The Rise Of Dumb Phones

Published 2023-03-20
Dumb phones, once considered outdated, are still prevalent around the world, making up about a quarter of mobile phones actively in use. While affordability in developing countries is a significant reason for their continued use, there could be an unexpected but potential rise in use among younger generations conscientious about the potential hard smart phones could have on mental health. While Nokia and Motorola are still some of the biggest dumb phone makers in the world, Punkt. and Light are two start-ups betting on the resurgence in popularity.

0:00 — Introduction
01:52 — Feature Phones
03:51 — Dumb phone testing
08:43 — Dumb phones in the U.S.
15:10 — Developing countries

Produced by: Liam Mays
Supervising Producer: Jeniece Pettitt
Post Production Support: Tala Hadavi
Additional Camera: Mickey Todiwala
Production Support: Sydney Boyo
Graphics by: Christina Locopo

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All Comments (21)
  • u unz
    Once you detox from a smart phone, you realize the world isnt as angry as the social media makes it to be. Social media has ruined EVERY.THING.
  • Jesse
    It's crazy to think that there are people out there who dont realize that a lot of us grew up without "smartphones". And we all used a phone attached to the wall.
  • Austin Hogan
    This to me is why a Blackberry style phone is probably about perfect. A smartphone without all of the apps but you could still have email, a basic browser, a full keyboard, and then some sort of gps application.
  • Rohit Rao
    I'm 26 and I got my first phone at 18. I was also not allowed to be on social media until 18. I'm glad I was restricted until I became an adult!
  • Ahad Rauf
    I can see dumb phones for kids totally being a thing, I had a Motorola Razr flip phone as a middle and high schooler, and for most things kids needed to do that was perfectly sufficient to tell my parents if I'd be coming back home late that day or if something was wrong. I don't doubt there's social pressure among kids to have a nice phone, though, similar to the fashion trends of old.
  • Brandon Bagwell
    Omg, when I was 16, I used to keep a copy of the yellow pages in my trunk (to save money from not dialing 411, along with folding maps). Later, printed mapquest became an option.

    I am SOOO loving that the new generation is discovering that "phones" are actual phones! ❤
  • Dobbie
    $400 for a Nokia like phone is daylight robbery
  • Ronak Dhakan
    Any phone can be made into a utility phone (and a lot better at it than dumb phones) by removing social media, games and entertainment applications.What remains is pure utility.
  • Joshua Albert
    I ditched my smartphone at the start of the year. My boyfriend gave it two weeks but I honestly haven't looked back. These "essential" devices aren't as essential as we often feel. I thought it would be a huge struggle, but honestly it was pretty easy to give up.
  • Lyssa Barsda
    Basic phones have their place depending on what you would like to do with them but as a business tool for a manager at a company, the smart phone is really useful. When it comes to mental health, self control is more important in addition to having social / internet literacy. I will admit I do miss the solid nature of my original nokia...
  • Jack Waycombe
    My wife and I are in our 70s. We started out with dumbphones, went through the smartphone phase, and are now back to dumbphones.
    We found that smartphones offered all sorts of magical features, few of which we wanted and none of which we actually needed.

    In my own case, the break came when discussing with my wife the purchase of a recliner bed. When moments later, my phone (which had been on the coffee table during the conversation) directed me towards a local business offering those beds, my phone hit the wall at high speed.

    My last smartphone cost over £200 here in the UK. My current phone cost me £35. It does everything I need. I can't believe I was so gullible for so long.
  • KNMK259
    I used a Dumb phone for a month, Jan 2023 after I left my job. It was amazing time, the issue with the smartphone is the constant notifications, best trick I learnt was to disengage notifications to all the apps, and then only have it for the important notifications. Like Calls, messages and Bank apps are important. The stress level of losing a notification is the concern, we feel like as if we would miss something. Actually we do not miss anything.
  • Halo Nova
    I would have to be pretty stupid to buy a "dumb phone" for $400...
  • As a Middle School teacher, please do not get your child a smartphone! A dumb phone with GPS/tracking is all they need. The harmful effects of social media on adolescents is a crisis in the US and one which I see play out nearly every single day.
  • I did not go as far as reverting to a dumb phone like back in high school, but I did the simplest thing possible without spending any additional money. I changed my launcher to a minimalist one.
  • Nadine
    I hope this catches on with our youth!
  • Cosmic Harmony
    Its hard going back to a flip phone due to many reasons such as 2FA on certain places over and over, bank app, notes and just overall important stuff. I decided to keep my Iphone, but i deleted majority of apps and only kept my bank app, email app and i hid Youtube and Safari away so i feel less inclined...but those 2 are still useful for bedtime watching or finding general stuff online like store hours, phone numbers, flyers and etc
  • Susann Patton
    When the "smart phones" came out, I was in the market for a new phone. The salesman gave me the pitch, and I told him, it doesn't have to intercept deep space transmissions, it just has to make a phone call. It is a phone that has turned into a mini computer.
  • Mack Pines
    It’s interesting how phones have evolved over the years.
    They went from being large in the 1980s, to small in the 2000s and then back to large in the 2010s and 2020s.