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Is dumb the new smart? Why people are ditching their smartphones for basic handsets

Old mobile phones
Old mobile phones Copyright Canva Images
Copyright Canva Images
By Theo FarrantAFP
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Are you tired of being a slave to your smartphone? Well, you're not alone! Join the growing trend of people ditching their flashy smartphones and returning to simpler, more classic phones - the beloved "dumbphones". But why the sudden interest in this retro revolution?

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Are you tired of constantly being glued to your smartphone? The ceaseless and mind-numbing doom scrolling? The constant barrage of notifications and the pressure to be connected to the world 24/7?

Do you yearn for the good old days when phones were just for making calls and sending texts, and maybe the occasional game of Snake? 

Well, you're not alone. 

In recent years, there has been a growing trend of people ditching their flashy smartphones and returning to simpler, more classic phones - lovingly dubbed "dumbphones" by many. 

But why the sudden resurgence in interest? Let's investigate some of the reasons behind this retro revolution.

The benefits of going old school

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A group of young people using smartphones outdoorsCanva Images

Meet Jose Briones, a 27-year-old Colorado resident who shunned his smartphone for a "dumb" one, and he hasn't looked back since. 

"I think one of the things that people forget is that we used to live without smartphones and that they are a recent development. The world worked before smartphones," explains Briones. 

In pursuit to simplify his life, he turns to CDs when he wants to listen to music, instead of streaming. When he has to get somewhere, he prints out directions before setting out or, if needed, falls back on the sometimes-forgotten practice of asking a stranger which way to go. 

"People who want to regain their time and attention, and have a deeper more purposeful life, I think that is who this message is resonating with," says Briones. 

As ExplodingTopics reports, globally, people average 6 hours 58 minutes of screen time per day, an increase of nearly 50 minutes per day since 2013. 

Briones is not alone on his quest to reconnect with the analogue world. In fact, he helps moderate a Reddit page devoted especially to so-called dumbphones, which has more than 17,000 members. 

AFP
Jose Briones is among those seeking to remove stress and distraction by using 'dumbphones', which are free of attention grabbing video, games and social media postsAFP

One member of the reddit page with the name Melanin_King0 told of finding it easier to cope with mental strain and of feeling better overall since switching to a dumbphone about three weeks ago.

"When I was constantly on my smartphone, I felt like my brain would fog up," says Melanin_King0. 

"It would be harder to do anything and scrolling on Instagram's Reels and TikTok was sapping my motivation."

Another Reddit user said that carrying a smartphone caused "background anxiety" and more superficial connections with friends and family.

This sentiment is supported by a study conducted last year by the Lorestan University of Medical Sciences, which concluded that excessive smartphone use is strongly correlated with increased anxiety and stress levels among students.

Furthermore, another reason why many are opting for the dumbphone is that they're much more affordable than smart ones. 

For instance, a basic brick phone can be yours for just €30, which is a steal compared to the outrageous €1000+ price tag on the latest iPhone 14 Max Pro. 

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Down with the kids?

It's not just older generations who are embracing the return of dumbphones; younger generations are also channelling their inner Hilary Duff in 2004's A Cinderella Story and jumping on the trend. 

As we've seen the resurgence of Y2K fashion trends, disposable film cameras and the vinyl revival, it seems dumbphones, particularly flip phones, are one of Gen Z's latest "vintage" obsessions. 

Sammy Palazzolo, a popular TikTok user with the handle @skzzolno, gained viral fame after posting a video explaining that she and her friends have ditched their smartphones in favour of flip phones for their nights out.

Although flip phones lack the features of modern smartphones, Sammy and her friends have found that their vintage devices have become a conversation starter and a way to make new connections at parties. 

@skzzolno Replying to @saraahhhyo literally everyone needs a flip phone in their life #BRINGBACKFLIPPHONES#college#goingout#collegelifehack#flipphone#y2kaesthetic♬ original sound - sammy k

In the video, which has amassed millions of views and likes, Sammy argues that using a flip phone eliminates the negative aspects of college life caused by constant social media and texting, while still enabling people to take great photos and videos.

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"We realised that every single problem we have on a night out, everything that leads to us having a bad hook up, everything that leads to us having a bad time, stems from our phone (smartphone) while we're out," explains Palazzolo. 

This old-school approach is something that a number of Hollywood A-listers, including Keanu Reeves and Chris Pine, have been advocating for years. 

"The flip phone world is a whole world you gotta get into. I just like the simple, I like the non-complicated. I don’t want to be connected so much," Pine explained in 2017 interview. 

A different kind of smartphone

While the market for non-smartphone devices may be modest, a handful of companies are catering to consumers jumping on this new trend. 

One such company is based in Brooklyn and produces the Light Phone, with the slogan "designed to be used as little as possible". 

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Their phones are minimalistic and deliberately exclude social media, internet browsing, and other potentially stressful features from their models. 

The phone can, however, function as a wireless hotspot and includes basic tools like a music player and map app. 

According to their CEOs, both Light Phone and its competitor Punkt have seen sales growth.

So, is it time to bid farewell to our smartphones and go back to basics? The choice rests in your hands.

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