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2011
21
Mar

Dumbphones

Posted by under Blog | 2 Comments

dumbphone

Right, lets do this. Let’s talk about ‘dumbphones’. Reliable? Unquestionably. Useful? Only in need-to-have situations. Attractive? Garish, more like.

Dumbphones (for those of you who are not aware) are those phones that you buy like this one. They’re not clever or smart (hence the word ‘dumb’) and they’re not really all that great to look at – they represent the old-world of technology. They are the last generation of phones and they need to go away quickly. But lets talk about the reason behind their existence.

Sometimes it’s not inconceivable that you will not want to upgrade your phone every single year, I get that. I understand that way of thinking. Sometimes updating your phone is not important to you – the same way that you might not want a brand new car every year. That happens, and I’m cool with that. Cars are actually a bad example, because they are big, expensive and serve multiple forms – they are your key to the outside world, they connect you physically with places faster than most ‘traveling means’, that you can purchase, (for example an Airplane. Especially if you want to buy your own! Ticket prices aside!)

Ok, back to phones. Dumbphones also serve multiple purposes. The ‘feature’ phones (or dumbphones as we are calling them here) did serve multiple functions – they text, they called, they played snake. And that was it. And for 1996, that was cutting edge. Then came colour screens and the need to take pictures – then things got interesting.

I went and bought a Sony Ericsson P800. My first touch screen mobile phone back in (I think) 2004. It was my first Smartphone, but in terms of what it did then compared to now, it was a dumbphone. But when you compare what my iPhone 4 does to whatever new features are penned to come in the coming years – you might argue that, that really is a dumbphone too.

My first ever smartphone did all kinds of things I had never dreamed of, just touching the screen and writing with my fingertips to send a text felt like the future. And everyone I showed it to wanted to get their hands on it and try it for themselves. It was brilliant. But it was flawed. It started a revolution for me, that was it’s ‘flaw’, I guess you could say. It whet my appetite for more features. It made me crave ‘the next big thing’, and that for me what inevitably the leap to iPhone (albeit, not until the 3G in 2008.)

The dumbphones of old were very quickly left behind and the thought of owning one (or anyone else for that matter) confused me. How could they really fulfill the need for information? Especially ‘mobile’ information, which essentially is exactly what they are there to do in the first place. When you are no where near a television. Yes, you could throw dumbphones against walls, drop them down toilets and stamp on them – they might not break, but would it really matter? They were cheap and could be replaced. That was their draw, their appeal. They are the expendables. Drop an iPhone 4 and watch as grown men cry.

Phones now hold more data, more information and especially more value. The more you want to use it, the more you will spend on doing so. For example: monthly data plans. You store your credit card information on them, you willingly buy apps and peripherals for it. They are more than just a fashion item or a cheap way of texting home, they are your new connection to the world around you – as valuable as a car.

Doing something interesting? Seen something you want to share. Instagram. Twitter. Facebook. You are literally spoilt for choice. What does someone do without these features? How do they tell the world how they’re feeling, or what they’ve seen without a smartphone? Come to think about it – what did we ever do without them? We did not seize the moment in the same way that we can these days. We share experiences in a whole new way – essentially bringing the world together through emotional experience. Dumbphones could not do that. They were personal individual devices that served little functions. They did not let you share what was going on in the way we now have access to. The smarter a phone gets, the more integrated it becomes in your life and allows you to share what’s going on with the world, allowing you to feel part of something bigger. And that is the fundamental essence of humanity – wanting to be part of something. We want to belong and we want to know. Ok, I’m generalising but it’s true that at the very core of humanity we want to feel a sense of place. Dumbphones gave us our feet but smartphones gave us our wings.

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2 Responses to “Dumbphones”

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  1. While I (mostly) agree with what you said, dumbphones are a long way from needing to go. They have a market that smartphones can’t fill, especially in places like Australia (WA especially, from what I’ve been told by a Melbournian… Melbournite? Anyway…).
    That market? Emergencies. People who have no real need for a phone, but want one for emergencies. OAP’s who want a way to call someone if their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, parents who want their kids to have a way to get in touch with them, people who work on farms (or out in the bush, contextually). These people have no real need of even the basic features a dumbphone offers and, more than anything, merely tolerate the presence of a mobile phone in their pocket. Some of them have such nonchalance towards them that they don’t even bother to remember the number, and stick a note to the back of the phone in case they need it.
    Until there are smartphones which are competent and offer a good experience for around the $30-50 mark, dumbphones will be here to stay. Huawei are getting close. Vodafone AU do the Vodafone 858, which is a cheap little Android phone (surprisingly good, given the price point) at $79. Once we start seeing this type of thing at the $49 mark, then we’ll see a phasing out of the dumbphone as it is.

    Just in case it wasn’t clear, I’m calling Android handsets dumbphones ;)

    • Totally agree with you. Okay, I was a bit misguided in the early days of my blog! But smartphones are taking over.. It’ll just be a case of owning a ‘cheap’ ‘smart’ phone vs a luxury more expensive and diverse iPhone – type smartphone.

      Or perhaps the term ‘smart’ will be replaced with something?