Zanco tiny t2 review: Hands on with the world's smallest 3G phone
When we first laid eyes on the Zanco tiny t1 – the world’s smallest working phone – we laughed. “It’s probably only slightly more practical than Maxwell Smart’s shoe-phone,” we said. But when we first laid eyes on the next model – the marginally larger Zanco tiny t2 – well, we still laughed, but at least this time we got to try it out for ourselves. And yes, it’s exactly as practical as we expected.
The Zanco tiny t2, from Zini Mobiles, earns its title as the smallest 3G phone out there. Measuring just 61 x 30 x 16.5 mm (2.4 x 1.2 x 0.65 in) and weighing a puny 31 g (1 oz), it’s about as much of a burden to carry as a USB stick or a pack of gum. The 1-inch LCD screen is positively adorable with a resolution of just 128 x 96 pixels.
That leaves little room for bells and whistles – there’s not even any internet connectivity, which strips out most of the functionality of a modern phone. But that’s kind of the point. The tiny t2 is designed to free you from the distraction of email or social media, while still letting you be contactable via calls or SMS.
Its tiny size helps with that, too. It’s easy to slip into a pocket when going for a jog, so you can still listen to music (via Bluetooth or 3.5-mm jack) without lugging your big fancy phablet around. Or chuck it in a purse or bag on a night out so you can keep in touch with friends and not be too upset if you lose it.
And then of course there’s the novelty factor. Photos can’t properly prepare you for just how comically small it is, and everyone we showed it to had the same reaction: a good chuckle, followed by poking at it to make sure it actually worked. The parlor trick of asking a friend to call you, then whipping out a Fun-Size Snickers bar to answer, didn’t get old in our experience.
But of course, this isn’t the most practical phone to use. The simple old-school philosophy is clear in the design, too – the tiny t2 resembles a mini version of the chunky brick-phones of yore. Physical buttons return, arranged in the usual layout of a numberpad below buttons for navigation, answering and hanging up.
Using the phone will activate muscle memories that have been sitting dormant since the mid-2000s, as you relearn to type by pressing the corresponding number multiple times to select each letter. It won’t take you long to fall back into old habits and start writing “lyk u r 10 agn lol”.
The overall interface is a little clunky, through an uncomfortable combo of outdated tech and small stature. Unlocking the phone takes three button presses in a specific order, and moving through menus can take some getting used to. It just doesn’t feel like it’s made for regular human-sized thumbs, and our hands started to cramp up after just a few minutes of use.
That said, the company has made a few concessions to try to streamline things a bit. While older phones would have used the ring around the big central button to move left/right/up/down, those jobs have been relegated to the easier-to-access number pad.
But the size gets in the way of other things, too. When on a call, the audio quality is good for you using the tiny t2 – but to the person on the other end, you sound muffled and distant. No doubt that’s because the microphone is up around your earlobe.
The Zanco tiny t2 does manage to cram a lot of basic features into that small package. You can set alarms, listen to FM radio or stored MP3s, take notes, use the calculator, and even play games. There’s a selection of specially-made versions of simple classics like Tetris, Snake, Doodle Jump and Crossy Road, which all play surprisingly well on such a minuscule screen.
The phone has a camera too, but with a measly 0.3 megapixels, it honestly didn’t need one. Photos come out grainy and incomprehensible, and we can’t help but feel everyone would have been better off if that was left out in favor of a lower price.
And that’s where the Zanco tiny t2 really trips up. By the time it goes to retail, it will cost US$130, or $150 with Bluetooth earphones. If all you’re looking for is a simple talk-and-text phone, you can do a lot better than this little thing. Cheap phones start from about 50 bucks at places like Walmart, and they’ll do all the same stuff and more. Sure, you won’t get the comedy factor of answering a phone the size of your thumb, but how many times is that joke really going to fly anyway?
Perhaps the saving grace is the Kickstarter Super Early Bird price of $59. That’s about the price you’d want to pay for a novelty, mildly-useful secondary phone. But if you miss out and have to wait for retail, you’d be better off just popping down to Walmart and grabbing a cheap burner or three.
The Zanco tiny t2 is currently on Kickstarter, where it’s raised over $36,000 and smashed its $10,000 goal. The combination of this low target, Zanco’s prior crowdfunding success, the early release date – it’s set to ship by April 2020 – and the fact that it’s already in our hands, tells us that it’s a pretty safe bet this one will make it to market. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you.
Check it out in the Kickstarter video below.
Product page: Zini Mobiles