‘Substitute Phone,’ A Smartphone Addiction Cure? Austrian Designer Aims To Help Addicts Get Rid Of The Habit


Smartphone addiction is a real thing and it presents as much danger to one’s health as any other kind of addiction. Using this idea as his inspiration, Austrian designer Klemens Schillinger was able to develop the “substitute phone,” a possible cure for the modern addiction.

Scrolling one’s smartphone has become a hard habit to break in this era of modern technology as it provides an escape from reality, leaving many unable to put down their gadgets. In fact, Fortune Editor-in-Chief Clifton Leaf recalled the moment he admitted to himself that he is indeed addicted to his smartphone.

“My phone had become an extension of me, and now it was a phantom limb,” he wrote.

Describing it as a “twitch,” Leaf’s realization of his smartphone addiction reflects a dilemma that a lot of people often neglected because of the obvious benefits of having the gadget.

“The magnitude of my phone’s apparent power over me is a startling revelation. I tell myself now that I have do something about it—to wean myself off of this insidious addiction. And I will. As soon as I get my phone back.”

According to Engadget, addiction to the widely-used gadget revolves around the same concept as a person’s reliance to other addictive substances, with the smartphone content as the drug and the touchscreen as the tactile addiction.


Fortunately, Vienna-based furniture designer was able to come up with a possible solution to this problem with what he dubbed as the “substitute phones.”

Citing cigarette addiction as an example, Klemens Schillinger revealed that he plans to treat smartphone addiction the same way nicotine addicts were able to shake off the habit by providing physical stimulation without the content.

Speaking to Dezeen, the Austrian designer explained the inspiration behind the design of the products.

“The touchscreen smartphone has made it possible to ‘escape’ into social media. We check emails and messages not only on public transport but also in social situations, for example when having drinks with friends,” he said.

“More and more often one feels the urge to check their phone, even if you are not expecting a specific message or call. These observations inspired the idea of making a tool that would help stop this ‘checking’ behavior.”

Based on his portfolio on his official website, the substitute phone “replicates” the feel of an average smartphone, minus the content and radiation that comes with it.

“Its functions are reduced to the movements we make hundreds of times on a daily basis. The stone beads which are incorporated in the body let you scroll, zoom and swipe. there are no digital functions.”


According to a piece from Medium, consequences of smartphone addiction vary from an increased risk of depression, loneliness, and stress, to a decreased ability to concentrate and insomnia.

While very few studies support the negative effects of constant use of a smartphone, it has become apparent that the time consumed on fidgeting with such “extension” of one’s self alone has become a significant problem in this modern society.

With the “substitute phone,” there is a possibility that smartphone addiction would finally have “a therapeutic approach.” Unfortunately, the device doesn’t seem to be for sale yet although it was featured at the Vienna Design Week exhibition dubbed “#Offline — Design for the (Good Old) Real World.”