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Performative minimalism

Honestly, this is a very strong want, an objet I would like to be able to place on a table I own, or even in the pocket of an item of clothing that I was wearing. It’s beautiful, non? It would also enable me to enjoy a genuinely rewarding man-machine experience.

This makes me think of Kraftwerk, as well as Dieter Rams. It simply cannot get better than that, nein? Bonus: talking about things like this means I can add big, whitespace-filled images to a blog post.

A voice recording device in the style of Dieter Rams.

The Teenage Engineering TP-7 recorder

Similarly, I’d like to have this stood on a table, chest of drawers or even the floor of the house that I own, playing appropriate music, or the radio.

A sleek, minimalist, black radio resting on its handle.

The Teenage Engineering OB-4 radio speaker

At the same time, I could take calls on this mobile phone. [“Slide please.” Click. Another image with lots of whitespace.]

A small, sleek black feature phone.

The Punkt MP-02

These are examples of beautiful minimal objects. They tend to be expensive. The look particularly good in beautiful minimal houses. Which are even more expensive.

The thing is, functionally, they’re often not that good. The TP-7 doesn’t do anything a mid-range smartphone can’t. It costs a lot more than a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 or iPhone 14 Plus. The OB-4 only has an FM radio(!), which makes it a very nice looking speaker. The Punkt’s OS remains buggy, years after it was released.

These objects are performatively minimalist. They are beautiful and they communicate taste and wealth very efficiently. But if you’re looking to improve your life in some way through minimalism, perhaps by radically reducing the time you spend online, you’d be better off buying a really low-spec Android phone, or even a bog standard feature phone from Argos for £25 – a tenth of the cost of the Punkt.

For what it’s worth, I actually like the look of the very humble Nokia C01 Plus because it has a tiny, central camera bump and a nice, tactile, plastic back. It’s £84. It has a minimal set of features.

A cheap, bright Nokia smartphone with a big bezel and a textured blue plastic back.

The Nokia C01 Plus

These phones are so underpowered you can’t really do anything with them unless you take some time out to do so, so they serve the same digital minimalist purpose as the Punkt. And the OS works.