Not so “dumb” phones

Not so “dumb” phones

Companies are starting to offer simpler devices aimed at those looking for less distractions.

Mobile telephones have advanced quite a lot since their unwieldy, brick-like 1980’s origins, which nonetheless helped their first users connect with clients on the move and brought about a paradigm change in the way the world does business. Back then, you could make calls from your car with those, and barely anything else.

The average person in the U.S. checks their cellphone 110 times a day. Image credit: Huffington Post.

But as technology advanced in the last decades and more and more services became available, text messaging gave way to email and web browsing and from there to pictures and video to the App revolution on your current smartphone, allowing you to interact with the world, your friends and your business associates in many productive ways from practically any location at almost every moment.

But that same revolution also allows for a lot of procrastination and overuse, as social media apps take more and more of our time and interactions with the twittersphere, Instagram, Facebook and the zillion other virtual spaces that have become a part of our daily routine.

Some studies seem to indicate that dependence on cellphones has reached the level of an addiction.

U.S. business services firm Dun & Bradstreet’s Vice Chairman Jeff Stibel said in a recent article for USA Today that “various surveys find people more willing to give up food, sleep and sex than to lose their Internet connections.

One recent study found that half of us would rather have a broken bone than a broken phone.”

Apple says that iPhone users unlock their phones 80 times a day. Even worse, research firm Dscout found that we tap, type and swipe our smartphones more than 2,600 times a day, on average.

The majority of us check in front of our kids, during meetings, while we eat and while we should be sleeping. is,” Stibel adds, “is a serious addiction.”

Hollywood director Christopher Nolan seems to agree. The man behind silver screen blockbusters such as Memento, Inception and the Batman trilogy famously forbids the use of phones on his sets, and recently told Esquire in an interview that phones “have become a huge distraction, and people work much better without them.”

Enter the “dumb” phone

The Internet is filled with strategies to reduce Internet phone dependency (see what we did there?), such as putting actual physical distance between you and your device, creating “safe zones” where smartphones are not allowed, disabling notifications and such.

But the reality is that with several studies linking surges in dopamine (the brain chemical linked to happiness) to mobile phone usage, most of us have little incentive to cut back, even if productivity and even sleep pay the price.

And let’s face it, with the increasing demands of the contemporary business world, it is not realistic for many people to remain apart from their devices for extended periods of time.

As this awareness of a dependency increases, some startups and even established phone makers have identified the need for less distractions and have come up with “dumb” phones for those times when less is more.

Besides the constant presence in the market of classic, toned-down “feature phones,” many companies have come up with devices designed specifically for when you do NOT want distractions.

Nokia has joined the charge. Remember those indestructible Model 3310s from the 1990’s? They could be dropped, they could be left out in the sun, and they could go on and on (and on and on) on a single charge while you waited for a call or an SMS.

This year, the Finnish company relaunched the phone with a few modern upgrades (an MP3 player, a 2 MP camera and ash) but it still features no e-mail, no apps and a 2G connection. But it has Snake!

Punkt. Presents the MP 01 Mobile Phone, designed by Jasper Morrison.

Switzerland-based simplicity advocates Punkt. also came up with a phone that’s just a phone. It still texts and can connect to your car via Bluetooth, but it does away with cameras, music players and color displays. The company, well known in design circles as one that makes stylish electronics, created its MP 01 because “the more our phones do, the more they demand of us.”

The Punkt. MP 01 is a stylish, well-crafted mobile phone that that focuses on modern simplicity, inside and out. It makes phone calls and sends texts. at’s all,” the company says on its website.

Several steps further into simplicity is The Light Phone. The credit card-sized device looks like a minimalistic pocket calculator with a small dial and a keypad. It works by taking forwarded calls from your smartphone via a software set-up, and does not even include SMS into the equation.

Our phones have become our nervous habit, our invisible crutch. We find ourselves reaching for them without thinking,” say the device manufacturers.


About the Author:

John Bärr
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