Thanks to the revelations of people such as Edward Snowden, the general public is aware of how intelligence agencies spy on them. It seems like there are people out there who have had enough and are now throwing away their smartphones into the bin and replacing them with “Dumbphones”. There are also those who just don’t want to waste so much time on the apps on iPhones or Android devices.
Robin West, 17, is a brilliant example and according to the BBC is an “anomaly” among her friends. “She doesn’t have a smartphone” and uses a “dumbphone” instead of scrolling through Instagram and TikTok all day.
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These dumbphones are basic phones or handsets which have limited functions. You can make and receive calls and send text messages over it via SMS. You can also listen to the radio and take low-quality photos, that too if you’re lucky.
These devices are almost similar to the ones that people bought back in the 90s.
Robin West decided to get rid of her previous smartphone, 2 years ago, at the spur of the moment. She was looking for a replacement in a second-hand store when she was attracted by the low prices of these dumbphones.
The phone that she currently uses is from the French firm MobiWire. It cost her £8 ( around $10.40) and the data bills are quite low too as it bears no functions to worry about.
“I didn’t notice until I bought a brick phone how much a smartphone was taking over my life,” she says. “I had a lot of social media apps on it, and I didn’t get as much work done as I was always on my phone.”
West adds that she doesn’t think she’ll ever buy another smartphone. “I’m happy with my brick – I don’t think it limits me. I’m definitely more proactive.”
The Dumbphones Are On A Course Of Revival
According to the BBC, these headsets are enjoying a revival now. Searches for them on Google have jumped by 89% from 2018 to 2021, as per a report by SEMrush.
Sales figures are quite difficult to obtain but reports stated that global purchases of these dumbphones were going to hit a billion units from last year. This was a massive rise from 400 million back in 2019. This was comparatively good as the worldwide sale of smartphones was around 1.4 billion, last year, following a decline of 12.5% in 2020.
Deloitte conducted a survey in 2021 where they found out that 1 in 10 mobile phone users in the United Kingdom had a brick phone.
“It appears fashion, nostalgia, and them appearing in TikTok videos, have a part to play in the dumbphone revival,” says Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at price comparison site Uswitch.com. “Many of us had a dumbphone as our first mobile phone, so it’s natural that we feel a sense of nostalgia towards these classic handsets.”
Mr. Doku added that the relaunch of the 3310 handsets by Nokia was the one that sparked this revival. This was first released in 2000 and was the biggest-selling phone of all time.
“Nokia pushed the 3310 as an affordable alternative in a world full of high-spec mobiles.”
Doku added that it was indeed true that dumbphones could not compete with the premium Samsung and Apple models when it came to features and performance but “they can outshine them in equally important areas such as battery life and durability”.
Another example was Przemek Olejniczak, a psychologist, who swapped his smartphone for a Nokia 3310. He did so because of the longer-lasting battery but soon realized that there were other benefits.
“Before I would always be stuck to the phone, checking anything and everything, browsing Facebook or the news, or other facts I didn’t need to know,” he says.
“Now I have more time for my family and me. A huge benefit is that I’m not addicted to liking, sharing, commenting, or describing my life to other people. Now I have more privacy.”
It was quite challenging for him to switch, to which he agreed.
“Before I’d be checking everything, such as buses and restaurants, on my smartphone [when traveling]. Now that is impossible, so I have learned to do all those things beforehand at home. I got used to it.”
One Such Example Of These Dumbphones
Light Phone is a company based in New York and is a maker of these dumbphones. It has more features than the regular dumbphones but pledges that it “will never have social media, clickbait news, email, an internet browser, or any other anxiety-inducing infinite feed”.
The company recorded its strongest year of financial performance in 2021. Their sales had shot up by 150% compared to 2020. Even though they are more expensive than the traditional ones, their prices start at $99 (£75).
Light Phone co-founder, Kaiwei Tang, says the device was initially created to use as a secondary phone for people wanting to take a break from their smartphone for a weekend for example, but now half of their customers use it as their primary device.
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Image credit: Flickr / Kārlis Dambrāns