Unihertz Jelly 2E Smartphone: Putting the “Mini” in Digital Minimalism
At the very end of 2022, I decided to try an experiment with an unconventional smartphone – the tiny Unihertz Jelly 2E. Here are my impressions and takeaways.
A refresh of the older Jelly 2, the Jelly 2E is the smallest smartphone I have ever used, sporting a 3” display. It may be small in stature, but it's a fully functional Android phone running Android 12 and it can mostly do everything other Android phones can do.
And when I saw it on sale over the holidays and was able to snag it for $144 USD, I figured I'd give it a try.
The 3” screen has a resolution of 480 × 854 pixels and is just fine for what it is. Everything is crisp and clear, just smaller.
The phone is small, but thick at 95 × 49.4 × 16.5 mm. The thickness is welcome – if it was any thinner it'd be very difficult to keep from dropping it. In fact, they even include a wrist strap if you want to use it!
It has a dual sim card slot – those seem to be more popular overseas. It's a feature I've never used, but always nice to have the option.
With 4GB of RAM I have never experienced any slowdowns, and 64GB of storage is more than adequate for my needs. But having the option to add a Micro SD card to expand the storage if I want to is quite welcome.
Phone calls are loud and clear. Even the speakerphone has worked well in a pinch.
The cameras (8mp front, 16mp rear) work fine and are not terrible, but don't expect iPhone or Pixel quality. I don't take many photos, so it's not a big deal to me.
The rear fingerprint sensor has been hit or miss for me. It works most of the time after a few attempts – only occasionally on the first attempt. Not a deal-breaker but noticeable.
In addition to all the standard features we've come to expect in smartphones like GPS, WiFi, front and rear cameras, etc., it also has a couple features that have inexplicably disappeared from so-called “modern” smartphones like a dedicated 3.5 mm audio jack, programmable action button, and even an IR blaster. I can't tell you how satisfying it has been to just plug my earbuds in or connect my phone to my sound system sans Bluetooth without having to look for a dongle.
The main reason I got this phone was to promote digital minimalism – to help curb the long-ingrained impulse to absent-mindedly pick up my phone and distract myself. And for the most part, it has worked.
It's definitely more difficult to type anything on the minuscule keyboard, so that alone is a huge deterrent to using it for lengthy emails, texts, etc. unless I'm truly desperate.
And I refuse to install social media apps on my phone, preferring to use a browser instead. Doing so on a phone that small is pretty agonizing, too, so with the exception of using mbasic.facebook.com a couple times, I haven't used social media on this phone at all.
But while my overall smartphone use has decreased, my computer use has increased to compensate. For example, rather than typing texts on my phone, I usually type them on a computer using the Google Messages web app (unless I am out and away from a computer). Same with my IM apps, emails, social media posts, etc.
The biggest gripe I have is that a couple a couple apps I've wanted to use have not worked. Skype just crashes immediately after launch. Gmail worked fine for a few days, then also started crashing immediately after launch. I switched to K-9 Mail and it works great. I expect there are more apps that might not work, as they are not optimized for the unconventional screen size and hardware, but thankfully there are alternatives to most apps that work just fine.
Another semi-gripe is that notifications don't seem to work for many apps. This might be due to my own lack of experience with Android 12 – I'm sure it's could be a battery optimization thing or some other setting. But it's only a semi-gripe because I usually disable notifications for most apps anyway as a digital minimalism hack. I prefer to check social media and other things on my own terms, not because that little notification tone went off. But I have missed some time-sensitive messages on instant messaging apps and that's a bit annoying.
But overall, this phone has been a delight to use and a great conversation starter (mostly people laughing and looking at me like I have two heads, but coming around as I talk to them about it and explain my reasons for using it). I love that a device so compact can do so much and do it as well as it does. If you are looking for something to help curb your smartphone use without giving up the important and useful features of a smartphone when you truly need them, give the Jelly 2E a try.