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?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Dave on May 01, 2018:
5.5 billion people out of 8 billion use flip phones? I call bs.
Ajay G on April 26, 2018:
Our Future is going to be more complicated with such gadgets ahead, great writing loved your article Whatsapp Ban Under 16 year of age
Richard O'Connell on March 21, 2018:
You keep your smart phone and I will keep my flip talk only phone. If I need you I will call if it is not vital I may write a letter. I really do not like getting a message every few monutes on where you are and or what you are doing. Save it for something really special and or serious. "I'm at McD's having a big mac"........ P.S. I.m not interested. So you keep your smart phone for dummies and I will continue to not be impressed.
Lillian Pictor on March 09, 2018:
The thing is, it is harder to text people on a simple phone. While I think people abuse their phones I also realize that they are a part of normal life and not going away. Every time there is a new invention some people are afraid of it. It was the same with the first landlines. We need to learn to use our phones in a more harmonious manner.
help me on February 21, 2018:
thank u for the help
Champ on February 04, 2018:
As I've gotten older, the cheaper I've gotten. However I do agree and disagree on this article. Because everything in life has a pro and a con. Pro:Yes as long as you can text and talk then you should be just fine with an old school dumb phone. The battery does last longer.In which I totally understand because that's how I feel when it comes to saving money with phones. Con: It does not have a navigational system in which is a must now a days. It also does not have a gmail app. It does not have a recording camera. It does not have a blue tooth. Pro: Smart phones I can check my gmail on my smart phone w/o having to wait until I get round my computer or tablet. I most definitely need my navigational system when traveling. Smart phones have recording cameras and have caught people on camera who have committed crimes toward innocent people. For instance police killing and assaulting innocent unarmed people and they can not lie about it because they were caught on camera. You can get on your internet wherever whenever w/o having to go thru the hassle of pulling out a tablet or computer and waiting for it to turn esp.if you just need to be on the internet a quick second. In which "google" is great to have in a quick convenient way on your smart phone. For instance where the nearest restaurant, gas station,etc is located. The app."Yelp" comes in great handy for finding places. It has multiple blue tooth's. Con: Battery goes dead faster. Phones are very expensive. Getting to the touchscreen dial buttons and pressing the wrong number is quite frequent compared to a dial button on a dumb phone. They both do some good. But if you don't need all of the pros I mentioned in the smart phones then stick or get a dumb phone. However upgrading to a new smart phone every 1yr or 2 is unnecessary. Because if you can do all of the pros I mentioned in the smart phone then sticking to the same smart phone will do you just fine. I have Galaxy 4 that I purchased in 2014 (4yrs.ago this year) and it still does all of those pros. I just bought a new battery for it ($41) so that it can last me another 4yrs. Just take care of your phones and you'll be just fine with saving money regardless.
skar on October 04, 2017:
nice article man
Aiber from Philippines. on August 12, 2017:
This article is absolutely true, i never thought that nobody really cares in making such an article in the present where smartphones are dominant. i am a person who actually consider the balanced of everything, i prefer dumb phones (as they said) even thought i have a lot of money to buy a smartphones.
Justin on July 12, 2017:
Mitch if you think spending $200 on your phone was "using 1/2 your brain" you would be correct. I used my whole brain I bought my flip phone for 20 bucks.
Rose on April 15, 2017:
I still use my Nokia 2330 Classic now. I have a smartphone, but I don't enjoy using it. Feature phone and notebook is the best combination for me.
Josie on March 06, 2017:
I'm a youngish grandma with lots of people in the smartphone world around me, but I love my old slide phone--it is so easy to text, long battery life, and easy to take and make calls. What else is a phone for? Well, it would be nice to have photos of my grandkids on it, but I have my computer. The only other drawback is that it doesn't receive certain group texts--all I get is a blank screen. Nonetheless, I stick to it. Nice to think it might be the "cool" thing to do--haha!
Mitch on December 22, 2016:
If people used their brains for an extra 1/2 second they wouldn't have to pay so much for plans and premium devices. My Oneplus One is 2 over years old and still functions wonderfully, purchased used for $200 - gee that's less than a "feature" phone mentioned in this article. My prepaid plan on H2O wireless is $27/month (unlimited everything, 3 gigs 4g speeds on ATT MVNO) - oh my goodness that's also cheaper than the plan mentioned in this article! As far as social etiquette goes, people could also stand to pull their heads out of their asses more often. It isn't that hard to ignore emails and other types of messages. If it's that important they'll call. Ditch Facebook. Turn unimportant notifications on silent. Go for more walks. Paint more pictures. Meet friends for beer more often. You can do all this while having a connected device in your pocket. This article is for moron's who don't understand how to have a more balanced life so they tip to one extreme or the other.
John on November 23, 2016:
I'm an IT guy and I can't stand smartphones. The entire concept to me is stupid and evil. All I want is a reliable phone with long battery life to make and receive calls. That's it. The rest is candy for addicts. Good luck with your smart phone calling an ambulance when you are in an accident covered in blood hanging upside down in your car.
Nikki on October 22, 2016:
Hi. I really appreciate this post: thank you. Are you able to recommend a phone to me? I want to downgrade from my iphone. The only features I want are (1) a camera on the phone; (2) GPS (I get lost all the time); (3) texting; (4) phone calls. I don't need anything else.
I didn't this limited package was possible until reading your post. But I still don't know where to start. Do you know of any phones that fit this bill? Thank you--I really appreciate your time.
waynevan on October 15, 2016:
My mum keeps hounding about when I'm gonna ditch the Nokia 230 and get a smartphone. Truth is I tried one for a month last year and wasn't very good at it. Every time I've saved enough money for one I've found something else I either wanted or needed to spend the money on, like travelling, a new bass (wanted) or last week a new set of tyres (needed). Meanwhile the Nokia does all I require of it.
Will.diaz on October 05, 2016:
I've been thinking like crazy about keeping my iPhone or going back to a basic phone ... I feel like I depend on this iPhone to much ..makes me feel like I can't live with out it.. I need to get out of this connected feeling ... time for this guy leave this iphone and go back to my roots were a cell phone is just for calls .. and not my everyday life style ... this article helped a lot ....thank you :)
Yves on September 30, 2016:
Great article. I do have a smartphone and I recently purchased a new one but for everyday use I still prefer a "buttonphone" and I must admit I'm a bit disappointed in my new smartphone. It cost me quite a bit and it doesn't even have it's own music player! If you try to add a contact it states something like "you can link the contact to g... account". But as there's no other option you actually must link it (or delete the account(s), create the contact and then, if you want, install the account again but the OS doesn't tell you that for some reason). It seems "smart"phones nowadays are all about cloud services and big companies not about best user experience. Of course there's a billion apps out there, but I only need about ten apps that my "dumb"phone had and I think being able to use your phone right out of the box and without internet plan is an important part of user experience.
Jamie on September 29, 2016:
I'm switching from a smart phone to a basic phone but I really enjoy the touch screen texting. Does anyone know of a basic phone with this capability? Thanks!
Lucy on September 24, 2016:
Excellent article. I am a smart phone convert but seriously consider getting our children feature phones in a year or so and not smart. It would be great if they started to be called 'cool phones' not dumb phones. May make them a little more attractive. Wish there was a basic phone movement, Facebook group. Less screen time for kids is important.
SP Freely on September 21, 2016:
It defeats the purpose of making the case for basic, feature phones, when you are spending several hundred dollars on one, about the same cost as a fairly decent smartphone. The price you quoted will make users think they are better off going for the fully featured handset. If you really wanted to win readers around to using a feature phone, then really demonstrating how inexpensive they can be would have worked greatly to your advantage. For instance, here in the UK I happened to spend £10 on the Nokia 215, which has turned out to be one of the most impressive feature phones I have purchased in a long long time. In addition to an impressive camera, multimedia features and the basics you would come to expect i.e. calendar, calculator, alarm, torch, the phone also has apps for Bing Search, Facebook and Facebook Messenger and Twitter. I do recommend anyone reading this comment to buy this phone.
Random Person on August 23, 2016:
Finally some people use "Dumb" phones like me in this generation. (sorry if there is any spelling or grammar mistakes)
Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on October 02, 2015:
Sigh; As one who has commented here I guess you'll regard me also as 'blinded to the usefulness and potential of a smartphone'. I think to be honest, most of us can recognise all the possible benefits which a smartphone offers over a basic phone - we just have different views as to whether these facilities are necessary for us, or worth the extra cost and hassle. Some people seem to find their little electronic pacifiers quite indispensible, and appear to be incapable of surviving for more than a few minutes on this planet without staring at them, pressing buttons, and scrolling from window to window. Others of us seem able to survive without the need to do this. But it is just a matter of personal opinion 'Sigh', and you, me and Noah Driver, are all entitled to express our own.
However, after what seems like some well-reasoned if debatable points of view, I think your real attitude on this is exposed by your final two paragraphs which are frankly very silly and over the top. I don't think Noah Driver is 'forcing his opinion on you' ( you know I believe it is technologically possible for you to avoid reading his opinions if you wish?) As for comparing his article about this subject to religious indoctrination - well, I shake my head. It's just NOT that serious!! I can only conclude from the offence you take, that you have shares and a vested interest in 'Apple' or 'Samsung'? If not, I'd advise you download a 'lighten-up app' (I assume there is now one of those available for smartphones?)
B the way, like you, I also have a watch. It cost me about $40 and it does everything I want to to do. It tells me the time :) Alun
Maribel on June 01, 2015:
I'm also switching back to a dumb phone as well. I have one laying in a drawer, but doesn't have battery n might get a new charger. I think smartphones are a scam, they are easy to break n has a short battery life. Dumb phones win! I don't freakin need a smartphone, I have a tablet and a computer so that's enough
An on January 22, 2015:
I still have a dumb phone which does talk & text just fine. I was given an iPhone 4s and while it's nice with its camera, some apps and music capability, I haven't activated it yet as a phone and am still using my dumb phone. I just don't see any reason for having a smart phone when I get by fine with my dumb phone and my laptop. Thank you for your article; it reinforces my decision and makes me feel good about it.
Grdi on January 18, 2015:
A powerful share, I just given this onto a cllueagoe who was doing just a little evaluation on this. And he in actual fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I really feel strongly about it and love studying more on this topic. If potential, as you turn into experience, would you mind updating your weblog with extra details? It's extremely helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!
Peter on September 20, 2014:
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Now I don`t feel like a dinosaur any longer.
I was searching the net for reasons to get a smartphone, thinking there must be something that I had been missing. And what do I find A reason to stay dumb, perhaps with a more-up-to date model.
Camera - thank I already got one with a lot more features than any smartphone can offer. And I don`t do selfies, anyway.
mp3 player - I hate mp3, and I don`t like to listen to music on the go.
Games - still trying to fight my adiction to Spider Solitaire
You said, don`t get me started on the keyboard. Excuse me, but I must.
Maybe a short history lesson in on order. The QWERTY layout was developed for typewriters. No, not the electric type-writer, the mechanical kind. The one where, when you hit a key a little hammer flew up and hit a carbon tape which in turn left an imprint of the character on the paper behind. One problem with this was that because of limited space, the returning hammer could collide with the next one flying out and cause a key jam. So the inventor of the layout analysed the frequency of each letter in the English language and also took note of standard character sequences. Apart from the key jam problem (which went away with the invention of the golf ball design) the layout also took care of distributing the work evenly between the two hands and assign the most frequent letters to the stronger fingers (index and middle) and the least frequent letters to the little finger. Believe it or not, there are still some people who can type using their ten fingers without looking at the keyboard.
So whenever I see a phone keyboard, be it physical or virtual, I wonder how I`m going to squeeze my fingers onto the available space. The question is why are phone users expected to use layout that makes no longer any sense in the context. Too lazy to think of a better way, I ask. Or are they afraid that Apple is going to sue them for copyright infringement.
I recently bought a new TV set that wants to be called a smart TV. There are some functions where you can enter a search criteria or specify the name of the file you want it to play. To do this you click on the letters, one by one, with your remote control - on a QWERTY keyboard displayed on the screen!!! For goodness` sake! Why do I want to use that layout if I can only `type` one letter at a time. The mind boggles.
Pat Jones on July 27, 2014:
Hi, I don't think Samsung SGH-T199 basic phone has a GPS receiver.
ERik on April 03, 2014:
when i first read this, amazing..
i may be able to purchase a smartphone but unfortunately my innermost self is telling me that i am never attracted to smartphones at all. touchscreen phones are very uninspiring to me nothing unique to any of them like all same huge mirrors. why would i need an android or an iOS just to call or send txt msgs to somebody? i have a dumb phone that keeps me in touch to someone very important to me plus it allows me to store all my favorite music library within its 8GB memory card and allows me to plug any headphones i like and i don't need a smartphone for that. im a music geek who prefers music playing capabilities within a dumb phones if that's one of the great features i need at a cost that wont even make your wallets and pockets badly bleed. as for battery life.. my dumb phone can last up to almost two weeks from a full charge if not used a lot. no smartphones can ever do that. i treat my dumb phone as an old school walkman phone while allowing me to stay in touch with someone very important to me rather than the world... i will never ever own a smartphone ever. duh.. :D
VP on March 07, 2014:
hi, beautiful article.....
switching to basic phone after reading this......
thanx a lot....
Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on November 17, 2013:
Nice to read this article as one who has never - and possibly will never - have a smart phone!
Being a bit of a technophobe, I'd struggle to get to grips with one even if I had one, but that's not just me - most people only use a fraction of the facilities available, and it seems almost every day a friend of mine has a problem losing some function or other because of something they've done wrong. And yet they become slaves to their phone. It seems they cannot exist if they don't have their phone with them to stay in constant contact with the world.
My biggest personal issue though, is the Internet. There's just no way I want to spend my life looking at a screen not much bigger than a postage stamp. Isn't a big laptop screen (literally) a thousand times more comfortable to look at and read off?
Anyway, I'm going to stick to my basic phone which allows me to send texts and make phone calls - that, after all, is what a phone is supposed to be designed for. And at least I'm unlikely to get mugged for it!!! Voted up. Alun.
bzirkone from Kansas on September 19, 2013:
Great Hub. Well written, relevant and interesting. I'm considering trading my iPhone 4s for a dumb phone. Can't justify the cost anymore. I have desk tops and laptops at home.. enough is enough.
Michelle Dee from Charlotte, NC on August 10, 2013:
I love this hub and I loved my simple dumb cell phone until they made me upgrade to a smartphone (touch screen). I've hated it ever since and it's been a year. I only need it to make calls and check voicemail. I may "downgrade" soon though! Voted up.
Jean-ette on August 08, 2013:
Interesting article. It sure is annoying having to watch everyone else use them when you don't have one. I think they must be very addictive, and who knows, maybe more harmful than cigarettes. I was thinking of getting one, but for now you have convinced me I can live without one. It is a good idea to bring along a book or kindle if you don't have a smart phone. When you find yourself in the company of an addictive smartphone user, reading will stop you from getting bored and jealous!
cbpoet from Las Vegas, Nevada on August 08, 2013:
Nice blog. I think dumb phones lead to smart savings. That's why I have one despite the peer pressure to join the elite, albeit broke smart phone users ... Unless the company is paying for it dumb phone equals increased savings...
FlourishAnyway from USA on August 08, 2013:
I completely agree with you. The smart ones require so much attention to operate. You stop living and interacting with real people. Just give me a good old-fashioned flip phone with basic functioning (a camera would be nice, though). Unfortunately, when I went to shop for a "dumb" phone I could not find one.
Judy Specht from California on August 07, 2013:
Love the coolness factor of dumb phones. Just discovered mobile prepaid hot spots. I don't need cell reception, so why would I want a smart phone. My hotspot doesn't try to hook me up to a Canadian provider when I am across the river in Michigan, my cell phone had me roaming in Canada when they wouldn't let me go over there since I didn't have my passport. They still charged me.
Shasta Matova from USA on August 07, 2013:
I have a basic phone, and have always had one. I did recently switch to one that had a small data plan, but it works just fine for my needs. I would rather only pay for the features that are important to me. It is sad to watch people staring at their devices instead of paying attention to the people around them.
Congratulations on your Rising Star award.
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 07, 2013:
Although my 21-year old son has a smart phone (and continually uses up the data plan allotment!), I still have a dumb phone. I wouldnt' even know how to use a smart phone. It's bad enough people can't go anywhere without a cell phone. Why would I want to have computer access 24/7? I'll keep my internet connection on my desktop and laptop, thank you very much. As for my phone, it's for making calls and texting when necessary. We did just fine decades ago without being 'connected'. I think a lot of our problems today come about because we're too connected! How 'bout 'connecting' in person? Whatever happened to that?????
Thomas Dowling from Florida on August 04, 2013:
Voted up and useful!
Noah Driver (author) from Davidson North Carolina on August 02, 2013:
Yeah....I find myself freaking out, looking for an outlet when I get below 50%...haha.
I'm pretty sure basic phones nowadays don't know how to go below 50%...
Brandon Hart from The Game on August 02, 2013:
Very interesting and while I do have a Smartphone it's funny how many of these things I do miss...... battery life being the big one.
tattuwurn on July 29, 2013:
Although I do have a smartphone, I still am struggling with typing on the touch screen. I still prefer a physical keypad, which enables me to text even with only one hand. Maybe I will buy a dumb phone (but with a built-in TV). Another advantage is that, especially in our country where robbery is still a very strong threat among commuters, "dumb phones" never attract attention as much as an iPhone does.
As far as the cost is concerned, for both dumb and smartphones, no problem here, as prepaid services are still popular.
Very good article, enjoyable to read. Up and interesting and shared. :)