The smart choice? Why creatives should switch to a dumb phone

Reclaim your life from smartphone addiction by using a dumb phone instead. We give you tips on how to switch and good options to buy.

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

We've all heard the phrase 'smartphone'. In fact, some of us have grown up knowing no other type of phone. And while we're vaguely aware that older, less internet-capable phones are still out there, we tend to presume that the only people who want to own one are either drug dealers, technophobes, or people who just don't understand tech.

So it may surprise you to learn that recently, there's been a small surge in younger people choosing to ditch their smartphones in favour of so-called "dumb phones."

It's a bit like how after being replaced by CDs and then streaming, vinyl became cool again; fashions are always circular, after all. But there are also serious, functional reasons to want to own a dumb phone, ranging from concerns over privacy and excessive screen time to worries about mental health and the rise of scams.

While you'd expect the creative community to have most need of a smartphone, even here, whispers are starting to spread. We held a recent poll of Creative Boom readers, and 16 per cent of you told us you'd bought a dumb phone in the last 12 months, while 46% were thinking about swapping their smartphone for one.

So what exactly is a dumb phone, and why are people increasingly drawn to these retro devices? Read on as we explore this phenomenon and discuss the potential benefits of switching to a dumb phone for creatives.

What is a dumb phone?

A dumb phone is a basic mobile phone reminiscent of the devices some of us will remember from the 1990s and early 2000s. These phones offer limited functionality and are typically restricted to making and receiving calls and texts. Some models even lack GPS capabilities, so they cannot be tracked.

In a world where smartphones have become an indispensable part of our lives, dumb phones harken back to a simpler time, free from the distractions and complexities of the modern age. Dumb phone batteries also last a lot longer - sometimes for weeks - making them a good choice if you're off in the wilderness.

Also, dumb phones tend to be more rugged and durable than smartphones, so if you've spent a lot of money repairing broken smartphone screens like this clumsy writer, that's another good reason to consider one.

Why the sudden surge in demand?

There are several reasons for the recent surge in demand for dumb phones. For one, privacy concerns have been growing, with smartphone users increasingly worried about their data being collected and exploited. In comparison, dumb phones offer a level of anonymity and security that their smart counterparts cannot match.

Additionally, there are always people longing for a sense of nostalgia and seeking refuge in simpler times amidst the challenges of recent years, a desire to escape the constant influx of information, notifications, and online noise. Sounds nice, doesn't it?

Which dumb phones do we recommend?

Considering making the leap to a dumb phone? Then the good news is that there's tons of choice, with a wide range of models that cater to different needs and preferences. Here are our top 10 of the best dumb phones available today.

1. Nokia 2720 V Flip: This flip phone comes with a classic design, 4G support and Facebook, but otherwise is designed for phoning and texting rather than internet use. This phone includes a senior-friendly, large button keypad and an emergency contact button and offers up to 26 days' battery life.

2. Nokia 8210: This iconic model known for its compact size and durability has now upgraded with 4G along with a basic camera, an inbuilt MP3 player and wireless radio. Talking and texting is easy thanks to a big display and simple interface, and you'll get weeks of battery life.

3. Light Phone II: The clue's in the name. This premium, minimal phone is designed to be used as little as possible: pretty much all it does is call and text. It also comes with an e-paper screen (like on a Kindle), which makes it easy to read in bright light. You can listen to music via a headphone jack or Bluetooth, and it can also be used as a personal hotspot.

4. Punkt MP02: Here's another sleek and elegant dumb phone that focuses on simplicity. It uses the Signal protocol to provide free, encrypted internet-based calls and texts worldwide via Wi-Fi or mobile data. But it's purposely not designed to let you access the web on your phone; instead, you can use it as a hotspot for your tablet or laptop.

5. Doro 6820: Specifically designed for seniors, this phone offers large buttons, an emergency button, and enhanced accessibility features such as an easy-to-read display and loud sound.

6. Cat B35: Off on a hike? This rugged dumb phone is designed for outdoor enthusiasts, featuring a durable design and useful tools like a flashlight and a camera. It's waterproof to a depth of 1.2 metres for up to 35 minutes and can deal with repeated drops from 1.8 metres to concrete.

7. Nokia 3310: Another modern take on a classic, this 3G phone boasts a retro design, customisable UI, long battery life, and the beloved game Snake.

8. Unihertz Jelly 2E: Want a simple phone that's nice and compact? This mini marvel is as small as a credit card and offers basic functionalities such as Android apps and games.

9. Sonim XP3plus: Built to withstand harsh conditions, this durable phone offers robust features and reliable communication capabilities. With large, tactile volume controls and easy-to-use Push-to-Talk, it's a phone you can use while wearing gloves.

10 Nokia 6310: A reimagined version of the Nokia classic, featuring a modern design, long battery life, and enhanced durability. Built into a tough shell, this phone offers a battery that lasts weeks between charges and the classic mobile game Snake.

Tips for turning your smartphone into a dumb phone

Scared of the unknown? If ditching your smartphone isn't for you, here are some tips on making it more "dumb" and helping you regain control of your life.

The first and most obvious trick is to delete your browser. (Yes, who knew you could do that?). That means you won't be able to doom-scrolling when bored: you'll have to find something more interesting to do instead. Or just be alone with your thoughts. Try it: you might like it.

In a similar vein, think about removing distracting apps from your phone. For instance, do you really need to check Facebook 50 times a day? (Answer: you don't). This will provide the bonus of making your phone run faster. Admittedly, your phone may not let you delete some apps, but you can always disable them, which adds up to the same thing.

If you really can't bear to delete apps, then at least switch off the notifications of everything but the text and phone features. Tell people if they need to contact you, they'll need to text or phone. This is exactly what I've done for years, and I'd highly recommend it. Spoiler alert: most of the time, most people don't bother, which is a sign that the message wasn't that important anyway.

If all that sounds a bit much, and you're an iPhone user, you can dip your toe in the water by using Focus mode. This is an easy way to customise your settings and choose when you want to receive alerts and notifications while letting other people and apps know when you're busy. For instance, if you want to stay fully connected during work hours but switch off from communications after hours, it makes this super-easy.


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