It’s fun to kick off this website with the story of smartphone-averse engineer Justine Haupt, who was so dissatisfied with the smartphone experience that she decided to build her own cellphone using DIY components, one of which was a rotary dial. The novelty proved irresistible to many and she has made kits available for the technically adept to build their own. Alas, would-be dialers need to furnish their own rotary dial and cellular radio and the lead time for the kit is currently a few months. There are also a few bugs and limitations, such as supporting only one ringtone and the lack of an easy way to add contacts.
On her website, Haupt explains some of her design motivations that reveal her frustrations with modern smartphones. “When I want a phone I don’t have to navigate through menus to get to the phone “application”. That’s bullshit.” She also notes, “The power switch is an actual slide switch. No holding down a stupid button to make it turn off and not being sure it really is turning off or what.”
Not everything is retro on Haupt’s creation. The rotary dial is juxtaposed with a small E-Ink display (a favorite of distraction-minimizing devices) for receiving text messages that she now has a good excuse for not returning. And while she maintains her intent to use the phone as her daily dialer, she acknowledges the inefficiency of its signature interface element as she says, “The point isn’t to use the rotary dial every single time I want to make a call, which would get tiresome for daily use.” That’s why she included literal speed-dial buttons on the 3G device.
If you want to dig deeper into Haupt’s story, Wired interviewed her.