Carl Barenbrug

Product design, creative direction

Blloc Phone

I’ve been embedded within the Apple ecosystem for years, using an iMac at home as well as the office, owning an iPhone since the iPhone 3G, and my latest investment was a pair of AirPods—probably Apple’s best product design for years. I was stuck on the iPhone 6s for a long time (an age in tech terms), with none of Apple’s newest designs impressing me enough to justify spending £1k on a phone—particularly because I was looking to be less reliant on my smartphone anyway. I wanted to reduce my screen time. So I was open to change.

Enter Blloc, a tiny independent Berlin-based tech company who created a smartphone to combat the growing addictive behaviour we have with our phones. Designed for minimalists—or at least for those who actively want to take a minimalist approach to their phone usage—Blloc, which runs on Android, offers a truly simplified user experience and gives greater control to its users. The monochromatic menus and the bespoke Lines™ icons bring a unique aesthetic to the UI. It’s so brilliantly refreshing not to have overly-colourful and over-designed apps vying for my attention. It has two modes: MNML and BLLOC Mode, with the latter offering an unobtrusive, quiet, and customisable experience.

The performance of Blloc OS is decent. Of course it could be faster, but it’s not alarmingly slow that it builds any type of frustration. This will hopefully improve with every update, and given their past releases, the signs are there to support this.

The Blloc hardware is understated and sleek. It’s not dissimilar to an iPhone X, but instead uses a plastic back casing instead of glass, and features a fingerprint sensor, which I’ve always liked as a security feature. It does also offer a headphone jack, despite measuring just 7.7mm in thickness, catering to those who insist on living the wired life.

Besides the relaxing monochromatic UI, and the clean line iconography and system fonts, one of the most distinctive features of the phone is the Colour Touch technology. Regardless of which app I’m using, with a simple tap of the fingerprint sensor, it smoothly transitions the display to full colour. I simply tap again to switch it back to monochrome.

My biggest gripe with the phone is the gestures, particularly the swipe to go back gesture. You have to be pretty precise with your finger position, so I'd love to see more work done to this area of the OS.

I’m really excited to see the development of Blloc throughout the year. It’s great value, I love the concept, and I love what they’ve achieved so far with a relatively modest team.

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