It's called a Yondr Pouch and for many, a few hours phone-free is a profound experience.
Philadelphia high schools made the news last week with more of them joining other public and private schools around the country in adopting Yondr Pouches for students to lock away their cell phones during the school day. The sealing magnetic device allows students to keep their cell phones close without actually being able to use them. Students are then better able to focus on their studies and on meaningful interpersonal interactions.
While Yondr Pouches are certainly having an effect on schools, their origin as well as their principal use reside in concert halls. The devices were invented in 2014 by Graham Dugoni, a 32-year-old former semi-professional soccer player who was frustrated with the distraction of cell phones at concerts. So it’s no surprise that many of Yondr Pouches’ first fans were performers such as Alicia Keys, John Mayer and Jack White, all of whom have demanded the use of rented Yondr Pouches at many of their sold-out shows. (Rentals typically range $2 — $3 per event; Yondr Pouch purchases per child in schools range from $15 — $30.)
The device, which doesn’t interfere with cell phone reception, works by having individuals drop their phones into slightly-larger-than-phone-size sealing pouches at the start of the event or school day. Afterward, participants visit a high-powered magnetic “unlocking station” before departure. Concert goers, like high school students, often protest using Yondr Pouches at first, but once they realize their phone is still with them on vibrate and that they can slip out to the lobby or to the principal’s office to have it unlocked for an important call, they almost always relax.
Often, the feedback is positive. Concert goers readily report that Yondr Pouches helped them “stay in the moment” rather than being distracted by their phones. Similarly, students such as those at San Lorenzo High School in California generally experience an improvement in test scores as well as better interpersonal relationships when Yondr Pouches are adopted schoolwide.
Nevertheless, plenty of students, parents and concert-goers are not happy about Yondr Pouches. “I wouldn’t feel safe without my phone,” said 18-year-old Lance Plume, a senior at a Philadelphia high school where they’ve experienced significant crime and are not implementing Yondr Pouches. Likewise, many concert-goers view filmed footage on their cell phones as souvenirs they’ve become accustomed to. So it’s no surprise there are a variety of petitions against the use of Yondr Pouches on sites like Change.org.
Yondr Pouch creator Dugoni is not deterred. With more institutions and artists embracing his invention, he makes it clear that he’s focused on leading a movement. “Be here now,” his website reads.
It also features a link to an annual, phone-free music festival that he hosts, and a quote from the Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard: “The highest and most beautiful things in life are not to be heard about, nor read about, nor seen but, if one will, are to be lived.”