You’ve probably heard the saying “There’s an app for that…” more times that you can count.
And there’s a good chance you see people staring into their screens everywhere you go.
While the convenience is nice, there’s many who feel we’ve become too absorbed in our smartphones and their endless streams of notifications, social media, and emails.
Mounting evidence shows that “mobile addiction” is a very real thing…
There’s even a term for fear of not being able to use your mobile phone: Nomophobia .
And even if you’re not addicted, there’s the distraction elements to contend with as well.
But let’s face it, just binning your phone completely and going back to a landline isn’t exactly attractive.
Surely there’s a compromise to be found?
For many, going back to basic mobile phones is an attractive balance of easy access to communication tools without the addictive tendencies of modern smartphones.
Let’s explore why you might consider the switch, and the various options for doing so...
Reasons You Might Consider the Switch to a “Dumb Phone”
“It’s not that life is short. It’s that we waste a lot of it.”
1. Breathe Easier
When smartphones first debuted, it was astounding that you could surf the web, chat with friends, check emails, and essentially carry a tiny computer in your pocket.
Then 3G and 4G brought video chats, streaming media, games and more.
Smartphones have quickly become the hub of our daily lives...
But now, people are considering if always being connected to everything is all it’s cracked up to be.
We’re doing more living through our phones and less getting out and living in the world around us.
Consider this data from MobileStatistics.com :
“... the average person spends 90 minutes a day on their phone. That figure may not sound like a lot but that amounts up to 23 days a year and 3.9 years of the average person's life is spent staring at their phone screen.”
Many people believe it’s by design ... that phones are grabbing increasing amounts of our attention on purpose.
And if that sounds like a crazy conspiracy, Co.Design’s coverage of phone addiction might convince you otherwise.
Seth Godin describes this phenomenon well in his blog post “Pavlov’s in Your Pocket .”
So what to do?
The easy fix is just to not mess with any of this stuff.
But, let’s face it, we’re human.
If the fix were that simple, the hold that technology has on most of the public wouldn’t be as strong as it is.
So an easier fix is just to get a basic phone.
If you can’t check your email, play a round of Candy Crush, or flip through Facebook for hours on your phone, you’ll be less tempted to do it at all.
Less distraction, more living… it sounds good to us.
2. Sleep Better
Outside the distraction and stress potential, research shows that the blue light emitted by many electronic screens could be disrupting your body’s natural sleep patterns and causing you to stay up later than you normally would.
While TVs and computers are major offenders, the smaller screen on your phone or tablet isn’t really any better.
Sure, most phones and tablets these days have a blue light filter, night mode, or “eye rest” mode. But the best option is not having a screen you’re scrolling around on by the bed in the first place.
That doesn’t start cover what researchers are discovering staring at these small screens might be doing to our eyes…
A basic phone takes care of this. While it’s still technically a screen, you’re much less likely to spend an evening staring at it. Moreso, there won’t be an endless chain of notifications and temptations lurking nearby.
3. Save Money
How much do you spend each month on your mobile phone bill?
If you’re like most people, there’s a good chance it’s a significant sum. And if you’ve got multiple lines, it’s almost guaranteed we’re talking triple digits.
Aren’t there better things you could putting that money toward? Nights out with friends, weekend getaways, a fancy bottle of scotch?
Turns out, data fees make up a huge portion of today’s phone bills.
What happens when you don’t need a data plan anymore? Well… you pay next to nothing for service!
Many are also more resistant to the drops and dings of daily life.
Not to mention, even the priciest flip phones these days are a fraction of the price of many mid-tier smartphone models. So you’re on the hook for a lot less if you break it, leave it somewhere, or forget it's in your pocket before hitting the pool.
All you have to do is live like it’s 1999 and drop the always-connected mobile tether.
4. Keep Kids Focused
Let’s be honest, as adults, we’re still less than responsible about our screen time and digital distractions. Can you reasonably expect kids to do a better job than we do at keeping things reasonable and balanced?
Recent coverage in FastCompany shows that more experts are calling out mobile phone makers and app developers on the addictive nature of their offerings and how they might be impacting the world’s youth.
Giving the kids a basic phone allows you keep in touch with them, provide them with a private means of talking with friends, and not much else.
No social media, no running up your data bill on YouTube or Netflix, no questionable chats at 3AM with strangers.
Just communication… what phone’s were originally intended to do.
If they show responsibility with a basic phone, maybe an upgrade to
a smartphone is in order, but until then, you can think of it like mobile training wheels.
5. Take Back Your Privacy
Between the recent news of Facebook letting researchers do as they please with data, marketing tools generating more and more data, and increasing reports of security breaches and malware, a basic phone offers a simple way to stop these worries in their tracks.
Of course, it doesn’t matter so much if you drop the smartphone and pick up the computer. But still, there’s more to your mobile data than Facebook likes and vacation photos -- and things even your laptop or PC wouldn’t report about.
Things like your location every few minutes, where you connect to Wi-Fi, what sites you visit while on a break at work, and how those differ from the ones at home.
This story from BGR covers the basics of what Google collects -- and it’s probably more than you think.
And Google isn’t the only offender, Apple has similar systems in place, as well as virtually every social media platform in existence. That doesn’t even look at your messengers, games, and other apps.
It’s the nature of technology today. Many of the most popular platforms today were built on the concept of free access in exchange for your data…
Only we’re just now really grasping exactly what that trade really means.
To make matters worse, there’s only so much that regulators and other groups can do to stop it.
The Outline sums up the dilemma well, saying:
"It is well-documented that policymakers have been incredibly slow to protect people from predatory data use, in part because most are tech-illiterate, and in part because the effects are so abstracted and difficult to measure. (Europe is doing a somewhat better job than the U.S., but tech companies are so powerful and well-resourced, and move so quickly, that it’s almost impossible for a mere government to pin them down. )"
6. It’s Cool
Basic phones -- especially flip phones -- are making a real comeback as people disconnect from an endless stream of notifications, escape a never-ending news cycle, reduce spending, and attempt to simplify their lives .
Examples are everywhere:
Seems, ironically enough, that last decade’s phones could be the next big tech trend.
And while being cool isn’t a great reason by itself to do anything, it comes with a big advantage…
As more people jump on the “dumb phone” bandwagon, there are more options to find a phone that does exactly what you want.
For example, Nokia has brought back its classic 3310 as part of its “Classics” series -- a line of phones inspired by some of their popular releases with a modern redesign. Just be sure to get the 3G versions of their classics or you might find yourself without a signal depending on what network types your local providers use.
If they generate sales, there will be more retro-inspired releases from other brands to follow -- we’re looking at you Moto RAZR v3 .
Also, as they gain popularity, it might not seem as odd to whip out a basic brick or flip open your phone at the next board meeting or at the club.
Something that would draw stares and smirks just a few years ago.
So What Are My Options?
While it'll take the most willpower and adjusting, going cold turkey and ditching your smartphone entirely is the most straightforward option.
If you're looking to make a more gradual transition -- or a way set aside blocks of time to use a simpler option -- the LightPhone is an interesting alternative.
Note: The LightPhone 2 is still in its final days of its
at the time of writing. While it has blown its fundraising goal out of the water, they aren’t expected to ship until April 2019.
Can't bear to give up your smartphone completely -- or simply can't because of work or life requirements?
There's a few smartphone apps available to help minimize distractions and help you be more mindful of the time you spend with your phone.
While we love our phones, we can certainly see the value in disconnecting or simplifying things in an age of information overload.
“I've got a very effective flip phone.”
~ Warren Buffet
Mobile technology is awesome in moderation. There’s no denying that. It provides access to information and communications options that would have seemed like sci-fi ramblings even a few decades ago.
But moderation is important too.
And the more that people look at the principles behind mobile apps, smartphone design, and other considerations, the more it’s obvious that much of this is designed to keep users coming back for more… and more... and more.
Moderation is hard enough when the game isn’t rigged in the house’s favor.
Even if you stick with your mobile phone as your everyday carry, basic phones are affordable enough that you can always keep a spare phone and SIM, then swap back and forth as the situation requires.
Keep your email and apps for work or running your business and break out the simple phone when with family and friends.
In the end, it’s all about finding the right balance for your lifestyle and desires.
P.S. We’d love to hear from you. If you’ve made the switch to a dumb phone, what phone did you choose? Why did you make the switch? How did it go? Can’t fathom the idea of life without your smartphone? We’d love to hear from you too!