Mick the Ram

Mick the Ram

It is becoming smarter to be dumb when it comes to your mobile phone

Anybody under the age of thirty will have no memory of a world without the mobile phone. Try and explain to someone in this age bracket about how communication and arrangements were carried out prior to the mobile’s great “takeover” and you will be greeted with looks of total bewilderment and incomprehension of how normal life was even possible without such assistance. Introduce another category of people, possibly five years younger than that, and they will only have ever experienced life with a social media dominance and take for granted the ability to undertake pretty much everything in their lives, via a smartphone. 

However, for all the practical good that the smart version of the phone brings, they also are incredibly distracting, time-consuming, and basically addictive, which can have a negative effect on individual’s mental health and well being. Of course the mobile phone is now an absolute necessity for many people as a productive tool, and a means of contact whilst on the move; but the additional extras are something more and more folk are beginning to realise they can actually function perfectly fine without such distractions in their life. 

With that in mind, they are returning to a basic feature phone, or dumb phone as it is often referred to, which focusses simply on making and receiving calls, likewise text messaging, plus offering greater sturdiness as a unit, better practicality in size, and conserving battery life in a much improved manner. Maybe those who have never known anything different would find it hard to adapt to something else, which to be fair is totally understandable; but for many over thirties, there are significant reasons to make the switch: 

Most obvious reasons to switch 

Cost has to be one of the main reasons for switching back to a dumb phone, with a lower initial outlay, followed by a much cheaper monthly payment plan. The battery life and privacy risks are also vastly improved, for the obvious reasons of less usage and a reduction in the personal information carried on the phone, compared to that which the smartphone will have sitting in it, at any given time. Call quality and durability are two other worthwhile excuses for changing, given the fragility and connection difficulties that can be encountered with a smart device. Some people may also point to radiation concerns that regularly cause anxiety amongst some, but will vastly reduce with a dumb phone; plus of course there will always be the nostalgia factor, too. 

Overly reliant on smart 

Although it is handy to have the answers to almost everything at our fingertips, the downside is that people tend to look for solutions for absolutely everything on their smartphones. It leads to so much last minute decision-making, simply because it is possible to do so, leading to a fast-paced, almost manic lifestyle, that will inevitably catch up with individuals at some point, as they more or less stop thinking for themselves, and completely rely on their phone for decisions. 

Having information a couple of clicks away has lead people to no longer taking the time to figure things out, preferring to take the easy option. GPS for instance has stopped folk from learning the art of navigation; everybody is reliant on the quick access to the internet and the thousands of apps that simplify everything. Of course these features can be a godsend at times, that cannot be denied or indeed overlooked, but what they are tending to do is actually make users that little bit lazier and with that, lose some independence and resourcefulness, in many cases without even realising it. 

Digital detox 

Sit on any bus, train, tram, whatever, and probably 80%, maybe even 90% of passengers will have their heads buried in their phone and very few people will actually be conversing. Naturally, there will be some serious searches going on, some important corresponding too no doubt; but the majority will just be idling their time away looking at random nonsense, simply because it is there and they have become almost programmed to do so. People have forgotten how to interact will others, due in no small part to the smartphone, which has replaced the need for such interaction, by offering people the opportunity to scroll through meaningless Facebook posts, pointless tweets, and ridiculous Instagram photos. 

Sadly, people in our immediate company, often take a back seat to those in our pockets or bags, who are allowed to rudely interrupt conversations, with the expectation of an instant reply, or “like” to a post, or message. Not too long ago, reading a newspaper at a dining table in the company of others would be frowned upon, and regarded as being extremely rude; but now a notification of some sort on the smartphone and the necessity to read and respond is simply too great to resist for many, regardless of environment, or situation. 

The world of the smartphone can easily consume our thoughts and minds in an incredibly powerful way. This is where the dumb phone is able to give back to society. No more of the constant browsing, far more time for family, proper friends, and indeed for yourself. No pressure to “like”, or “share”, or just pass comment on something, simply out of habit, or obligation. In short, basically, removing yourself from such necessities, and going a long way to solving what has become an addiction. 

Greater security 

True, a smartphone opens up all sorts of opportunities, but most of them require a lot of our personal information to be handed over, and sadly in the world we live in, this gives the hackers out there, some potential rich pickings. Malware too can target individual data, whilst companies can track almost your every move. Dumb phones used essentially for phone calls and texting offer up significantly less chance to have your details shared, or copied. 


Without doubt, one of the major negatives about the smartphone is their ability to distract. It is relentless and almost impossible to ignore, with constant alerts to this, that, and the other, very little of which is of any great importance, or indeed interest. Remaining focussed then becomes a real challenge; and it is daily, with a determination it seems, to deny any concentration on what usually are far more meaningful matters. The smart device is basically a news generator, navigation system, diary, entertainment centre, and wallet or purse; all rolled into one. 

Of course, the dumb phone could ring, or a text could arrive any time, but they inevitably will be more spread out throughout a day and far easier to ignore, should the situation require it. The social media aspect of the smartphone is especially exhausting, both physically and mentally, as people are seemingly so frightened of missing out on something, they simply have to check relentlessly. Yes, there are apps available which can help with this, but switching back to the old reliable dumb phone certainly makes some appeal, and will also probably feel like a breath of fresh air to your state of mind, giving a chance to use both your work and free time, more productively. 

Battery life 

For smartphone owners, constantly charging their device is a daily, sometimes even twice daily necessity. Imagine then, putting charge into a phone and it lasting for upwards of a full week, possibly even two! That is what a dumb phone can offer; not because of superior batteries, but simply due to the fact that with a smaller, power-efficient screen, and no elaborate apps to drain it of all its juice, they use up far less energy. Battery technology has moved on significantly since the early 2000’s, with modern “flips” and “bricks” able to last for weeks on standby. They make for a fantastic option on trips where charging is not always convenient. 


It goes without saying that the dumb phone will be much cheaper than the smartphone, but the crucial aspect to consider is the reliable performance, which is still there, even if all the fancy extras are not. The prices are so low in some cases that they could almost be treated as a disposable device. There are even some of the newer models being introduced which are still able to offer a really good camera, maybe not to the sharp extent of a smartphone, but definitely of decent quality. Additionally, the plans are much cheaper too, so once again it is a win-win situation. 


Smartphones are designed in a really intricate way, but the down side of that is their incredibly sensitive nature. They are being made a little sturdier than earlier versions, but they are still exceptionally delicate in comparison to the dumb phone. These solid blocks are so much less vulnerable to scratches and breaking, they can last for years and they also are much more resistant to extreme temperatures too. 


As the smartphone becomes even more sophisticated, so the size of the devices increase. First generation versions were around the four-inches screen size, but now six inch screens or even bigger are more the average on the market, making them not particularly comfortable to carry around in a trouser pocket. Dumb phones on the other hand are far smaller and weigh much less, making them a much more practicable proposition, in portability terms. The other benefit of the dumb phone is the actual design of the units. The smartphones, for all their capabilities, all look very similar in appearance, because essentially they are all screen, because they can be. The dumb phone however, comes in varying shapes and sizes, with different keyboards, wrap-around casings, and alternative types such as: bar, sliders, or flip phones. 


Any argument on functionality has to come down to what exactly a user is looking for from their device; but for those putting up a case for the resurgence of the dumb phone, they would reason that as long as the phone can make and receive calls and send and receive texts, then it serves its purpose perfectly. All the other functions available on the smartphone can be found elsewhere, although admittedly with a little more inconvenience. Of course there is a valid debate for which one side would suggest having access to everything in one place, on one device, has to be more advantageous, but that reasoning fails to see the negativity in the trade-off, which comes from all the private companies having the ability to profit from selling on customers personal details, previously out of their reach. 


As with most things in life, there is the option of a compromise. Recognising the dumb phone’s return to popularity, designers are getting wise to the possibilities of giving just a little of the smartphone capabilities, in a dumb phone package. With advanced technology, it is now achievable to get a lightweight operating system which will support a small selection of apps and games, including WhatsApp, YouTube, and Google Maps, on a dumb phone. 

Stifling progress? 

Nostalgia is great, but it can sometimes override logic. Those making the case for the dumb phone probably are conveniently forgetting how excited they were back in the day when they purchased their very first phone and showed off all of its “amazing” features. They may in all likelihood, have declared their new device “smart”; but that just shows how technology advances now at such a rapid pace, making previously highly impressive gadgets and devices, quickly look really old and dated. So it is more a case of using rational thinking to decide if changing back to the dumb version is a genuine determination to get rid of unnecessary distractions, or just a yearning for something from a past, which has since moved on for the better. 


There is no doubt, and figures readily available support it, that the dumb phone is making a comeback. Whether that continues to accelerate at its current rate, or levels off remains to be seen. There are environmental implications too, which are likely to receive increased exposure and could further aid the dumb phones popularity, particularly around the battery life issue. Perhaps four or five years ago, most predictions would be for the dumb phone to completely disappear from mainstream, and only be seen on TV or in film, set in a previous decade. Now it definitely seems they can co-exist with the smartphone. What seemed an inevitable procession towards total “smartness”, whilst not being stopped in its tracks as such, has stalled just a little. 

The under thirties will remain firmly in the smart corner, but in twenty years it could well be them who are putting up a fight to return to their current favourites, as technology will inevitably have moved on significantly further still. Digital smart has undoubtedly had an effect on human smart, with many forgetting basic orientation and calculation skills, through over reliance on their smart device. There is definitely an argument for a dumb phone making a smarter person. 

Maybe the only logical solution for those tempted to swap back, but unable to realistically give up on all the smart functions, is to procure a dumb phone, but use it as a second phone; at least then an individual will have a ready made and reliable backup for when the battery on their smartphone packs up… half way through the day!