Without social networks: basic mobile phones are back

As if it were a story, once upon a time there was a world in which the mobile phone used to make and receive calls. Over the years these wireless devices (which was their great advance, the absence of cables) added some functions: texting, camera, simple games. Apple wrote the end of the story when in 2007 it launched the first iPhone and ushered in the era of smartphonesmaking basic cell phones old and almost useless.

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Who today has to define the function of a smartphoneit will hardly refer to phone calls. Swiss Army Knives of the 21st century pack nearly infinite tools into their slender bodies: social networks, advanced games, navigation systems, electronic payments, online marketplaces, and much more. Though omnipresent and omnipotent, these devices now bear witness to the reborn of basic phones who, like zombies of technology, remove the land that was thrown on them and promise to return.

Dumbphone vs. smartphone: the differences

Already the first iPhone model determined the signs that differentiate a smartphone from a “stupid cell phone”, also known as “dumbphones”. In general terms, the contrast is perceived by the full-time Internet connection of the former, as well as the availability of applications.


The basic models focus on calls and text messages. Although they are now re-emerging with more features, they are usually devices without access to social networks, messaging services, and other popular digital platforms. Otherwise, having no big claims, their specs are short compared to the powerful ones. smartphone. Of course: many are also used to listen to the radio.

The “dumb cell phones” come back to play: three facts that confirm the resurrection

  • Google searches for basic mobile phones grew 89% between 2018 and last year, according to the SEMrush company.
  • Based on data from 2021, one in ten mobile phone users in the UK use a basic mobile phone, the Deloitte group said.
  • While it is difficult to find statistics in that specific area, one report indicated this global sales of “dumb phones” were around 1 billion units in 2021, up from 400 million in 2019.

The return of basic mobile phones, a phenomenon linked to digital well-being

A mobile device without Instagram, TikTok or YouTube? Who would want such a thing? Contrary to what we might assume at the beginning, more and more people are choosing modest cell phones. One of the main reasons they give it is a willingness to rely less on technology, a move closely linked to what is called digital wellbeing.

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“I didn’t realize how much the smartphone was taking over my life until I bought a ‘brick’,” a basic cell phone user told reporters. BBC. “I had a lot of social media apps and didn’t work as much because I was always on the phone,” she explained.

But the spirit of digital disconnection (albeit partial) is not the only reason. A dumbphone is also chosen based on the following arguments:

  • People who want to improve their productivity and free time: For many, free time takes place in long sessions within social networks with no space for activities such as sports, reading, etc. In turn, the full-time connection facilitated by a smartphone can thwart work productivity. Usage telephones which are not smart It would solve both situations.
  • Fathers and mothers looking for a different bond with their children: While the tool is not to blame by itself but it is common for the user to hear that smartphones offer constant distractions and that this often affects family ties. In that order, choosing a phone that only receives calls and messages would help you focus more on conversations and time spent at home.

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  • nostalgic users: as there is people playing video games of the 1980s throughout 2022 or music lovers who prefer vinyl; in the mobile business there is a group that listens to his nostalgia and opts for dumbphones. Paradoxically, the spread of videos on a popular social network, TikTok, showing basic cell phones is a factor that has favored the revival of the vintage scene.
  • The long autonomy and the compact dimensions, two important advantages: While any smartphone, even the most affordable, outperforms a basic phone; There are two variables that dumbphones take advantage of. One of these is the battery life: With fewer demands, the available energy can be extended for many days without the need for a recharge. On the other hand, they are usually compact devices that fit comfortably in your pocket and hand. Another point to note is the durability: not having end-to-end screens, they are more robust.

Emblems among the new basic mobile phones

The trend does not presuppose the purchase of used units circulated between the end of the 90s and the beginning of the 2000s; not only. An essential stop on this journey is the launch of Nokia 3310 in the year 2017which resurfaced with a new design after its success in 2000. That device was encouraged to appear with modest specs in a company full of super powerful phones that sometimes have better features than a computer.


HMD Global, the company that now sells Nokia-branded phones, at the IFA 2019 fair he confirmed his intention to extend your dumbphone catalog. But it’s not the only one: a manufacturer based in New York, Lightweight phoneIt also pushes the bandwagon of basic cell phones alongside the glitter of smartphones like Apple’s iPhone or Samsung’s Galaxy S.

Strictly speaking, Light Phone moves in an intermediate space between stupid and smart phones. Their phones are used to play music and add Bluetooth, but they do without social networks, the web browser and feed infinite. The company prides itself on offering technology that doesn’t disconnect with the present, doesn’t encourage wasting time, and doesn’t generate anxiety. “Consumers are realizing that something is wrong and we want to offer an alternative,” they say.


A detail that a priori may strike: Most Light Phone unit buyers are between the ages of 25 and 35. The New York-based firm had its best year of performance in 2021, with sales up 150% over 2020. Its phones with minimalist designs and electronic ink screens start at $ 99; a far cry from the nearly $ 1,000 you have to pay for high-end smartphones.

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