Gadgets Won’t Save Us From Our Gadgets

I’ve been testing a new, exciting smartphone, and I bet it’s nothing like what you think. My new phone doesn’t have a big screen or several dozen cameras; it doesn’t slip into a headset so I can play virtual-reality games.

In fact, my phone—the Palm, a new device from a new company that picked up an old name—is supposed to be the antidote to all those bigger, more engrossing phones. Palm tried to build a phone you won’t want to use. Not too much, anyway.

Tech companies have spent much of the past year rolling out tools that are supposed to help us use our devices less. Instagram can tell you when you’re all caught up; your iPhone can try to stop you from using Instagram so much. The phrases “digital well-being” and “time well spent” are right up there in Silicon Valley cliché bingo next to Patagonia vests and the blockchain.

Palm ratchets the idea up a notch, trying to get you to trade your problem phone for a safer, less-addictive one—at least on weekends. The idea isn’t new, but the Palm is the most fully realized version.

In some ways, I like the idea. A device that can track my runs and play Spotify but doesn’t have Slack or Facebook installed sounds like a workout heaven, and I’ve long wanted a “vacation phone” of sorts that I can use when I’m online but not available.

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