Smartphones have become more than just a minor distraction. Swiping social media all day is mentally and physically exhausting, but it’s almost unavoidable because we’re all addicted to our phones. And while certain apps can help you curb your phone usage, maybe it’s time to just ditch the smartphone and use an old-fashioned “dumb” phone.
Limited Functions, Limited Distractions
There’s an app for everything, and that’s the problem with smartphones. As you’ve probably guessed, old-fashioned feature phones are extremely limited, which is why they’re less of a distraction than your iPhone or Android device. You can’t sit on Instagram for two hours if your phone doesn’t work with Instagram.
Now flip phones and brick phones are a bit more advanced than they used to be. Several dumb phones run on 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 becoming a major distraction. It also helps that dumb phones have small screens. You may be a champion of YouTube binge watching, but staring at a small screen just isn’t that much fun.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many dumb phones without KaiOS. You can’t really avoid the OS without buying prepaid.
There are plenty of feature phones that don’t support KaiOS, including the Light Phone, which is so bare that it has a black and white screen. Still, I think most people prefer a dumb phone with a bit of brains – pulling out Google Maps when you’re lost is a lot easier than eavesdropping on a stranger for directions.
And just to be clear, using a dumb phone doesn’t have to be a full-time commitment. For example, if you want to focus on your family on the weekend, you can simply remove the SIM card from your smartphone and insert it into an old-fashioned flip phone.
Weeks of battery life—Yes, weeks!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 charge; more than a smartphone, but that’s to be expected as smartphones have big screens and addictive apps.
Modern flip phones and brick phones have crazy battery life. The Nokia 3310 4G has a talk time of 22 hours and can stand by for a whole month. Most users will get weeks of battery from these and other dumb phones even with regular use.
If you use a Bluetooth headset on the phone all day long, you will see a more modest battery life. They charge their feature phone every day or two. Still, that’s better than what you get with a smartphone – it’s insane.
Even if you’re not interested in the distraction-free lifestyle of an old-fashioned cell phone, battery life is a huge selling point. That’s part of the reason why feature phones are still a popular option for workplaces, camping trips, and other situations where charging isn’t always convenient.
Dumb phones are really affordableNokia
This isn’t much of a shock; dumb phones are cheaper than sin. The average flip phone or brick phone only costs $50, and that’s when you buy them new. A used flip phone may cost less than a trip to McDonald’s, and if you qualify for an upgrade, your carrier may even give you one for free.
Some of the more expensive flip phones, like the Alcatel Go Flip 4, can cost between $70 and $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 tag, dumb phones aren’t worthless or poorly made. They have bright and modern screens, they support Bluetooth and of course they are built like tanks.
The only problem with old-fashioned cell phones, from a quality standpoint, is that their cameras stink. 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 have a cheap digital camera with you if you want to take decent photos on the go.
Can you reuse a really old phone?Mehaniq/Shutterstock.com
If you’re old enough to buy beer, there’s probably an old flip phone or brick phone sitting in the corner of your closet. But don’t worry about that relic. Even if it works today, it won’t work for long.
Carriers are currently shutting down their 3G networks, meaning most flip phones (including those made during the early iPhone era) are basically paperweights. They cannot call or text without a 3G signal.
Now, this situation may be disappointing for some people, but it’s not a big deal. New dumb phones are affordable, have nice bright screens, and can last for weeks on a single charge. They are much more pleasant to use than a 15-year-old Nokia.
Besides, old phone batteries have a habit of swelling and can become a fire hazard. If you’ve been holding an old phone, I suggest you check the battery for signs of swelling or bending. You can take the old battery (or the entire phone) to Best Buy for recycling if needed.
Which Dumb Phone Should You Buy?TCL
Buying a feature phone is a lot easier than it used to be. Not just because of the price, but because there aren’t many options to choose from. Your carrier may only offer one or two dumb phones, and even if you’re looking for an unlocked device, there are only a handful of options to choose from.
For those who still want access to apps such as YouTube and Google Maps, a KaiOS device is the right choice. The Nokia 225 is a popular and affordable option in this space, although I recommend the more expensive Alcatel Go Flip 4 if you specifically want a flip phone. (None of these phones support Verizon’s networks. If you want a KaiOS phone on Verizon, the TCL FLIP Pro is your best option.)
If you want to avoid apps completely, you’ll need to shop with a prepaid carrier or buy a used 4G feature phone, such as the Nokia 3310 4G (which has been discontinued). One of the better prepaid options I’ve seen is the UScellular ANS F30, which is shockingly cheap at Walmart.
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