More people keep going for dumbphones


DRAFT. Maybe you already have one.

More people keep going for dumbphones /img/dumbphones.jpg

The Quest for a Dumber Phone describes the growing movement of people who believe we benefit as individuals and a collective by unplugging from internet-enabled technology, because “it physically makes a difference in our lives when we are tethered, in our eyesight and the way we feel.”

Almost always, of course, the goal is not to give up “the internet” but only the smartphone. And it’s easier than it may seem.

But some see a clear culprit for our distraction-prone era: the smartphone.

This is the case for over 14,000 Reddit users in r/dumbphones, a subreddit in the top 5% of communities on the platform.

The community defines dumbphones as devices that “lack the advanced technology of smartphones” and note that they lack “distracting feature-rich apps like YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook.”

Swapping smartphones for ‘dumbphones’

Long gone are the days of mainstream talk-and-text devices and paying for minutes. For nearly 20 years, the phone industry has been on a mission to fit the most advanced computer into pocket-sized machinery.

But those on r/dumbphones are seeking out another kind of experience entirely: a phone that does next to nothing.

All are on the quest for a quieter phone experience free from the pull of algorithmic feeds.

The ethos of the community isn’t anti-tech, but tech-critical. The smartphone is viewed as a rabbit hole leading towards hours of scrolling; some discuss the “constant IV stream of social media” as their motivation for making the switch.

For years we’ve had options to make the smartphone less distracting: switch to grayscale, turn off notifications, use an app blocker.

But these solutions are meant to affect your habits, not your lifestyle.

For the r/dumbphones community, a simpler life requires a simpler phone.

Disconnection isn’t within reach if you still have unmitigated access to a bright phone with dark UX patterns that aim to keep us hooked.

When Ashton Womack, an online creator and the entrepreneur behind the stationary brand Virgo and Paper, watched the 2020 Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, she resolved to change her relationship to technology.

A business owner, she had felt compelled to use Instagram as a growth tool, to connect to customers and promote her work. It took around six months for her to decide on switching to a dumbphone - a simple Nokia 225 flip phone.

More people keep going for dumbphones /img/lightphone.jpg

One year later, missing the ability to take high-quality photographs, Womack has since returned to using a smartphone, but her relationship with technology has permanently shifted.

Perhaps most important was Womack’s realization that she didn’t need a smartphone, or an Instagram presence, for her business to thrive.

Free from all the time she’d spent trying to guess what the algorithm would think of her posts, she could focus on the fundamentals of business - a great product and impeccable customer service.

“I don’t think that for most people, that’s a great solution. It’s also giving up so much,” says Eyal over email. “It’s giving up GPS, it’s giving up audiobooks, it’s giving up a lot of things that could be great.”

Rather than external distraction triggers - smartphones, laptops, email - he suggests turning towards internal triggers instead.

[But] thinking that just getting rid of technology is the solution is false - it’s a mirage.”

Indeed, the phones are just a little too “dumb” to work with the expectations of a modern lifestyle.

Briones says dumbphone users need to dig deep to move past inconvenience and get the true rewards of life without a smartphone.

Maybe the solution is simpler

And is one of the main guidelines for the creators of the popular “premium, minimal” phone Light Phone II.

never have infinite feeds. Nothing to swipe…”

“Now that you have time, now that you have regained time, what are you going to do with it?”

theses and solutions vary. Ask Eyal, and our distractions begin from within, called forth by instant gratification triggers that we can resolve through tactics like planning ahead, finding purposeful things to do, and creating personal “pacts.”

Because You’re unlikely to meet someone who has a dumbphone, and the market for “feature phones” (old-school tech that doesn’t have the capability of smartphones) is projected to continue declining.

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