Smartphone addiction can be a serious problem. Recent studies say the issue is getting worse as people form closer bonds with their devices, while more countries have introduced sidewalk traffic lights to address handset-related road accidents. But for those looking to cut back on their obsessive phone checking, a novel solution could be on the way.

A Vienna, Austria-based product designer called Klemens Schillinger has created the Substitute phones, a set of phone-shaped objects that could ease the cravings felt by phone addicts by simulating motions such as scrolling, swiping, and pinching.

The five imitations are made of black polyoxymethylene plastic, also known as acetal, and replicate common smartphone gestures through a series of embedded Howlith stones. Users simply swipe their fingers across the marble-like beads the same way they would on a smartphone screen.

While the objects don’t actually do anything, using them could relieve cravings in the same way as fake cigarettes have helped people stop smoking. These simple, plastic cigarette-shaped objects, which were popular before the advent of vaping, allow users to replicate the smoking action. Even without the nicotine, the simulation often eases withdrawal symptoms.

"More and more often one feels the urge to check their phone, even if you are not expecting a specific message or call. These observations inspired the idea of making a tool that would help stop this 'checking' behavior," Schillinger told Dezeen.

The Substitute phones aren’t yet available, but Schillinger’s site says they’re “coming soon.” The project was created for an exhibition called #Offline – Design for the (Good Old) Real World, which took place at the Vienna Design Week earlier this year.

For those wondering what it's like to go a month without a smartphone in today's digital age, check out this feature.