With the rise of mobile phones, the landline phone has been experiencing a steady decline over the last decade. According to a December 2015 survey by the US Department of Health and Human Services, nearly half (47.4%) of the 21,517 households polled use only cellphones to communicate. And among young adults aged 25-34, two-thirds live in cell-only homes.
But on Tuesday, a new Kickstarter campaign may change the game for making phone calls at home. ILY (or "I love you") is a family-centric, Wi-Fi-enabled tool that allows members of a family to connect with each other via tablet. It strips away the apps and browsers available on smartphones and tablets and presents a simplified interface where any family member can simply click on a photo of their mother, grandfather, niece or other family member to make a direct voice or video call.
The concept of ILY is that it can allow intergenerational members of a family to communicate. Ily hopes to appeal to parents who want to reach young children, but are skeptical about putting smartphones in the hands of younger children who may not be equipped to navigate the web. "ILY also eliminates the issue of too much screen time on tablets, does not expose young children to any outside web content," said Ilan Abehassera, Founder and CEO of Insensi, the company that makes ILY. And the simple design of the phone is also meant to relieve the burden of understanding Skype for the older, less tech-savvy generation.
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Ily is meant to be a fixture of a home the same way the old landline was. But it can also be downloaded as an app on a smartphone or tablet. It has a group-call feature, as well as sleep-mode, to prevent accidental calls or reaching someone across a different time zones at the wrong hour.
"We think ILY will be the new landline," said Abehassera. "There hasn't been much innovation in the way wired phones function since pushbuttons, and that's one reason why people have moved away from them. But we also think that people want something as reliable and dependable as an old-school landline, but with internet-era features like video and chat."
A whopping 85% of grandparents feel that they don't see or speak to their grandchildren often enough, according to ILY's study of 500 grandparents. A major benefit of the technology, Abehassera believes, is to increase communication between the older and younger generation.
Ily sees itself as "part of a trend to connect the parts of your home that really matter," said Abehassera. "It makes staying in touch low-key and fun. Instead of parents passing around their smartphones to their children, they can connect via ILY anytime, anywhere."
ILY is available for $149 at early bird pricing, and plans to ship orders in July.
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Hope Reese has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Hope Reese is a journalist in Louisville, KY. Her writing has been featured in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, Playboy, Undark Magazine, VICE, Vox, and other publications.