Is it an iPhone? Is it an Android phone? No! It's ... a slab of acrylic
TOKYO -- At a glance, it seems like a regular smartphone, but it is in fact a black slab made of acrylic fiber. The Mainichi Shimbun spoke with this unique product's inventor to ask what it could possibly be used for.
The "AcryPhone" is attracting interest, despite not featuring any of the usual trappings of a smartphone, such as cameras or calling apps. Placed next to a real phone, the two are indistinguishable. It has a modern smartphone's board-like design, with a slim profile and pure black on both faces. However, it lacks a touch screen and buttons, and weighs about half as much as a real thing. After a while, it hits you: "This is just an acrylic board."
The AcryPhone's designer is 38-year-old Takayuki Fukusawa, who has been inventing humorous "useless products" for over 10 years. Among other items, he has worked on a T-shirt that makes one's chest look bigger and a baby bottle cover that makes it look like a beer can. This reporter spoke with Fukusawa at his studio, Ekod Works, in Tokyo's Taito Ward.
The idea came to him about a year ago. His phone's battery ran out, and it looked to him like nothing but a black slab. In that moment, he thought, "If a smartphone looks just like a black slab, a black slab would also look just like a smartphone."
Applying a screen protector film to the slab made his works in progress look even more smartphoney. "If we add the option to customize with screen protectors and cases, this could get even more interesting," Fukusawa added playfully.
Getting the slab right was no simple task. "If I want to make it look just like a real phone, I have to be really particular about it," Fukusawa said. He repeatedly adjusted the width and length using the processing machine's smallest increments. Even now, his quest continues to get the design as close as possible to the latest phones.
When the iPhone revolutionized the mobile phone market in 2007, the first models were about 3 centimeters shorter than current models, with a compact display and stout profile. Apple Inc. and other smartphone makers released a variety of designs in that era, but nowadays, every phone features a long, thin form factor, with the screen covering the entire front. This has become the unequivocal "smartphone shape." Only because of this uniform expectation was it possible to make a perfect smartphone impostor out of acrylic, Fukusawa said.
Finally hitting the right design around the end of 2022, Fukusawa began sales of the AcryPhone this past January. He introduced the product on social media with the slogan, "It looks just like a smartphone, but it's just a slab." It's received comments such as, "A pointless but exciting product," and had been shared nearly 10,000 times by early February. Orders have exceeded his expectations, exceeding 500 within one month.
So why would anyone buy, much less create a product that has no features other than resembling a smartphone? According to Fukusawa, "There are limitless ways to enjoy it." A few he suggests are "to cure smartphone addiction," or "to be ironic." Fukusawa said that he designed it to be simple just to leave possibilities wide open.
AcryPhone is being used in a variety of ways according to responses from buyers, such as decorating smartphone cases or to ease symptoms of withdrawal from smartphone addiction.
The AcryPhone can be purchased directly on Ekod Works' website (in Japanese only) at https://ekodworks.com for 3,300 yen (about $24.30), tax included.
(Japanese original by Yusuke Hiratsuka, Tokyo Business News Department)