Reporter Journal / William Hennelly

The hottest phone trend? It could be switch to 'dumb' over smart

By William Hennelly (China Daily USA) Updated: 2017-11-16 12:13

Have smartphones gotten too smart for their own good?

A trend that has emerged in the past couple of years suggests the "dumbphone" is making a comeback.

No, not a rotary dial, desktop console from the 1950s, but a more basic mobile device, like something out of the 1990s, just before the internet took over everyone's life.

Or, you can get something with sleek technology that does nothing put make and receive calls.

What's driving the nostalgia?

Nothing more than peace and quiet, because dumb phones aren't necessarily cheaper.

With your old school phone, you won't be getting intrusive texts, the latest mayhem in the world from Twitter, or Facebook requests to wish some distant friend Happy Birthday.

You also won't have to worry about weird characters popping up in your social media posts due to a recent bug in the latest software on your new $999 Apple iPhone X, the one that auto-corrects the lower-case letter "i" to "A?".

Classic throwbacks by Motorola, Nokia and Ericsson are drawing four-figure sums on eBay and elsewhere, Mail Online reports. But there also are much cheaper remakes. Motorola Mobility, whose parent made the cult-classic flip phone, was sold to China's Lenovo in 2014.

And while retro phones may lack snazzy features, they're easy to use, have long-life batteries and are relatively indestructible compared with the latest smartphones.

In October, Motorola revealed that it was bringing back the iconic Razr, joining British firm Binatone to create the Binatone Blade, which features a flip screen but costs just $66, compared with the original Razr at $600.

In February, Nokia relaunched its 3310 phone - 17 years after the original. The retro device features month-long standby capability and also goes for $66.

French online shop Lekki, which sells vintage, revamped mobile phones, claims simplicity is the new normal.

"We have two types of profiles: the 25-to-35-year-olds attracted by the retro and offbeat side of a telephone that is a little different, and those who are nostalgic for the phone that they used when they were younger," Maxime Chanson, who founded Lekki in 2010, told Mail Online. "Some use it to complement their smartphone, but others are going for the vintage, tired of the technology race between the phone makers."

It's not only nostalgia but also simplicity.

The Light Phone, founded by Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tong in New York, uses modern technology to create a wafer-thin device just for phone calls, using the same number as your smartphone does.

"Our time & attention are the two most important things that we take for granted the hundreds of times a day we reach for our screens," the website says.

The company describes the phone, made at Foxconn in Yantai, Shandong province, as "a discreet credit-card sized mobile phone designed to be used as little as possible. It is the only phone designed to be used as your second phone as a seamless extension of your smartphone."

The Light Phone, which I think looks like a calculator, will be available in the US for $125 starting in late February.

"After seven years with an iPhone, I was going to get a significantly dumber phone. And what could be dumber than the phone I was rocking circa 2005, a Samsung knockoff of the legendary Motorola Razr?" Alan Jacobs wrote in The Atlantic in January 2016. "I was trying to respond to a feeling that had been creeping up on me for a long time, but that had only recently become strong and clear: Social media were stalking me from my pocket."

Jacobs has since switched to a $295 Punkt. phone, made by a company that says it is "about using technology to help us adopt good habits for less distracted lives".

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