Going back to a Dumb Phone, Feature Phone, Simple Phone, or Minimalist Phone; Some Perspectives from People Who Have Tried

Smartphones may not be so smart after all

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Ever thought of trading in your smartphone for a dumb phone? There are advantages and disadvantages in making the move. What we used to call “dumb phones” have been renamed several times over. No one wants to buy a dumb phone, that would be “dumb”. But a simple phone wouldn’t be so bad, or a minimalist phone even sounds trendy. One of the current terms for such phones is “feature phone”, one that has the bare necessary features you need to survive. While there is no universal agreement on what constitutes dumb, simple, feature or minimalist, they are all short of a smartphone in some important ways.

Anyone of these phones can make phone calls and send and receive text messages (not all can do MMS text messages). After that, the functions offered vary.

There seem to be two major reasons for purchasing and using a feature phone.

  1. You are an adult trying to control your connection to the constant stream of notifications, messages, social media scrolling, news, twitter, etc. You have tried other methods to reduce your usage and they don’t seem to be sufficient to overpower the pull of your smartphone. But you do have enough willpower to buy a feature phone and put it to use. They are typically inexpensive compared to smartphones so you’re going to give it a try.
  2. You are buying the feature phone for your minor child trying to give yourself and them access to a phone and messaging, but you are not ready to turn the full wrath of the internet and social media loose on them just yet.

This post will share some stories for each of these groups. Adults who are trying out a feature phone for themselves for the first time or parents looking for a limited online experience for their kids.

What are adults who have made the switch to a dumb phone saying about the experience?

A recent article on the Website  Digital Trends, titled “Switching back to a dumb phone was the smartest thing I’ve ever done”, Shubham Agarwal describes his experience with the move back to a dumb phone. Here are the key pros and cons he cites:

The pros to making the switch:

  • “I feel hijacked by my smartphone and … have a sense of anxiety and fatigue…”
  • Running a new Operating System called KaiOS that allows several apps to run on the dumb phone like WhatsApp, Google Maps, Twitter, Google assistant, and a few others.
  • “A phone that runs all my essential apps minus the unnecessary clutter and “always-on” feeling…”
  • “…switching to a feature phone disabused me of the illusion that my life will come to a halt without my smartphone.”
  • “I didn’t miss out on much when I didn’t check an email or any other notification as soon as it landed.”
  • “…texting or performing other tasks … felt a lot more private.”
  •  “I’m a lot more mindful of the time I spend staring at my smartphone.” 

The cons to making the switch:

  • “Google Maps, for instance, doesn’t have turn-by-turn navigation…”
  • “Typing texts and emails takes minutes, not seconds. “
  • “There’s no NFC or digital payment support.”
  • “The camera is barely usable and the absence of a front lens means you can’t video chat.”

Here is another article touting the virtues of “going back” to the good ol’ days of the dumb phone. This article from Vlad Savov at theverge.com in 2017 describes the problems of being constantly connected and having a constant stream of notifications.

Some articles like this one from the Evening Standard, tout the use of a dumb phone as a possible cure for your smartphone addiction.

Joshua Beck wrote an article called “My Smartphone Detox” where he describes the decision process he went through and has updates to the post during the detox process. It is a fairly long article but an interesting read to see the issue he discovered and how he dealt with them.

What about a feature phone for kids?

Fox Business focuses on the price differences, pointing out that the top end smartphone can cost up to $2,000 with the average now approaching $1,000. Dumb phones, on the other hand, can be had for less than $100. They also point out that it allows parents to stay in touch with kids without providing all of the apps and distractions of a full-featured smartphone. Dumb phones allow parents to remain in contact with kids by providing a phone that can make calls, text and has limited or no internet.

An article in the International Business Times puts it this way:

“For parents who want to teach their kids to be responsible in handling their own personal gadget, it helps to begin training the children to use basic phones without immediately giving them the freedom to explore the internet. This way they could learn to be accountable to communicate to their parents first before having the consciousness of social media activity.”

If you are making the change to a feature phone you should take a look at some of the experiences of the people listed above. I think there are some great insights into these stories.

About the Author:

Terry has been an entrepreneur in the IT industry for over30 years. Go here to read his complete personal story, “Husband, father, Grandfather and IT Executive.” If you want to send Terry a quick message visit the contact page Here.

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