Are ‘dumbphones’ set to make a comeback?

For many of us, it’s hard to imagine a world without our smartphone. From the second we wake up we’re checking notifications and replying to messages – getting our digital fix before the day begins.

Yet for some, this always-on mindset is getting a little too much. For these internet-weary folks, being constantly connected to social media and work emails is proving a distraction they’d rather do without.

The solution: the ‘dumbphone’, otherwise known as a feature phone. New dumbphones are taking everything we loved about our old Nokia bricks (never-ending battery life, durability, reasonable-ish prices) and packing it into a new phone model. Of course, you also lose all those smartphone features to which you’ve grown attached, including your beloved apps.

I can almost hear the shrieks of shock and disbelief as the very thought of nomophobia turns stomachs. But truth is, dumbphones are still very much a ‘thing’. Moreover, start-ups manufacturing these devices for a 2017 audience are helping to strengthen their once-dwindling life force.

The start-ups surfing the wave of a smartphone backlash

Several companies have come to the rescue of digital addicts, ready to bestow their beautifully simple dumbphone. Their phones sell because, sadly, shutting off and disconnecting is a luxury now coveted by many smartphone users.

Punkt MP01

First up we have the Punkt MP01 dumbphone that offers only calling and texting. No apps, no camera, absolutely nada. Select a custom ringtone, most of which imitate animal calls, such as birds singing. Then, re-familiarise yourself with the concept of a touch keypad.

Punk Dumbphone

Forget your touchscreen – Punkt is harking back to the days of physical keypads. The MP01 will set you back £229

Light Phone

Next to make the dumbphone list is the Light Phone. This aptly named device is the size of a credit card and does two things: sends calls and receives them. The minimalist display is taken up by the keypad, which lights up when you press the wake button on top.

The Light Phone

The Light Phone is brilliantly understated – you’ll forget you’re even carrying a phone Light Phones are currently sold out in the UK

ALCATEL OneTouch

Okay, so Alcatel isn’t a start-up, but you can easily get hold of their beyond-basic phones for a decent price. The OneTouch is easy-to-use and comes with a built-in FM radio player. The radio is a nice addition for those who want to get away from the internet, but don’t see the harm in enjoying their favourite tunes offline.

Alcatel OneTouch

Buy for £22.99

The allure of a dumbphone  

These phones don’t do much. Nor are they stylish. But that hasn’t stopped businesses like Punkt and Light producing and profiting from them.

In reality, most people buying these phones don’t use them day-to-day. Instead, they save them for times when they don’t need to be checking emails or looking up directions to their friend’s birthday drinks. A quiet weekend perhaps, where all they want to do is binge on Netflix and take the dog for a walk.

I like the thought of people taking more regular breaks from the internet. Surveys are regularly coming out detailing how smartphones affect our focus, both when concentrating at work and interacting socially. Yes, there’s a do not disturb feature to help you ignore your phone, but people use this sparingly and still get the urge to glance over notifications.

With Ofcom forecasting the growth of the smartphone market will plateau with 25% of adults without a smartphone, could we find dumbphones stay with us longer than we expected? I hope so. In today’s demanding world where being ‘always-on’ is the norm, it’s nice to step back and press pause from time to time.



Enjoy reminiscing about old gadgets? Then you’ll love our article, ‘10 outdated gadgets that kids won’t know