Why You Should Switch to a Dumb Phone
Overview of Smart and Dumb Phones
There are 500 million smart phone users in the world today. But, there are 6 billion cell phone subscribers in the world. A short round of mental math reveals that there are around 5.5 billion dumb phone users in the world.
"Dumb phone," "Feature phone," and "Basic Phone." These are all the names that non-smart telecommunication devices go by in today's world. A smart phone is defined by its ability to rapidly connect to the internet and present features above and beyond the most basic apps and games. Thus, a basic phone is typically more focused on making phone calls, sturdiness, and conserving battery.
The number of smart phones is growing significantly with each passing year and if you have a TV, radio, or an internet connection, you have noticed that cell phone companies are trying very hard to compete with each other's latest offerings in the world of smart phones: Bigger screens! Better cameras! More connectivity!
Our move toward "smartness" may seem inevitable and unstoppable...but, I'd like to suggest that this does not have to be the case. Instead, smart phones can and will continue to exist alongside basic phones. And maybe, just maybe, you might belong on the other side of the market without even realizing it.
What Makes Dumb Phones Better Than Smart Phones
It is easy to imagine the advantages that even the simplest smart phone has over the most advanced dumb phone. But, it may be much more difficult to realize the other side of the coin. This is just a sample list of the benefits of "switching back":
- Underrated features: GPS, Battery life, and Call Quality
- Coolness factor
- Radiation/health concerns
Cost of a Basic Phone
Arguably the most attractive feature of any basic phone, the gap in price points between smart phones and basic phones is growing every year. Some of the most high-end smart phones (like the iPhone 5 and Galaxy Note 2) can cost upwards of $700 without a contract.
The price of the highest rated basic phone on CNET.com is $250, fresh out of the box. That's a huge difference right out of the gate. Now, as you know, many carriers offer steep discounts for customers agreeing to sign or renew a one or two year contract, bringing the prices to the sub-$350 area. But, these carriers do the same for basic phones with very, very few costing more than $50 with a contract. The majority of feature phones cost much less than that even.
Then, we must consider the price of the plan.
First, because of the contracts mentioned above, the vast majority of smart phones are not able to be used on a "Pay-as-you-go" basis--statistically the most cost-effective cell phone plans around. This leads to a two year contract at a set rate with the average American's price being around $70 per month for talk, unlimited text, and a small amount of data. This is where things get complicated for smart phone users.
The major carriers in the U.S. like Verizon and AT&T charge an extra $30 for around 2 GB of data (sometimes this is shared amongst a family of users). Research shows that most American smart phone users do not even use half of that in a month's time. It is estimated that the average smart phone user pays at least $2300 per year for his plan, data, and phone.
Then, add in the cost of overage charges, app downloads (1/4 of purchased apps are only opened once), taxes, fees, and insurance and this cost can easily rise to over $3000 each and every year.
On the other hand, a pre-paid, unlimited basic phone covered by Verizon wireless is only $50 per month, and it would take over $400 dollars in fees, roaming charges, and ringtone purchases to get the "per year cost" to go over $1000.
That's a savings of at least $1,500 per year.
The Nokia 3310 (Indestructible Phone)
The Smartphone repair industry makes over 1 billions dollars every year in the U.S. alone.
There are no "Basic Phone Repair Industry" statistics available.
Smartphones are intricately designed, incredibly sensitive devices.They also have large, glass screens covering at least 50% of their body. Many of them (including the iPhone) are not even designed to be opened up by the consumer. To prove basic phone's superiority in this category, I have posted a video here showing what an early-2000s dumb phone is capable of taking.
As our world becomes more connected over the internet and new forms of social media invade our everyday lives and new e-mails flood our smart phones within seconds of one another, we need to interact with the world around us...less. Who needs to talk to the other people on the bus when we can dive into our pockets for a thirty minute session of Fruit Ninja? Why spend a family car ride to the grocery store talking about school when your family members can just tweet about how much they dislike each other?
Our smartphones have replaced the need for real, meaningful human interaction with shallow Facebook posts and uninspired text messages. The people around us take a back seat to the people in our pockets. Which is, to be honest, very sad.
Yes, being able to look up our location on the globe in real-time is awesome and being able to instantly Google how many Eastern Conference Finals games Scottie Pippen played in is also super convenient. But, when do we leave ourselves a chance to get lost or a chance to wonder about the conclusion of an argument? I'm not trying to preach here, but there is something about the world of the smart phone that tends to consumer our thoughts and minds in a very scary way.
This is the beauty of a feature phone. Never again will you be texting rudely during a conversation or checking your e-mail as your frustrated children beg you to play one more round of Rock Band. Dumb phones stay dumb for a reason. You are difficult to reach with a dumb phone. You receive calls and texts on a dumb phone that you can easily silence and ignore. Can you say the same about the pile of smartphone notifications battling for your attention every second of every day?
And, another amazing feature of the basic phone that the smart phone does not offer: you don't ever feel lost when you have to turn it off.
Please watch the Apple commercial above, if you haven't already, and try to see how often people turn away from the beautiful world around them so that they can look back into a glass screen (many people on the blogosphere have taken issue with this video before me).
Another Cell Phone Option
Underrated Features of the Basic Phone
Three main features come to mind when I think about the basic phones of today:
GPS, battery life and call quality.
Many people argue that they cannot get rid of their smart phone because they rely on it for Google/Apple Maps and turn-by-turn navigation. However, all basic phones have at least a limited GPS feature and the majority of newer basic phones offer this turn-by-turn service without a data plan.
As far as batteries go, the Galaxy Note 2 is touted as having one of the biggest and best batteries in the cell phone market today. It's a Lithium Ion monster at 3100 mAh. Some users even report being able to go an entire night without a charge. Some basic phones have specifics listing a standby battery life of over 500 hours. Many users report being able to go over a week without a single recharge. For a battery-obsessed individual like myself, that sounds like heaven.
Since phones used to be mainly used for...well, placing calls, it only makes sense that all phone makers would focus on this feature first and build the phone around it. This is not the case for smart phones as many of today's most popular models rank surprisingly low on tests of call quality. Today's basic phones, on the other hand, are often mistaken for land-line calls because of their crisp sound and appropriate volume.
Also, don't get me started on the benefits of the physical keyboard...
Health and Radiation Issues with Smartphones
Though many within the cell phone industry have dismissed any link between smart phones and cancer, the U.S. government has placed a limit on the SAR level of cell phones, which is basically a limit on the amount of radiation that can come out of the phone. Many smart phones (including iPhones and especially Blackberrys) are rated in 1.1-1.9 range for SAR. 2.0 is the legal limit.
No modern basic phone that I have found exceeds a .6 rating.
Coolness Factor of Dumb Phones
What's the only thing cooler than doing what everyone else is doing? NOT doing it.
Just look at everything about the world of hipsters. The basic creed of Hipsterism is "don't do what everyone is doing." If everyone is beginning to shift toward smart phones, it only makes sense that the absolute coolest members of society are the ones who are saving money, being socially aware of their surroundings, and cutting down on radiation. All of this while using an indestructible version of a product that everyone else thinks they are too cool for now.
What could be cooler than that?