Light Phone II Review: Is Digital Minimalism Sustainable?

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Written by Lydia Noyes


Lydia Noyes

Climate Journalist

Lydia Noyes is an organic farmer and climate journalist. She is a member of the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.


The Light Phone II is the anti-smart phone designed for function rather than zombie scrolling. Having used one for years, I love the product, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t downsides.

Light Phone II
This Light Phone II is lost somewhere in our car, but we shall find it!

This post was co-written with LeafScore founder, John O’Connor.

Many of us on the LeafScore team are new and newish parents, and I think we can all agree that the way we let kids use tech is scary. Watching kids spend hours with an iPad to the exclusion of their peers, and with a zoned out half focus, is something we would all like to avoid. The data on how Instagram affects mental health for teenagers is terrifying. So, the goal is LESS screen time. But if we expect our kids to use technology in a more mindful way, it starts with us as parents, and that is where the Light Phone comes in.

When people ask, I describe the Light Phone as a Brooklyn hipster flip phone designed for the truly tech addicted (it’s not an actual flip phone).

Staff Tested

Light Phone II

Light Phone II

Highlights: The Light Phone II stands out as a versatile 4G LTE mobile device, boasting a minimalist design that prioritizes essential functionality. Its distinct feature includes an e-ink display, and a fully customized typographic-centric user interface.

Overall Score
Durability Score
Toxicity Score
Sustainability Score
User Experience Score
Transparency Score

The idea is to decouple your computer and phone. Go run apps on a laptop or a tablet, but use your phone for basic communication, and it’s a good idea.

The primary benefit

  • The primary benefit of the Light Phone is the ability to opt-out of the dopamine cycle of checking an iPhone 100 times per day.
  • The Light screen does not emit blue light, it has a matte “e-ink” screen that won’t throw off your circadian rhythm.
  • Rather than having a slot machine in your pocket, the Light Phone is like having a book in your pocket by comparison. You want to engage with a book, but you don’t have to and you may forget about it for awhile, sometimes a long while. Can you say the same about your iPhone?
Light phone II in black
We prefer the light grey Light Phone as the charcoal model can show smudging.

Hiccups & things to think about

The phone is better for mental health, but not for UX. The Light Phone has its horse and buggy moments that can make you question whether ownership is worth it.

It will just stall out sometimes, going into a loading slumber. The lapses never lasts too long, but it also makes you question the reliability of the phone in a potential emergency. The modern smart phone is a much better tool should you have to navigate being lost, having a flat tire, or needing to communicate with a family member.

Texting is much more difficult with the analog keyboard, but it makes you text less, which lowers the stress for instant replies after people learn you have that “weird minimalist phone.”

Podcasts can still be downloaded, as can music. You cannot run Uber, but the operating system has a Directions tool to make up for the lack of Google Maps.

Light Phone Facts Based on Our Experience

Here are 10 quick facts about the Light Phone to help you decide if its right for you.

  • Fact #1Greater mindfulness. The Light Phone will provide added peace of mind and greater awareness of how you use technology.
  • Fact #2Buy the case. The protective case is a must, and not because the phone will break if you drop it (it won’t). The backing of the Light Phone is hard and easily slips off of surfaces. Our Grey Light Phone (pictured above) is lost somewhere in our car because it slipped off the center console and into the back seat. That happened even with the protective case. Absent the case, slipping becomes more frequent.
  • Fact #3Podcast planning. Podcasts are possible, but you have to plan ahead. The Light Phone podcast feed is accessible from the user’s account on the Light Phone website, you cannot add or delete podcasts on the actual phone itself. This feature doesn’t bother us, but it requires thinking ahead to decide in advance what you want to listen to.
  • Fact #4Bluetooth beeps. Bluetooth works with the Light Phone for hands free calling in the car. Unfortunately, we found that if your phone’s ringer is on, the phone emits a random beep every 10 seconds or so, which is very distracting. The work around is to set the phone to vibrate or silent when using bluetooth.
  • Fact #5Always be charging. the battery life is average to below average, probably due to the small battery. Keep the charger handy at all times, as we find that the phone will need to be charged after several hours of robust use.
  • Fact #6Why thank you. People will ask you about your Light Phone, and usually to say they admire it. We have had a steady stream of comments since making the switch away from an iPhone.
  • Fact #7Start small. You don’t have to go “all-in.” If you want to keep a smart phone as your everyday phone, it’s easy to add the Light Phone to a separate number and then have all your calls forward to the Light Phone from your main number. This allows you to take calls on the Light Phone even when your primary phone is off.
  • Fact #8Love-hate. Some of you will hate the Light Phone. These phones can be buggy and randomly re-load a screen out of nowhere. The UX is clunky. This is a bare bones phone, and we are guessing a non-trivial percent of users will immediately go back to their iPhone. However, if you can get past the initial shock of how analog the phone is, you may become a convert.
  • Fact #9Hotspot handiness. The Light Phone provides a useful hot spot when you’re on the go. It’s very easy to connect to the internet with your Light Phone in case of an emergency.
  • Fact #10Average SAR. The Light Phone emits average, to above average levels of radiation. The SAR values are as follows: Head: 1.20 W/kg, Body: .52 W/kg, Hotspot: 1.03 W/kg. For more, see our list of low radiation phones.

Is the Light Phone sustainable?

Now the portion of the review that determines the Light Phone’s Leaf Score (3 leaves).

A core mission of the Light Phone II is to have a minimal impact on your life. That includes user functionality but also its environmental footprint. Thus, the company has robust plans to improve its sustainability.  

Published in 2020, the Light Phone Sustainability Report expands on the company’s calculations for the carbon footprint of each device from cradle to grave. The Light Phone LLCA 

The company completed a “lightweight” life cycle analysis. In other words, they estimated the climate impact of each Light Phone over its life cycle. This was accomplished by extracting secondary data from existing LCAs for other mobile phone brands and inputting the primary data from the Light Phone II instead.  

By looking at all the Light Phone II’s components by weight, the company arrived at a conservative estimate for greenhouse gas emissions. 

Light Phone based its calculations on the idea that the average user would have their Phone for three years and put it through hundreds of charge cycles. Every production input is accounted for, including the flights made by team members from the US to Taiwan. If the number is inaccurate, Light Phone ensures that it is because they overestimated emissions, not the other way around.  

The result? A life cost of 60.68 kg of CO2 (equivalent) per Light Phone. That’s relatively comparable to other smartphones, which range from 41 to 86kgs. One difference is that 91% of the Light Phone’s emissions come from production and just 2% from usage phases, while the iPhone 11 Pro (the newest model at the publication of the sustainability report) was 78% and 18%–mainly due to Apple’s economy of scale allowing for more manufacturing efficiency.  

The Light Phone II’s screen uses E-ink technology for a paper-like quality known for requiring less power than blue light screens. This means that the Phone’s small battery (950mAh compared to 3,000 mAh for the average smartphone) requires less electricity to charge and can last through one to two days of regular use. To date, there are no studies on the carbon requirements of manufacturing E-ink screens.  

Light Phone Carbon Offsets 

Acknowledging the 60 kilograms of carbon produced with each Light Phone, the company wants customers to have a way to minimize harm. Light Phone teamed up with Hudson Carbon, a nonprofit dedicated to accelerating the adoption of regenerative agriculture and forestry. All carbon offsets support a permanent agriculture easement used for regenerative farming.  

It costs $100 to offset each ton of carbon from the Light Phone II. Upon buying a phone from the company website, you can pay an additional $3.05 to offset half the cost of the 61kgs of carbon produced by the Phone (Light Phone pays for the other half).  

This step is entirely optional.  

Future Goals 

Looking forward, Light Phone has plans to further improve its Phone’s sustainability through the following: 

  • Building more permanent software that maximizes functionality and battery life 
  • Improve the repairability of each Phone to increase its lifespan 
  • Create end-of-life guidelines for proper recycling.  
  • Expand and improve the Life Cycle Analysis for greater accuracy. 
Light Phone II

Light Phone II

Leaf Score

Highlights: The Light Phone II stands out as a versatile 4G LTE mobile device, boasting a minimalist design that prioritizes essential functionality. Its distinct feature includes an e-ink display, and a fully customized typographic-centric user interface.

The bottom line

The bottom line on the Light Phone II is it’s a mental health upgrade in a chaotic time. Sustainability is a company priority, although a company priority, has a ways to go in terms of hard numbers.

Keep a smart phone around in case of emergency.

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