IT FINALLY HAPPENED: someone designed a “smartphone for women.” It’s called the Cyrcle Phone, and manufacturer Dtoor claims it will serve women’s needs better than traditional, rectangular smartphones. Given that the Cyrcle Phone uses 2nd-generation (2G) mobile technology — which has been obsolete for almost a decade — Dtoor’s attitude is boastful, at best. At worst, it’s downright deceitful.
If you’ve heard talk of “unnecessarily gendered” products and wondered what that was all about, it’s this. There is no reason to produce a “smartphone for women,” because men’s and women’s device needs do not differ enough to legitimize the creation of a whole new product line. That’s why gendered razors — which are affected by the pink tax, by the way — and tool kits are so silly: because we don’t need them.
Dtoor asserts that a “rectangular [phone] shape does not serve the needs of women in many ways,” because “truly feminine clothing does not normally have pockets, and if it does, the pockets are frequently too small or not shaped to accept a large rectangular object.”
While it is true that women’s clothing has a pocket problem, making strange-looking, tiny-screened, cheap technology is not the solution. Designing more practical garments, on the other hand? Problem solved.
It could be argued that the Cyrcle Phone’s low price and resemblance to a compact — which we will get to in a moment — make it an excellent choice for women in abusive situations. Fair enough. But working with existing technology — to make safety apps, say — produces far more convenient and affordable options for women in need than asking them to find $100 to pay for a new device, which they must then hide from their abusers. Furthermore, to design a commercial product targeted at victims of domestic violence is an attempt at turning a profit off abused women — definitely not a company or cause we should rally to support.
Now, obviously, Dtoor hasn’t said their product is ideal for battered women. The Cyrcle Phone remains problematic, however, because it is the latest entry on a long, long list of unnecessarily gendered products that stretches back decades, if not centuries.
It’s important to note that the Cyrcle Phone is still in the prototype phase. Dtoor showcased its orange and green monstrosity at Mobile World Congress 2016. The company plans to crowdfund mass production beginning in August 2016, shipping its $100 2G models sometime thereafter. An up-to-date 4G model will not be available until August 2017.
This is all to say that the Cyrcle Phone’s design could change dramatically in the months leading up to its Kickstarter campaign. There’s no reason we can’t poke a bit of fun at it now, however. Here are the five things Dtoor’s “smartphone for women” looks like, aside from a really ugly flying saucer.
In a world where women contour and bake their faces, is pressed powder even a thing people use anymore? Given the fact that I still see compacts in drugstores, I’m going to bet on yes. I can’t imagine why you would want your phone to look like a makeup tin, but answering the wrong one is rom-com gold.
A Contraceptive Container
Although this resemblance could offer some aegis for women who are shy about, or forced to hide, their contraceptives, it probably won’t make life that much easier for them. There are a number of reasons why women would want to keep their birth control use a secret, and many of them are related to safety. Having an object that looks like a contraceptive container presents too many opportunities for confusion and accidental outing.
A 1993 Nickelodeon Blimp Game
In the early 1990s, Nickelodeon partnered with McDonald’s to make green-and-orange Happy Meal toys. One of these was the Blimp Game. You blew into the bottom of the blimp, it made a funny noise, spun the two discs in the center, and gave you a challenge to name an object that began with a particular letter. The Cyrcle Phone’s 3D-printed plastic outer shell and cardboard-looking face bear too close a resemblance for comfort.
“Sorry, I’m on my hamburger phone.” I’m convinced that Diablo Cody had an instant cult classic with that line from Juno. Dtoor claims its product’s round design will make it more comfortable to hold your phone between your ear and shoulder for long periods, but we all know hamburger phones are “just, like, really awkward to talk on.” Also, the last time we had a phone shaped like food, this happened. Let’s not repeat history.
A Secret Communications Device
Arguably the coolest aesthetic the Cyrcle Phone has going for it is its resemblance to some secret communications device from a Mod-punk spy movie. Given that Sailor Moon and Totally Spies come to mind here, I’m probably still focused on how much this thing looks like a damn compact.