Picture this. A sysadmin turned self-described tech journalist wakes up. He grabs his phone and the first app he opens is TikTok. To his surprise, a video plays about Kendrick Lamar going after tech companies. He’s launching a phone called the Light Phone II to fight surveillance capitalism. But there’s something off about the video.
The voices in the video sounds very robotic, using random images, cuts from memes, and clips from music videos.
Now, as someone who’s immersed in tech news on the daily, I’ve never heard of this phone before. Nobody covering phones is talking about it. And I don’t mean like mainstream news outlets covering everything but the genocide on Gaza. It’s like this isn’t really news at all.
And that’s because it isn’t. Or at least it isn’t as big of news as they want you to believe.
What’s actually happening with the Light Phone II?
The phone in question is the Light Phone II, a phone that was initially released in 2021 by Light. It is a basic phone with LTE connectivity using an eInk display similar to that of a Kindle Paperwhite. It runs a stripped down version of Android (who knows what version) and has very basic apps. It’s meant to help you unplug (both in a surveillance way and a self-care way).
This phone was covered some time ago by PC Mag who “first reviewed two years ago but has since seen numerous software updates”. It was also covered by Business Insider back in 2021. However, Business Insider seemed to have also covered the Kendrick Lamar version recently.
The Kendrick Lamar version is the same phone as a couple of years ago. This time around, it is in partnership with Lamar’s creative services company, pgLang (short for program language). Only a number of these phones were made and are already sold out.
The thing is, if you go to Light’s website, you can still get the same phone at the same price. All pgLang did was create scarcity out of nothing and gamed SEO.
So, what’s the big deal?
There are a couple of problems with what’s going on.
First, it’s the marketing of this product. We are now in a society where everything is being copied or slightly modified to just make it seem like it’s new. Apple, Samsung, and Google are guilty of this, too. But at least those companies innovate on something, however small, to differentiate between models. The pgLang Light Phone II only has “Light” on the back and is a different color. Not to mention Lamar’s name attached to it.
Also, while they are fighting surveillance capitalism, they are still capitalists by drawing artificial scarcity out of a product by attaching a celebrities name on it and limiting the amount of devices. Sure, we’re talking about it (which goes to marketing). But if you are going to fight surveillance capitalism, fight both surveillance AND capitalism.
It just really bugs me when people say that people are taking on the system when they aren’t. It’s nice to look like you are bucking a trend, but if you aren’t really going to fight the system and use something I’m passionate about to fake it, I feel I have to call you out for it.
Just stop it! It’s bad enough people don’t trust science and technology as it is. Don’t make it worse with snake oil.