It is common for people to be glued to their cell phones for nearly 100% of their waking hours.
This is especially true now that phone batteries last for hours even under heavy use and fast video-capable cellular data is available in most populated areas.
It is commonly suggested that people should not use their cell phones all the time, and should “unplug” occasionally, but it’s rare that a person actually has the self-control to actually do so.
Some people intentionally buy non-smartphones to combat their inclination to constantly use a phone, but this also locks the user out of genuinely useful apps like maps, “ride-sharing” (the 2015 word for “taxi”), detailed weather forecasts, and….. actually that might be a complete list.
In order to help people have more non-phone-using self control, yet not require them to commit to fully commit to the austere lifestyle of the “feature-phone” hermit, we simply create a smartphone as follows:
- It’s a regular smartphone…
- With an integrated charging cord that automatically rolls up (like a tape measure)…
- And instead of having a battery, it has a capacitor that stores about 5 minutes of charge.
See Figure 1 for a mockup.
Fig. 1: This “battery-less” cell phone operates exactly like a normal one, except that whenever it’s unplugged, a huge flashing 5-minute countdown timer displays at the top.
Not only would this allow people to unplug from their cell phones for a while, it also has an eco-friendly benefit: a capacitor should (in theory) be operational for far longer than an equivalently-sized battery, so fewer batteries will need to be disposed of.
Alternative Software-only Version:
A compatible idea could actually be implemented entirely in software in a current smartphone: the phone would pretend that it only had 5 minutes of charge left, even though the battery would remain approximately 97% full. So from the end user’s perspective, it’s the same general idea (can’t use the phone for more than 5 minutes without plugging it in), but it doesn’t incur any hardware design cost.
PROS: The software-only version of this proposal could work; someone should implement it as an alternative Android home screen!
CONS: In a genuine emergency, it might be extremely troublesome to have only 5 minutes of cell phone charge. This 5-minute-only phone wouldn’t even work as a flashlight!