Samsung has announced a phone that can’t go online.
The new machine is a cut of the Galaxy J2 Pro, a low-end handset that Samsung’s Korea-only announcement says "is a product that blocks mobile data such as 3G, LTE, and Wi-Fi," and meets the "need to focus on learning and the needs of senior users who are sensitive to data charges."
The phrase “focus on learning” is a nod to South Korea’s “College Scholastic Ability Test”, a university entrance exam that just about stops the nation. So important is the test to students' futures that roads are cleared to make sure youngsters can reach testing centres on time, while even airline schedules are changed to keep noise low near impacted schools. Korean teens are basically expected to do little but study for the test for a year.
Which is why Samsung has also made the $180 phone part of an offer that will see its purchase price reimbursed if buyers who sit the test later acquire another more capable Samsung device.
The phone’s specs certainly don’t suggest distraction: it can text, make voice calls, take pictures (8MP front camera, 5MP rear) and not much else. The 126.4mm (five-inch) screen at 540 x 960 pixels falls short of HDTV, so even loading up some video into the SD-Card slot won’t result in stellar vision. There is a music app and a radio app, which could chew up some time. But the rest of the baked-in apps are all business, including a voice recording program and a Korean-English dictionary to help with study.
There’s even a removable battery so that students can keep that voice recorder going for all of South Korea’s long school days, should the included 2,600mAh unit prove insufficient.
Samsung has not said if it plans to sell this device beyond South Korea. If the electronics behemoth trimmed the price, your correspondent could see it as a viable “holiday phone”. To explain: I once acquired a $30 feature phone to take to the beach to get away from the online world, and ended up using its crude Facebook and Twitter clients, Opera browser, and feeble email app, anyway. The Galaxy J2 Pro could be just the way to stay in touch without being sucked back into the internet.
Whether it will stop kids being distracted is another matter entirely: the device's inability to go online means it can't install the likes of WhatsApp or Instagram, but it's only a few years since fast-flying texts were teens' chat of choice. Or kids could – radical idea here, we know – chew up time talking to each other on the device. ®