I love meeting people who use old-school flip phones. The ones super-cheap ones with fixed dial pads with buttons that click satisfyingly under your fingertips, and are seemingly indestructible (at Princeton I actually met a guy whose flip phone survived being dropped multiple stories down an elevator shaft. If that had been an iPhone…). Everyone has their own reasons for choosing whatever phone they own, but I always feel some sort of camaraderie towards those who still use basic phones.
I’ve avoided converting from a basic phone to a smart phone thus far, but it’s surprisingly difficult. Most phone companies are phasing out their basic phones, and focusing less time and effort on developing good basic phone models. Many retail, dining, and travel providers offer deals and services that are exclusively accessible by use of smart phones. My peers ask why I “don’t just get an iPhone already,” and my mother encouraged me to convert when my brother did, telling me that she didn’t want me to feel left out if everyone else had iPhones. It sounds dramatic, but sometimes I feel quite judged and excluded for choosing not to conform.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not fundamentally opposed to smart phones. I understand that some professions require you to be constantly ‘plugged in’ whether it’s checking data/transactions, managing/overseeing dynamic processes and employees, or doing work on-the-go when access to a computer is not practical. And I understand that they’re marketed as cool, and fun, and convenient, but for most people (and certainly most non-professionals), I think they’re more of an unnecessary cost and distraction than a useful or necessary tool.
Here are a few of my personal reasons for sticking to a basic phone:
- Smart phones are more expensive. I’m pretty sure data plans are not cheap. Also, on a basic phone there’s no temptation to buy games and apps. I’d rather use that money to buy food. Or alcohol. Or new shoes.
- I don’t need another distraction or reason to avoid direct human interaction. Angry birds, Instagram, Facebook mobile, Snapchat, Words with Friends…. all distractions. Have you ever sat in a room where everyone was staring down at their mobile device instead of having a conversation? Or gotten dinner with a friend whose attention was more on their phone than on you?
- It’s nice to occasionally remain anonymous and not have to account for immediately responding at any minute of any day. I don’t need alerts that pressure me to read/respond to every text message, email, Facebook message, tweet, etc. the instant they’re sent. I’m not isolated or unreachable – I check my email a couple times a day and respond to most text messages within the hour. And emergencies are usually handled with phone calls anyways.
- I don’t need any of its functionalities. I already have a computer. And an mp3 player. And they work just fine. There’s something to be said for the convenience of always having Google maps and a search engine on hand, but I still insist that neither of those are necessary. I just spent the past weekend navigating around NYC and Princeton, NJ using maps and schedules posted at train and bus stations, and a single-page map of midtown that I printed the night before. And when I did get lost, I shamelessly asked for directions.
I’m sure that smartphone owners have plenty of words to say in defense of their choices, but at least for me, I don’t really get it. I’m perfectly happy with my “dumb phone” and I’ll stick with it for as long as I can.