar, timers, alarms, calculator, a hotspot, and a basic music player and podcast tool. Instead, it offers a way to escape the technologies some would rather do without: social media apps, clickbait news, and the call of a web browser to connect you to the internet.

Photo credits: Light

Light phone owners can use the unlocked device with their own carrier or opt for Light’s phone plan for $30 per month with 1GB of data. There are also more expensive plans for $45/month or $70/month for 5GB or unlimited data, respectively.

The phone has a niche appeal among a target demographic of 25- to 40-year-olds, most of whom use it as their primary phone, often in conjunction with a tablet or laptop for extended internet access. A smaller group may resort to their light phone when they need a break, such as when they want to go “offline” for the weekend or on holiday, but still want to give up the ability to reach others or be available in an emergency.

The Light Phone III is aimed at the larger target group that already uses devices other than smartphones as their primary device.

Photo credits: Light

Like its other devices, the Light phone will appeal to the privacy-conscious audience. When you use a feature like directions and navigation, Light pays to keep that logic private to its users. This means tech giants like Google won’t track and share your data when you use these kinds of features.

Besides the new form factor and OLED screen, the most notable new feature is the camera. It’s not comparable to those found in high-end smartphones like the iPhone or Google Pixel. Instead, it’s a center-focus camera with no zoom that feels more like a point-and-shoot camera. Half-pressing the dedicated shutter button focuses the photo, and fully pressing it takes the picture.

Also new is the light wheel, which allows you to adjust the brightness of the screen by turning a knob as you enter or leave, making it brighter or darker.

The larger phone now has more antenna bands, so there is only one phone model this time around, rather than separate ones for North America and Europe. The phone’s body is made of aluminum on the sides, while the speaker grille on the bottom is made of recycled plastic. The Light Phone III has larger speakers for listening to music or podcasts, or using the speakerphone.

The power button now has fingerprint ID, making it easier to open and use the phone. The 5G-enabled phone also has 6GB of RAM (up from 1GB on the Light Phone II), 128GB of storage (up from 8GB), and more modern Qualcomm chips.

The battery is about twice the size of previous versions and is user-replaceable, or users can send their phone back to Light and have the battery replaced (likely for under $50).

Photo credits: Light

All the upgrades make the new device more expensive: the Light Phone III costs $799, while the Light Phone II costs $299. However, the latter will continue to be sold for those who prefer the E Ink version.

“We’re asking the question: Can a phone last five or even 10 years? Things like the metal, higher quality materials, the removable battery, and we’ve even improved the interchangeability of screens – and other components – as much as possible,” Hollier said. “We’re trying to make it a more sustainable phone. And to that point, you know, the $799 price tag really embodies that.”

Those who have previously purchased the Light Phone III can pre-order the new device for $399, a 50% discount. Similar to crowdfunding, these pre-orders will help Light advance its first mass production with Foxconn. There will be a total of three production runs by around the end of November, and orders are expected to begin shipping in January 2025.

From 2015 to 2024, Light has raised around $11 million from over 80 venture capitalists and angel investors, including Bullish VC, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Lyft co-founder John Zimmer, Tim Kendall (Facebook/Pinterest), Scott Belsky (Adobe), Wisdom Venture, Dave Free (Pglang), Pete Davidson (SNL), Able Partners, Gaingels, Heroic Ventures, Hinge Capital, White Bay Group, New Lab Ventures, SOSV, and Foxconn. In 2022 – the last valuation used to raise equity – Light was valued at $24 million before funding.

The full specifications of the Light Phone III:

Dimensions: 106mm x 71.5mm x 12mm
Weight: 124g
Network: 5G + 4G LTE
Display: 3.92” AMOLED (1080×1240)
Screen: Frosted glass
Connection: USB-C 2.0
Camera: 50m rear / 8m front
Storage: 128GB / 6GB RAM
Battery: 1800 mAH
Sound: 2 microphones (noise cancellation), 2 stereo speakers
Features: GPS, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, Fingerprint ID
Materials: Aluminium, glass, recycled plastic from SORPLAS
Chipset: Qualcomm SM 4450
IP protection class: IP 54

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