Punkt MP02 First Impressions

Just got a Punkt MP02, but soon realized I should have read more user reviews. Here’s why I bought it, my first impressions and why I’m returning it.

Punkt’s philosophy resonates with me, since I’m the kind of dude that worries about how we might be affected by our constant phone use and has “romantic notions of rural communities”. I’ve already turned off most of my apps’ notifications, and do my best to only use it for “important stuff”. My phone’s camera sucks, so I try to use my compact camera instead. I’ve recently deleted both my Facebook app and account.

Thus I’m bang in middle of the target markets for “dumbphones” and idiots spending too much on “premium design”, so I pulled the trigger and bought a Punkt MP02.

Turns out I mi-ight have bought into the hype a little...

Hype

Notifications are the worst. You pick up your phone to see what time it is, get caught in the notifications’ razzle-dazzle and waste an hour on something unnecessary.

Picture a glittering lake, a summer breeze and the relaxing sound of songbirds hitting on each other. Now picture your phone on the bottom of the lake. Doesn’t that sound refreshing?

I love the convenience of smartphones, but I don’t want to. My dream isn’t ditching the iPhone, just keeping it tucked away somewhere non-distracting for most of the day without going completely off the grid. The MP02 would act as my phone, and its WiFi-tethering would come in handy if I needed to use the iPhone, iPad or laptop for anything else, but add some much needed friction to the process.

It arrived yesterday.

Great

Right out of the box, it just felt “right”. I guess that’s my nostalgia talking, having grown up with phones like this. (Nokia, please remake the 3210!) It’s built beautifully: black, glass-fibery plastic; stealthy, hand-friendly wedge shape; buttons with a satisfying “snick!” to them. It’s light, but feels solid. No setup, just pop in the SIM-card and you’re good to go.

Love the black-on-black packaging, too – exciting to unbox this thing. Not pictured: the little pin for opening the SIM slot, it’s like a piece of minimalist jewelry.

It sounds lovely, too, with its nostalgia-inducing interface sounds. I was surprised the first time the phone rang and the default ringtone turned out to be bird song. That’s brilliant – both delightful and very much in tune with the “tuning out” philosophy.

I was a bit worried about my train commute, since my ticket is stored and displayed in an iPhone app, updated for control daily. No problems there: two button clicks on the MP02 got the iPhone tethered to some sweet 4G LTE WiFi and I could present my ticket.

It’s ridiculous, I know, but taking the iPhone off the tether again felt amazing. Putting the iPhone in airplane mode, chucking it in my bag and still being available for a text or call gave me a sense of freedom I’ve only felt skinny dipping. Try tracking me now, you big data bastards! Guess what paper book I’m reading!

(It wore off quickly.)

Not-so-good

I expected some downgrading issues, having been spoiled rotten by smartphones. The nostalgia for old-school texting evaporated after the first message. Navigating menus and getting a feel for button shortcuts was a bit tricky to begin with, but hey, RTFM. The voice call sound quality is noticeably worse than on my iPhone SE, but still decent enough.

The display has a lower resolution than what we’ve come to expect these days, but it serves its purpose. The home screen is clutter free, but a bit too spartan: I miss the network status and battery level (like on Punkt’s own MP01), as well as a tether indicator.

What really irks me is a surprising lack of attention to detail throughout the interface. On startup, for instance, the Punkt-logo slides almost out of view, leaving a few pixels visible. I also came across a few leftover Android standard UI elements, clashing with the minimalist, monochrome design.

I’m nitpicking here, but that kind of sloppiness worries me. I expected the inside to be as elegant as the outside, but instead it feels unresponsive and unfinished.

Oh no

Worst of all, it seems whatever bug is bogging down the interface is also going to town on the battery. Punkt promises up to 300 hours of stand-by time, but my brand new phone can barely deliver 30, and that’s with WiFi, tethering and bluetooth turned off.

I updated the firmware to see if it would improve anything. The process was pretty slow, which is normal, but with no progress indication at all, it had me worried the phone had crashed and bricked itself. (Speaks volumes of the amount of trust I had in the phone by this point!) Didn’t see or feel any noticeable difference after it finished.

Punkt deserves praise for an honest and straightforward changelog, but it’s only been a single update since the MP02’s launch almost half a year ago and doesn’t fix a lot.

Shame, really

I still believe in Punkt’s philosophy, but the MP02 just doesn’t live up to its promises or my expectations. Not at this price point, with this software. I feel conflicted about returning it, but it comes down to the high cost for its poor battery life and infrequent updates. (Hell, it shouldn’t really need updates often!)

I don’t mind paying for great design, but then I expect a high standard to match the price tag. It’s frustrating when those expectations aren’t met, and doubly so with the MP02 since it’s this close to being exactly what I’m looking for. I’m ready, but the darn phone ain’t! Fingers crossed it will get some much needed software fixes soon, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

The mysterious battery drain is the final nail in the coffin – “charge anxiety” is exactly the kind of problem Punkt tries to solve with their products, but the MP02 only makes it worse. (Hiding the battery level indicator is cheating!)

I want Punkt to succeed, I hope they fix the MP02 and expand their lineup with more models. I’d love to support their future endeavours, but the MP02 would have to be at least $100 cheaper for me to keep it and cross my fingers waiting for updates. As it is, the early adopter tax is just too damn high.

Guess I’m stuck with my iPhone SE, airplane mode and a lack of impulse control for now.