Punkt MP-02 hands-on review

The Punkt is no dumb phone -- it’s much smarter than you think

A dumb phone for the smart person who still wants to stay connected, the Punkt MP-02 ditches digital detoxing to tame your tech instead.
A dumb phone for the smart person who still wants to stay connected, the Punkt MP-02 ditches digital detoxing to tame your tech instead.
A dumb phone for the smart person who still wants to stay connected, the Punkt MP-02 ditches digital detoxing to tame your tech instead.

Highs

  • Minimalist design
  • Well thought-out functionality and software
  • Tough body
  • Long battery life

Lows

  • High price may put some off

If you like the idea of spending less time using a smartphone, but don’t like the nannyish concept of a “digital detox,” you may find the Punkt MP-02 is exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a cousin of the feature phone, but it’s still a modern connected device aimed at helping you maintain a normal lifestyle. This is the second phone from Punkt, and it has a sensible set of upgrades, just don’t expect them to be about processor speeds. It’s not like that at all.

Feature updates

Normally, a new phone would be larger, faster, or have a better camera. The Punkt MP-01 doesn’t have a camera, so that definitely sets it apart. Instead, it gets a 4G LTE modem, tethering support, and BlackBerry’s security suite. See? Told you it was different. The reasons two of these new features have been added is also interesting. The MP-01 — Punkt’s first phone — only has a 2G connection, which are gradually being phased out around the world. Adding 4G LTE makes sense for longevity, but because the MP-02 doesn’t have a browser, navigation, email, or social networks, it doesn’t improve the phone itself.

Hence the introduction of tethering. The MP-02 acts as a hot spot for your computer or tablet, enabling you to keep working when out and about. It’s incredibly sensible. Data, without the smartphone. This then led Punkt to add its other new feature. If the phone is going to be a phone first, then it should be the best phone it can be. The BlackBerry security suite provides secure, encrypted calls and messaging on the phone, and “hardens” the underlying Android 8.1 operating system.

It’s a cousin of the feature phone.

That’s right, it may not look like it, but the MP-02 has Android onboard. BlackBerry security also keeps the phone secure when it’s acting as a hot spot. We all know the risks of using public Wi-Fi, but we often have to do it.

The Punkt MP-02 keeps your phone safe when the need arises. If you’re waiting for the specifications, it seems pointless to talk about it. It’s definitely not the reason you’ll buy this phone. It has a screen, a processor, a calendar, a calculator, some keys, a sleep/wake key, and a USB charging port.

Ergonomics and experience

The Punkt MP-02 is the size of older feature phones like the Nokia 3310. It’s not curvy though, and the body has sharp lines and angles, rather than flowing curves. The size means it feels great, and the clever design decisions, such as the menu keys on the left being set slightly higher than the others to improve ergonomics, are clever. The angled rear cover means the speaker isn’t blocked when the phone is resting on a table, making it better for conference calls. Punkt has also spent time and money getting the best speaker possible for the space available.

Punkt MP-02 review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

A Snapdragon processor lends its power to the revised operating system, which takes only moments to learn, and about four keys to operate effectively. It’s fast, the fonts and display look good, and the system is so simple to use that it’s easy to wonder if you’re missing something. You’re not. The MP-02 is basic. The screen doesn’t support touch, and only shows pertinent, current information. Rather than constantly show reception and battery levels, alerts show when either are a problem. It has a color screen, so warnings are harder to miss.

The modem inside supports most global bands, so you can use the Punkt wherever you go, and we like the idea of taking it on vacation, when we should be relaxing more, without having to look at emails unless we really want to. The battery life is great, and with general use it’ll last a working week, or about 12 days on standby.

Clever, and worth exploring

What don’t you get? Compared to even the cheapest smartphone, you’re missing out on everything from internal storage and a music player to app support and the chance to snap even a basic photo or selfie. Missing them is missing the point. You’re interested in the MP-02 because you don’t need these features. Punkt’s not about to be sucked into any annual refresh cycle either. It’ll add features when it wants, and only if they fit with the ethos. It’s investigating over-the-air software update support for the future, which we’d say is an essential for any Android-based device.

The BlackBerry security suite provides secure, encrypted calls and messaging.

I liked the Punkt MP-02. The team didn’t rave about digital detox or suggest I’m a weak-willed idiot for being tied to my smartphone. The MP-02 is for taming tech, not ridding our lives of it. I’m on board with a company suggesting that I carry more mobile devices — the Punkt and a tablet or laptop — to streamline my online activity. It’s not slightly hypocritical like the Palm 2018, and if you’re genuinely interested in cutting down screen time, it’ll perform that function too.

The price of the Punkt MP-02 may put some would-be adopters off, as it’s $350, or 295 British pounds, which is about the same as the Palm, but could be considered a better value if you look at it closely. A $350 price is a lot for a second device, but the Punkt is really designed to be your only phone, for which that cost is not obscene. Should you consider it? Absolutely. It’s a well-designed, cleverly thought out, and unpretentious mobile device with a genuine purpose.

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