Home / Features / Tech Resolutions #3: why I’m swapping my iPhone for a Nokia dumbphone

Tech Resolutions #3: why I’m swapping my iPhone for a Nokia dumbphone

Chris Rowlands explains why old-school phones make tech feel like new...

I know: this is Stuff. Home of the best gadgets the world has to offer. And I’m talking about ditching my fancy smartphone for an anything-but-clever Nokia brick.

Why? Well, the practical reason is because I travel a lot, and it’s a dual-sim phone with a hefty six-day battery life from a single charge.

But there are dual-sim smartphones, too. So, why don’t I want one? Because they make life too easy.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s exactly what good tech should do: answer real-world problems. But should it do that for every. Single. Thing? For me, the answer is no.

Increasingly, I’ve found myself relying on my phablet for almost everything. Maps. Banking. Translations. Facebook. Travel information. The list goes on. What’s the problem? I’ve forgotten how to function without a phone in my pocket. Well, not any longer.

System reboot

System reboot

So, am I going off-grid completely? Not at all. In fact, a big part of why I’m waving goodbye to my iPhone in favour of Nokia’s finest 105 brick is to reconnect with the tech I take for granted.

If you’re thinking this all sounds a bit ridiculous, stay with me. Tech has helped me do amazing things – send a video I just shot in Vietnam to my parents, find the best restaurant in Lisbon seconds after I’ve landed – but it also means I’m taking a lot of things for granted.

I’m no longer amazed when Google knows exactly where I am, even though I’ve flown for 8 hours. It no longer astounds me that the cloud is a reality and every photo I take is almost instantly backed up.

Should it? I think so. Tech should be the stuff that makes us gasp, more than the one time you open the packaging. But surrounded every day by the smartest gadgets in the world, missing the wood for the trees is a regular occurrence.

Not with my Nokia, though. With my Nokia, I now sit on the bus or in the car in a bubble free from the Internet – and I can reflect a bit on just how cool the world is today.

Less social media, more socialising

Less social media, more socialising

Not carrying a smartphone doesn’t mean severing your ties with tech. Far from it – during my experiment so far, I’ve used stacks of cool services that I now appreciate a bit more. 4K streaming. Worldwide geo-location and satellite imagery – for free. Even Spotify: literally millions of tracks, a click away.

I now get to combine that with interacting with people a bit more. Where I’d once have opened Google Maps, I now have to ask for directions. The funny thing is, a lot of people actually use their smartphone to assist me – but the difference is that I’ve started a conversation, even for a couple of minutes, with a complete stranger that usually involves us laughing at my Nokia, chatting about what tech they like, and what they love or loathe about their smartphone.

Since my first foray into living without an iPhone, I’ve been talking to people more. A lot more. On the Tube, in cities, on the road: when you can’t turn to a smartphone for the answer, you have to call for help a lot more – and that’s good. Not only does it mean I make more connections, it also means I seriously appreciate when I do have tech at my disposal.

What’s more, I’m actually calling people a lot more. No more aimless smartphone Facebook scrolling; I actually have verbal conversations with mates, family and, well, everyone. Sure, my Nokia can do SMS – but after a couple of minutes spent wrestling with predictive text, calling is definitely more preferable.

SEEING MORE WITH FEWER SCREENS

SEEING MORE WITH FEWER SCREENS

I don’t feel like I’m missing out on information either. Sure, breaking news won’t ping up on my new Nokia – but I’m never far from a TV, a newspaper, a radio or a laptop. Even long-haul flights serve ticker tape stories now.

I actually think the problem now isn’t how much information we’re given, but the way in which we’re given it. When my train was delayed a few weeks ago, everyone heard over the tannoy and started talking about it. When a major news event is seen on smartphone screens, very few people do the same thing.

Will I miss my smartphone? If these last few weeks have been anything to go by, not really. Yes, there have been a couple of round-the-block searches for restaurants – but never anything that couldn’t be solved by asking a stranger or calling a mate.

To me, it’s as cool that I can call a friend, who, while on the phone to me can ask their smartwatch for the answer, as it is for me to actually have that smartwatch on my wrist. Why? Because I get to say to them "that’s so cool that we could do that". And it sure is nice only charging your phone once a week.

How to live with a low-tech mobile

1. Make the effort

It’ll take a while for people to realise that you’ve gone back to basics. For me, it was WhatsApp: I missed a heap of group messages. Smartphones have made us lazy, so be prepared to reach out more than normal to keep in touch with people.

2. Get a SIM plan with plenty of minutes

If, like me, you ditch data completely, make sure your new plan has plenty of minutes. Encourage yourself to make calls rather than send texts. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much people – other than just your mother – respond to a proper, old-fashioned chin wag.

3. Keep active on other platforms

While changing your smartphone for a dumbphone means you’re more switched-off away from a laptop, it also makes you appreciate modern communications platforms when you have access to them – such as Facebook and Skype – so don’t hesitate to use them for what they’re good at: connecting with people.

4. Plan ahead on paper

If you’re a serial smartphone user, in the first few weeks you’ll find yourself forgetting to do things before you leave the house – like looking up directions. Just a few “where’s my hotel” moments, though, and you’ll soon become a properly organised operator.

5. Make the most of tech when you have it

One of the best things about ditching a smartphone is falling in love with tech again. Adore that fibre optic broadband. Worship that 4K stream. Praise that smart thermostat. Got a tablet? Well, you’re cheating.