Dumbphones Are Not The Answer To Smartphone Addiction

We look at the constantly rising numbers for smartphone adoption and just sort of assume that sooner or later, everyone's going to get on board with this thing. But there are some people, young people, who are sticking to dumbphones, and cutting ties with their smartphones. And it's kind of dumb.

Here's the basic thrust of the Times' piece:

Though my phone elicits stares...I'm just one member of a small but hardy contingent (a convoy, if you will) of smartphone holdouts, people who seem like the ideal iPhone owner (under 40, urban, professional) but shun it and its app-friendly cousins for a low-tech "dumbphone."

Yep. Pretty insufferable.

The thing is, yes, smartphone overuse is a real issue. But trading that in for another, less capable mobile device doesn't solve it. It just creates a different kind of disadvantage.

When you dump your smartphone for a more primitive model, you're losing real, valuable, potentially essential tools — maps, search, email when you actually need email. During a disaster, like a local tornado warning, a Twitter app could potentially save your life.

Of course a smartphone can be overused. But the answer isn't just tying off an artery and amputating the damn thing. Just change your routine, or your settings, to filter out the noise.

The more bizarre side of the backlash is the sight of people using accessories to make their smartphones look like extremely primitive telecom machines. This is the dumbphones-are-the-new-typewriters side. The NYT story points out that Urban Outfitters sells an obnoxious retro-80s-iPhone case. But really, why stop there? People have been trying their darnedest to make a smartphone look stupid for a long time.

If you don't want distraction, just disconnect completely. Using a dumbphone to seem above the fray is worse than even the most idiotic smartphone accessory. [NY Times via The Times Is on It via Drew Magary]

Original Image Credit: Sally Ryan and Emily Berl for New York Times



    "Dumb" phones can still do email and web browsing and phones have always had games, etc. The difference is nowhere near as big as you're making it out to be here. The main thing that used to make phones nonviable for internet-related stuff was network speed. I'd happily go back to a feature phone if someone came out with one that appealed to me. If I didn't need to be able to make and receive phone calls, I wouldn't have a phone at all and I don't see how my life would be any less rich for it.

      You sound like an old person

    What an excellent idea. I'm also going to downgrade to a horse and cart and have the electricity cut off.

    And while I'm at it I'll also start supporting The Coalition's alternative broadband policy (the last thing we want to do is access data quickly on the government's NBN!)

    You wouldn't have the wealth of human knowledge in your pocket for a start...

      Really??? Why do you think its important to have "the wealth of human knowledge in your pocket"? Is it really essential to have all of that information at your fingertips 24/7? If I don't know something, I can wait until I'm at home or work to find the answer.

      In reality, you only think you need access to all that information.

        Really? I use my phone many times a day for work related questions. Saves me hours of time that would be spent walking/driving back to the office to look up. In the last few days alone I've used mine for converting wire gauge sizes from AWG to mm (not many people could do that off the top of their head, thank you wolfram alpha), finding out what size wire to use for a give amperage, comparing disease symptoms in plants in the field to pictures from the net, looking up suitable pesticides and fungicides, checking the weather on 3 different sites and updating our database. I'm sure there are more.

          OK, so dumb sheeple need smartphones but smart sheeple can get by with dumb phones just fine. Problem solved!

          LOL, congratulations on not being able to use a book.

          I do the same things at work, amperage for cables, cross sectional area is another one that I need to know for various conductors. But I don't look at the internet, I look at the A4 sheet of paper that I have with a massive list of them on it.

            @Chris - I can only assume you have a large a4 folder of all possible calculations you could ever need that you carry around with you everywhere you go.

    So someone makes a different choice to you, a tech writer and therefore they are dumb?

    Open your eyes, the world is more than an inconvenient object to be navigated and photographed by your iPhone. Its full of people and places and practices that have existed for a long time before 3g was implemented. Maybe there is just a certain percentage of the population who realise that you can actually live a normal daily life without a Twitter app. Its crazy I know, but just imagine it for one second before you send out your latest DrawSomething sketch.

      You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means

        @ MotorMouth

    "Essential tools" and "Twitter app could potentially save your life"...what happened to common sense and making a phone call when you need help?

    What would be a good innovation is the idea of the phone for every occasion. Like I have several watches and thumb rings etc I like the idea of a phone that perhaps caters for a specific purpose. Whilst my Smartphone is great for day to day use especially when catching a train I would certainly like the idea of an uber miniamilistic small phone for time when carrying less (In both size and weight) is a big plus.

    This is why I find the whole SIM card thing a little weird in the current age, surely we can do away with our SIMS and just download from the cloud our telephony profile into specific devices as required.

      I would think that the SIM card paradigm would suit your needs more perfectly than relying on the Cloud: you just swap the SIM into the appropriate device and off you go.

    The battery life of smartphones is a daily reminder that life could be much simpler without a smartphone... I just hate typing on the old ones so much that I'll probably stick with the smartphone.

    There won't be many dumb phones around for long without full smart-phone capability.
    Eg. Nokia's Asha phones come with Angry birds, whatsapp push IM, Corporate email calendaring and contact syncing (mail for exchange) with full push email support, about 100,000 apps in the app store. There isn't much difference between that and a smart phone. No 3D acceleration though :)

      Oh yeah, and facebook and twitter integration

    Featurephones are nearly as feature-rich as smartphones these days - the key difference is that they have extremely limtied multitasking; and they generally only support Java applications to extend their functionality. The tradeoff is that you get excellent battery life and durability for a low price.

    If a user honestly doesn't need all the advanced features of a smartphone and doesn't want to (or can't) plug the thing in every day, maybe a featurephone is the right choice.

    There are a few reasons that people don't need smartphones, and top of the list is that social media is dumb. I don't need to tweet my location or update my facebook status, I'm interested in living life not wasting my time telling strangers and acquaintances about my life. I have a smartphone purely for the GPS so using a normal phone wouldn't be a big change for me, just would need to buy a GPS for the car.

      I agree. Smartphones are made for the 'Me' generation. The marketing people have convinced us that we need to be in touch with everyone and everything every moment of the day and that simply isn't the case. I have a smartphone, an iPhone 4S, and it rarely gets used. I make maybe one or two calls per week and receive about the same. I send a similar amount of text messages. I almost never use any of the smartphone features like surfing the web or updating facebook. That's stuff really isn't urgent and if you believe it is, then your simply a victim of marketing or suffer from NPD.

    I kinda miss the pre smart phone days. When you could have an discussion in a pub about something without pulling out your phone and finding the answer in seconds, going to the local telephone box to talk to girls where your parents couldn't hear, not having pictures of yourself defecating in gutter put on Facebook (joking) But really we live in the now, a friend of mine went to a parent teacher thing about Cyber Bullying and kept saying "in my day" and the teacher said "Your day doesn't exist, either you embrace the now and the future or you are sure to be left behind." So embrace your smartphones, for they are the future!

    I agree with the I dont need to tell everyone where/what/who I'm with/doing/ being /having .
    There's a certain hassle with someone saying they're with you at location B when you're not there and a certain smuggness to the use of smart phones too..... Imagine if the web colapsed .......and you actually had to wait for news or information ..........
    I remember the days of using a phone with a dial on it and the importance of paper how bout you yes we need tech but your phone cant change a flat tyer or tell you how if it's batteries flat ! sure you can ring someone or find out but then it's charged and you are just copping out aren't you !

    The day twitter saves me from a tornado I will eat my hat.

    Check out this gangster phone, it is the dumbest of all phones and I bet you kind want the gold one...

    I carry an Android (Galaxy S II) and a windows phone 7 (HTC Trophy 7) Solves my smart and dumb phone dilemma

    Wow, that's a lot of hate towards people who decide not to upgrade their phone every 18 months.

    T9 and SMS is pretty much all I need. I find it much easier without a touch screen. Don't need twitter and facebook on the go. I already sit in front of a computer all day at work why would I need it in my pocket as well? I'm not going to miss anything.

    Who knew Gizmodo of all places would have its fair share of smartphone Luddites? :)

    Oh and people that think Twitter is just about tweeting what you're up to, obviously don't even understand how to use it. Twitter is more of a real time information service than a social network. I use it in combination with RSS feeds to keep track of what's happening around the world. Twitter, like all good Internet tools, is exactly what you make it.

    Say what you will about dumb phone users, but it's always good to have an old Nokia lurking around simply because they will last until the end of time. A good backup emergency phone.

    The number of comments is a good indication that there is still a market for simple phones....with current technology they should be thinner and smaller. I am waiting for a watch phone the size of a nano.... It only needs to sms and make calls

    When they invent a bluetooth (or other protocol) earpiece that doesn't make you look like a tool (like those cool ear clips in the alternate universe of Fringe) then I will consider dropping the iPhone (on occasion) for a simpler phone....preferably with Siri...who I love...

    Maybe I'm just the odd one out but I don't use my smartphone for social media at all(although I don't use it at home either) for me its about access to information and flexibility. Access to bank accounts if I've forgotten to load up the visa debt card, location of nearest servo, cloud music services the list goes on. Sounds more like people are finally getting tired of the invasion of privacy that they call Facebook

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