HomeTechnologyNewsWhy you should switch to a "dumb" phone

Why you should switch to a “dumb” phone


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Smartphones have become more than just a minor distraction. Browsing social media all day is mentally and physically exhausting, but it’s almost unavoidable since we’re all addicted to our phones. And while certain apps can help you cut down on your phone usage, it may be time to ditch the smartphone and use an old-fashioned “dumb” phone.

Limited features, limited distractions

There’s an app for everything, and that’s the problem with smartphones. As you’ve probably guessed, traditional feature phones are extremely limited, so they’re less of a distraction than your iPhone or Android device. You can’t spend two hours on Instagram if your phone doesn’t work with Instagram.

Now, brick and flip phones are a bit more advanced than they used to be. Several dumb phones run KaiOS, a lightweight operating system that supports a small selection of apps and games, including WhatsApp, YouTube, and Google Maps.

This limited selection of apps makes your dumb phone useful without making it too much of a distraction. It also helps that dumb phones have small screens. You may be a YouTube binge champ, but watching a small screen isn’t all that enjoyable.

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many dumb phones without KaiOS. You really can’t avoid OS without buying prepaid.

There are plenty of feature phones that don’t support KaiOS, including the Light Phone, which is so basic it has a black and white screen. Still, I think most people would prefer a dumb phone with a hint of brains: opening Google Maps when you’re lost is a lot easier than hassling a stranger for directions.

And just to be clear, using a dumb phone doesn’t have to be a full-time commitment. If you want to focus on your family over the weekend, for example, you can simply take out the SIM card from your smartphone and stick it in an old flip phone.

Battery life for weeks: yes, weeks!

A cell phone battery.
Chalermsak / Shutterstock.com

Battery technology has come a long way since the ’90s and 2000s. With minimal use, your old flip phone probably lasted a little over two days on a single charge; more than a smartphone, but that’s to be expected given that smartphones have big screens and addictive apps.

Modern flip phones and brick phones have incredible battery life. The Nokia 3310 4G has a talk time of 22 hours and can last a whole month on standby. Most users will get weeks of battery life out of this and other dumb phones, even with regular use.

Those who talk on the phone all day with a Bluetooth headset will see more modest battery life. They will charge your basic phone every day or two. Still, that’s better than what you get with a smartphone: it’s crazy.

Even if you’re not interested in the distraction-free lifestyle of an older cell phone, battery life is a big selling point. That’s part of the reason why feature phones remain a popular choice for workplaces, camping trips, and other situations where charging isn’t always convenient.

Dumb Phones Are Really Affordable

An Amazon listing for the Nokia 225, which costs just $50.
Nokia

This is not a big surprise; Dumb phones are cheaper than sin. The average flip phone or brick phone is only $50, and that’s when you buy them new. A used flip phone can cost less than a trip to McDonald’s, and if you’re eligible for an upgrade, your carrier may even give you one for free.

Some of the fancier flip phones, like the Alcatel Go Flip 4, can cost anywhere from $70 to $100. But that’s still a pretty solid price, and you’ll pay even less if you upgrade through your carrier.

And despite their low price, dumb phones aren’t bad or poorly made. They have bright, modern screens, support Bluetooth, and of course, they’re built like tanks.

The only problem with older cell phones, from a quality standpoint, is that their cameras suck. You won’t get iPhone-quality photos from a Nokia or Alcatel brick. Still, the photo quality is better than it was twenty years ago, and you can always carry a cheap digital camera with you if you want to capture decent photos on the go.

Can a very old phone be reused?

Lots of old basic phones.
Mehaniq / Shutterstock.com

If you’re old enough to buy beer, there’s probably an old brick or flip phone sitting in the corner of your closet. But you shouldn’t bother with that relic. Even if it works today, it won’t work much longer.

Carriers are currently shutting down their 3G networks, which means that most foldable phones (including those made during the early iPhone era) are basically paperweights. They cannot make calls or send text messages without a 3G signal.

Now, this situation may be disappointing to some people, but it’s not a big deal. Dumb new phones are affordable, have sleek, bright screens, and can last for weeks on a single charge. They are much more pleasant to use than some 15 year old Nokia.

By the way, old phone batteries have a habit of swelling and can become a fire hazard. If you’ve been holding on to an older phone, I suggest you check the battery for signs of swelling or warping. You can take the old battery (or the entire phone) to Best Buy for recycling, if necessary.

Which dumb phone should you buy?

The TCL FLIP Pro and Alcatel GO FLIP 4
TCL

Buying a feature phone is much easier than it used to be. Not only because of the price, but because there are not many options to choose from. Your carrier may only offer one or two dumb phones, and even if you buy an unlocked device, there are only a handful of options to choose from.

For those who still want to access apps like YouTube and Google Maps, a KaiOS device is the way to go. The Nokia 225 is a popular and affordable option in this space, although I’d suggest the more expensive Alcatel Go Flip 4 if you specifically want a flip telephone. (None of these phones are compatible with Verizon networks. If you want a KaiOS phone on Verizon, the TCL FLIP Pro is your best bet.)

If you want to avoid the apps altogether, you need to buy from a prepaid carrier or buy a used 4G feature phone, like the Nokia 3310 4G (which has been discontinued). One of the best prepaid options I’ve seen is the UScellar ANS F30, which is surprisingly cheap at Walmart.

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