Should I Downgrade From My Smartphone?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately, mostly because I hate distractions.

Anything that eats into my productive time is a thorn in my side, including my phone.

This a tough question to answer though because it would be the first time in my life I’ve decided to downgrade a piece of personal technology.

But, I know I’m not alone – you went to Google looking for an answer, and that’s why you’re here.

So let’s take a look at why any of us would want to downgrade to a dumb/flip/feature phone.

Source: Oracio Alvarado

Because Other People Are Downgrading

Apple is struggling to sell iPhones for the first time ever.


Because they’re overpriced – people are tired of paying $1,000 for the “latest” iPhone.

And the real slap in the face is that Apple has shown zero technological innovation for years now – just bigger screens, less useful apps, and promises of more to come.

Basically, Apple’s vision stagnated after the passing of Steve Jobs, and Tim Cook isn’t the tech visionary Apple needs right now.

Not even close.

Most other smartphone manufacturers (including Samsung) are seeing the same downward trend in sales of new devices, especially high-end phones.

A growing number of people are either not upgrading to the latest smartphone, or are getting rid of them entirely.

Downgrading Might Help Protect Your Data

Nobody likes the idea of being spied on for any reason.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal taught social media users a valuable lesson: Tech companies lie about what they do with your data

Tech companies will also openly lie about whether or not they monitor you:

When Samsung forgot to tell people their TV’s record conversations

Alexa doesn’t record stuff…except when it records everything

So, despite all their claims to the contrary, tech companies are tracking what you’re doing, who you’re doing it with, and what you’re talking about.

And this is entirely driven by profit – the more data they have on you, the more valuable you are to potential advertisers.

I removed all social media apps from my smartphone 12 months ago, and replaced them with an Audible subscription.

It’s one of the smartest things I’ve ever done because I swapped the passive voyeurism of trawling through social media feeds for listening to books on subjects I actually care about.

I traded being dumbed down by social media bullshit to upgrading my brain.

I have discovered some amazing authors by making this one tiny change to my digital lifestyle.

Plus I went from consuming 4 -5 books per year to 24 last year and I’m on course for 50 books this year.

Something else to consider is this: How much of your personal data is mined by the apps on your smartphone?

Answer: A horrifying amount.

Downgrading Is A Healthy Choice

Smartphones and their apps are addictive.

There was a time when the first thing I’d do after waking up is check my Facebook feed, and then some stupid game. A game I’d regularly buy “credits” for. Doh!

Toilet break in work?

On my smartphone.

Lunch break?

On my smartphone.

That’s a terrible habit for an adult to have, but imagine the impact this would have on a child?

What’s worse is that social media companies have designed their interfaces using gamification principles.

These are the same psychological tactics used to keep you addicted to playing online games.

Like it or not, you’re addicted to your smartphone because it was designed to do that.

Are Flip Phones Coming Back?

So, that all sounds pretty compelling, but is there any data to back this up?

Yup – there’s a growing trend in people wanting to switch off from smartphones.

More and more people want to disconnect from the hyper-connectivity we’ve immersed ourselves in without giving a thought to what it might do to our social structure.

What it might do to our minds.

Is there a connection between the rise in depressive and social anxiety disorders and when smartphones became the “must have” gadget of the new millennium?

It would appear so.

Those who can’t bear to be separated from constant online activity (…but you’re not addicted, right?) might go as far as installing apps to stop the constant notifications from their iPhone or Android device.

Even the true addicts can sense that smartphones are nothing but a massive time suck – they wouldn’t install “blocking” apps otherwise.

Will we see smartphones consigned to some kind of technological scrapheap?

I doubt it very much, but the jaded masses of former social media addicts are slowly ditching smartphones and reclaiming their personal time.

Can You Still Use Old Cell Phones?

Certain tech companies might hate the idea, but once your phone is capable of connecting to a 2G GSM or CDMA network, then all you need is a SIM card that fits it.

Or a SIM card adaptor if you get really stuck.

So that old flip phone you have in a drawer is probably still usable.

Countries like Singapore have already ditched their GSM network, and some mobile networks in the states are doing the same.

It’s almost like they want to keep people connected all the time…even if they don’t want to be.

At worst you’ll need a dumb/feature phone that can connect to a 3G network, which is something most older cell phones are capable of.

So, “Yes” you can still use old cell phones on modern mobile networks, including any 2G (GSM) networks that still operate today.

Are Flip Phones Harder To Track?

A cell phone that doesn’t have a GPS chip installed is far more difficult to track. The only real option being to use either your Wi-Fi connectivity or proximity to the nearest cell tower to find you.

The absence of a velocimeter on your dumb phone will also prevent anyone being able to pinpoint your approximate location based on how fast you were traveling and for how long.

If your flip phone doesn’t have a Wi-Fi connection option then it becomes even more difficult to track.

It all depends on how far you want to take your quest for online anonymity.

Can Flip Phones Be Hacked?

Any electronic device can be “hacked” if you pay the right people enough money.

Or if you’re a government agency that’s definitely not scanning mobile networks…if you want to believe that.

But not having GPS and a bunch of web-connected apps on your phone drastically reduces your exposure to security risks.

Yes, yes I know smartphones are meant to be secured from virus infection.

But that’s a myth.

Both Apple and Android devices have virus infection problems – the manufacturers just never make it public.

That’s from first-hand knowledge.

So owning a dumb phone doesn’t mean you’re “off grid”.

But it does mean you’re far less visible than walking around with a mobile tracking device in your jeans pocket or bag.

What Is The Best Non-Smartphone?

If you’re looking for a non-smartphone I’m going to assume you want a really basic phone.

So I’m not going to talk about smartphones with smaller screens and fewer features – we’re aiming for a completely dumb phone here.

After a bit of research it looks like the most popular dumb phone right now is the Nokia 3310. It doesn’t have a GPS chip or Wi-Fi connectivity.

Source: Wikipedia

The only real downside here is that it uses YunOS, which is a recoded version of the Android OS.

If you want to cut Android OS out of the picture altogether (and that’s not a terrible idea), the Nokia 216 is another option for you.

Nokia 216

The 216 also doesn’t have GPS or Wi-Fi connectivity, and uses the Nokia Series 30 operating system.

So, how do you feel about switching back to a basic phone?

Probably as conflicted as I do.

My concerns about smartphone usage have less to do with security or privacy, and more to do with breaking the cycle of being addicted to a device that literally adds nothing to my day.

But I still wanted to address all aspects of downgrading from a smartphone so that nobody felt left out.

People say they can’t live without their device, but will check their emails/social media from one…while they’re sitting at a computer.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Have we reached “peak” smartphone usage yet?

I think we just might, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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