Over the past year or so, Apple and Google have started adding features to their smartphone operating systems to… encourage you to use your phone less.

It’s kind of weird that we’ve reached a point where smartphone addiction is a widespread enough concern that companies are trying to find ways to help you put your phone down. But tools that help you track and limit your screen time and/or just make all the color ooze out of your phone’s display are now baked into the latest versions of Android and iOS.

This week Google announced its exploring other ways to help you take a break from your phone, by rolling out a series of “Digital Welbeing Experiments.” One of the strangest… and somehow most intriguing, is basically an app that lets you print everything you need for the day on a piece of paper and leave your phone behind…. or in your pocket.

It’s called Paper Phone, and it’s a free app that you can install on any phone running Android 6.0 or later. Run it, send the print job to you printer, and you’ll get a print-out that you can fold up and carry around with some or all of the following items:

  • A map with directions from one location to another
  • Details for up to 7 contacts
  • Calendar appointments
  • Today’s weather forecast
  • A task list
  • An empty space for writing notes
  • A screenshot or picture

You can also choose a “Contactless” option that will add cut marks that you can use to add a card-holder to your folded up paper phone.

Of course, if you actually need to make a call or send a text message, a Paper Phone is going to be useless. So you might want to keep an actual phone handy for emergencies, even if you have a printout designed to help you look at it less.

Oh, and if you’re worried that the Paper Phone is too boring, it supports apps and games — you can choose from the following options before sending your “phone” to the printer:

  • Anagram
  • Conversion Charts
  • Italian Phrasebook
  • Knots
  • Maze
  • Multiplication Table
  • Origami Pigeon
  • Recipe
  • Riddle
  • Sign Language
  • Soduku
  • Typography
  • Word of the Day

Google’s other Digital Wellbeing experiments include the Unlock Clock, which sets a counter as your wallpaper, showing how many times you’ve unlocked your phone, Post Box, which lets your phone hold all notifications and only deliver them at certain times, We Flip, a group app that lets a bunch of people turn off their phones at once… and see how long you can go before someone unlocks their device, Desert Island, which lets you choose the most important apps and try using only those apps, and Morph, which lets you set a group of apps you use at different times of day and have your phone adapt to show those apps when you’re most likely to need them.

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8 replies on “Google’s Paper Phone lets you print what you need, leave the phone at home”

  1. I’m confused… it isn’t April 1st. LOL

    Seems like a scene from a sci fi movie.

  2. So, I think the keyword in that video is “Experiment”. There are different possibilities for having a “minimal” phone such as the Light Phone and Light Phone 2, the KaiOS phones, Unihertz Atom and numerous Kickstarter projects. These all have their own audiences but I think what Google is doing here is trying to figure out what exactly makes a minimal interface — that is, how can they design phone software to be useful and productive majority of the time but provide distraction and entertainment when people actively choose to use their device that way instead of vice versa.

  3. I actually really like this idea, but I just fiddled with it and it doesn’t seem all that useful. Just not enough options on each feature to make it possible to actually replace a phone well enough to not need my phone. Which is really too bad!

  4. It’s not necessarily a bad idea, but it might be better implemented in having the various first and third party apps for those respective functions have an option to print stuff, something phone apps generally lack. To use less paper, there could be an option to “add to printout” or something like that, which would add whatever you want to print to a document that’s accessed and printed in a separate app.
    But I know why they did this this way. Google does not think very highly of people who fall victim to smartphone addiction, thinking them stupid and incapable of navigating the complex and confusing world around them without something feeding them instructions about what they’re supposed to be doing, but still viable ad revenue cattle. They just don’t want to be liable for the bone spurs in your neck or your glaucoma.
    The thing about smartphone addiction is that it’s not really a smartphone addiction. It’s an addiction to social media and/or to sensationalist manipulative mainstream media. When you get rid of all the services and apps that try to lead you around, a phone is just a tool.

  5. This is simply a classic PocketMod. Google is doing a great imitation of Apple, acting like they invented something that has been around for 10 years. I still use PocketMods nearly everyday. The good thing about Google hijacking the idea is that it will gain popularity.

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