Petter Neby, founder and CEO
Reduce product features to focus on how best to improve a user’s life
A mindfully designed mobile phone aimed to get you talking, not texting
Petter Neby has been working in software engineering for the past 20 years despite never formally studying it. Instead, he started in art history — the study of conceptual movements, each a reaction against what came before it. It’s no surprise that Neby’s company, Punkt, is itself a reaction against the multi-functional, multi-tasking products that dominate consumer electronics. (Even the name Punkt is taken from the Germanic word for “point,” “full stop,” “period.”)
At the centre of its growing line of reductive, thoughtful products — which includes a cordless home phone, alarm clock, and desktop charger — is the MP01 mobile phone. It does only two things: talk and text.
As a phone, the MP01 looks more like a basic, yet beautiful calculator (a collaboration with English product designer Jasper Morrison). It runs on a 2G network and has only 20 keys and a small non-touchscreen that displays incoming calls and texts. Without a full keyboard, texting is achieved the old-school, T9 way: tap the “1” key once for “a”, twice for “b,” and so on. “SMS is fine, but it’s made for very short ‘Remember milk,’ ‘I’m 20 minutes late’ kind of things. It’s not about conversation.”
The MP01 came about from fights with his stepdaughter about smartphones and social media being used at the dinner table and in bed. “I had to look at myself as well; I wasn’t much better,” says Neby.
By reducing the phone to, well, a phone, the MP01 is reviving what it means to talk. It’s about encouraging conversation with someone — hearing their voice, its tone, the pauses in between words. Neby and his team draw on one of the most important functions of the 21st-century designer: the ability to edit.
While we imagine building a phone with less technology should be easier, the opposite was true. After searching without reward in Europe for a manufacturer, Punkt settled on a partner in China.
Even then, upon introducing the concept of a low-tech phone, their manufacturer gave them a two-year timeline. He could produce a beautiful iPhone knock-off in six months, but no, said Punkt, that was not the point.
Neby is not fazed by the irony of developing technology to help people deal with existing technology. “No, I never had that concern. It is a true sociological issue, and I start with myself, by building these products so that I can use them and be more present in the moment.”
Currently, Punkt is small but growing. They recently announced they’d be releasing the MP01 in two new colours (white and brown, in addition to the current black). While generally, people buying phones signals a busier, less intimate world, for once, it might be doing the opposite. Punkt.
To find out more about Punkt, visit punkt.ch