Smart vs. Wise – A Preview of the Wisephone II From Techless

Smart vs. Wise – A Preview of the Wisephone II From Techless

The Digital Dayz community is interested in anything that might help us use technology more wisely. So we are naturally excited to preview this new mobile phone offering that promises to do just that.

Rather than a smartphone – it’s a Wisephone.

Introducing the Wisephone II

The Wisephone II phone, shipping this Summer 2024, will be the second iteration of this minimalist device, featuring some new tools and new pricing. Let’s take a look at both the phone and the company behind it!

Techless logo

About Techless

Techless is a Texas-based startup with a vision very similar to Digital Dayz: embracing useful technology while avoiding its many pitfalls.

The Techless Manifesto describes this vision in some detail including their commitment to reducing or eliminating notification overload, dopamine-inducing distractions and time wasters, objectionable content, privacy issues such as data harvesting, and the resulting relationship damage that threatens individuals and families who use modern tech indiscriminately.

In blog posts and podcasts about the company, founder and CEO Chris Kaspar makes clear that the vision of Techless is directly informed by their Christian faith and a genuine desire to see youth and adults connect more deeply with each other and with God.

The Wisephone II from Techless

Wisephone vs. Smartphone

As indicated by its name, Wisephone II seeks to be wise instead of smart. This shows up in its emphasis on useful hardware and software tools and corresponding lack of other features that could be considered unsafe or merely distractions.

For example, it has no internet browser, social media apps, games, or even an app store. The phone also uses its own operating system which is not a version of Android but complete replacement. This operating system lacks all of the data-harvesting functionality inherent in competing mobile operating systems.

Also, the accompanying Family Portal subscription offers insight and control over phone usage. It is tied to the phone and logs every text message and phone call, and allows toggling of various phone features. Phone location tracking is also available in Family Portal.

Hardware

The original Wisephone was a Motorola Moto E 2020. It isn’t clear yet what the Wisephone II will be, but the general specs are available. The website says the phone will feature the Mediatek P70 CPU, 4GB of RAM, wifi & bluetooth connectivity, triple 64MP rear cameras, a 13MP front-facing camera, sturdy aluminum frame construction, USB-C fast charging, a 6.5” HD display, long-lasting 4100mAh battery, headphone jack, microSD card slot, and 128GB of storage with the ability to expand to 256GB using a MicroSD card.

Software

Wisephone II, like its predecessor, features the very austere and completely de-Googled WiseOS operating system which works in tandem with a Family Portal login account that allows granular control over access to phone features and tools.

WiseOS does not include a web browser or any traditional apps with internet access of any kind, and it features an elegant but very minimalist UI (i.e. it doesn’t even use icons, just text links to available tools). The website lists the included tools as phone, clock, calculator, camera, flashlight, maps, messaging (SMS), music, notes, and photos, with a settings page for phone settings. An optional “Techless Tool Drawer” is available with a mid-level subscription or higher, which offers additional curated 3rd party tools for install.

Carrier

The original Wisephone was a GSM phone so it worked with all the main GSM carriers in North America including AT&T, Cricket, Patriot Mobile, Sprint, and T-Mobile, for example. It did not work on CDMA networks like Verizon. Wisephone II will bundle a carrier subscription with the plan subscription and so far, it isn’t clear which carrier that will be.

Price

According to Techless, the Wisephone II is being offered at cost, which is currently $349.00 before tax and shipping. However, it will require a subscription to use, at least to use all of its functions. Three plans are available, including Minimal at $24.99/month, Healthy at $44.99/month And Pro at $69.99/month. The top two plans include the Techless Tool Drawer, and the Pro plan includes Unlimited data (defined as 50GB of high-speed data, throttled to 128kbps after that), and a Mobile Hotspot.

Pros & Cons

Pros: Two things we like about Wisephone II

#1. It combines flip-phone simplicity and minimalism with smartphone-quality hardware and features.

Until now, cellphone minimalists have largely been limited to flip phones if they want to avoid the inherent dangers of smartphones. These phones are generally terrible for messaging (remember pushing buttons 3 times to get certain letters?), tend to have lousy cameras, lack features like GPS maps, and sometimes only work on obsolete networks (3G or 2G).

They are also increasingly hard to find.

By contrast, Wisephone II offers a full-size display and keypad for messaging, quality cameras, maps for navigation, a music player, and an interface that makes using the other included tools a much better experience for the user.

#2. It has an attractive price.

For this writer, a $349.00 phone makes a lot more sense than a $1,000.00 (or more) device, especially when it’s only going to be used for basic functions like this. And the fact that the Techless subscription includes both the carrier plan and the online management platform (Family Portal) really makes the subscription pill quite easy to swallow. After all, many carrier plans cost this much or more by themselves.

Cons: Three things we don’t like about Wisephone II

#1. Lack of carrier options.

If you live in an area where one network is stronger than the other, your Wisephone II may or may not work on the strongest network. Techless says they realize this may be disappointing but feel that it’s important for “maximum reliability.” We feel carrier options are important because of the variation in signal quality in certain areas between the different networks. For example, Verizon’s CDMA network is generally known to offer the strongest signal in many rural areas.

#2. No encrypted messaging option.

Users who understand messaging technologies know that regular SMS messaging offers no encryption or security. Conversations are easily accessible by the carrier and the government alike. We think many users would appreciate an encrypted messaging option. In fairness, the Techless Tool Drawer may include such an option, but at this point we have no way of knowing what tools will be included.

#3. SMS Messaging in Wisephone I was simplistic enough to not be able to handle some group texts. It also has no emojis or gifs which is limiting. There may be improvements in Wisephone II.

Other Options

The Wisephone II is a great choice but there may be other options for restricting phone functionality – some of which may even be cheaper than the Wisephone. We hope to explore these more in the future.

For example, the open-source Olauncher app by Digital Minimalism may do almost everything Wisephone does for free. The Ghost Phone Pro would also seem to offer an attractive alternative with quite a bit more flexibility to customize.

Conclusion

We love the philosophy and function of the Wisephone II and feel that it is an attractive option certainly for both youth and adults who are seeking to leverage modern phone tech without the unwanted entanglements and data harvesting by big companies.

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