The World's Smallest Mobile Phone is Also Kind of a Pain to Use

By Tom Pritchard on at

You may have heard of the Zanco Tiny T1. Starting life as a Kickstarter campaign it promised to be the world's smallest functional mobile phone, with an equally tiny £30 pricetag. It's been described as "10,000 times cuter" than an iPhone, the kind of thing Derek Zoolander might use, and so on. While it is in fact a fully-functional tiny mobile phone, the fact that it's so tiny makes it incredibly irritating to use. Allow me to explain.

I have to emphasise how small this device is, though. It's 4.5 cm long, 2cm wide, and 1cm deep. The keys are about 4mm by 2mm, and the screen is about 1.2cm by 0.5cm. It's incredibly small, is what I'm saying, and if you wanted to smuggle it into a prison I doubt there would be any shortage of places to hide it. That size means the phone is only capable of connecting to 2G networks (so no connecting to anything that runs on Three) and only has a 200 mAh battery.

In my time with the phone I found that battery was enough to keep the phone powered for between 36 and 48 hours, which isn't bad, certainly not for a battery that small. Obviously using it is going to reduce that lifespan a bit, bit considering the Tiny T1 is only really good for making calls means that won't happen very often.

Only slightly bigger than a Lego minifig.

Calls wise you can't really complain. While there's a very prominent buzzing going on in the background of each call (think phone next to a speaker-type buzzing), the audio is all surprisingly good for something this small. It's clear enough to be able to communicate with the person on the other end of the line anyway. But that's about it. Everything else is incredibly frustrating, hampered by the fact the phone and its constituent components are so god damn small.

The size of the screen means reading menus, text messages, or anything else is a chore. You get two words on screen if you're lucky, but the screen is so small that there are times when individual words are split over two lines because there isn't space for them. Naturally sending texts isn't ideal, and not just because the Tiny T1 has the old-school T9 keyboard rather than the full set of QWERTY keys offered by touchscreen devices. The size of the keys means they're nearly four times smaller than the narrowest part of my thumbs - the digits I use for mobile typing. It's not impossible to do, but it is incredibly slow, and frankly an annoying use of time.

Needless to say, the Tiny T1 is not the kind of phone you want to use every day. Even if you're not a smartphone fan, and would rather have a 'dumb' piece of kit that can't be used for anything remotely related to the internet. The size is a gimmick, and you would look ridiculous trying to use it. Not to mention the fact that you feel ridiculous trying to text or navigate its many menus. But I wouldn't go so far as to say it's useless.

e-Reader this ain't

The Tiny T1 is very small, and naturally very discreet. While one would make some jokes about sneaking it into prison, or some other area where phones are contraband, that could prove useful. Whatever you may use day to day, this would make for a good emergency phone. The kind of thing that can sit in the bottom of your bag, or your glovebox, switched off and unnoticed until you need it. That way when your normal phone dies (or gets stolen, these things happen) you still have some way of connecting with the right people. It beats having to hunt down a payphone and contend with the fact that it smells like a toilet and is full of god knows what sort of rubbish. You can even connect it to your Bluetooth headset, though you can't listen to music on a phone that has zero storage.

Honestly there's not a whole lot more to say about this phone. It'a the kind of phone you'd have purchased about 15-20 years ago, albeit a hundred times smaller than one of those beasts. That's about all it has going for it. It's fiddly, it's not that intuitive, but it does do what it needs to. Provided you use it with a SIM card that uses a network not operated by Three.