My Dumbphone


People are often surprised when I whip out my flip-phone, a techy guy like me.

I was one of the first iPhone users. I was also one of the first iPad users, and iOS developers.

I’m not precious, I’ve tried Android as well and had a Galaxy Note 4 for a while.

But between these, over the years I keep on coming back to my Dumbphone + Tablet approach. Right behind my cell, I whip often out my iPad and start using it while on the phone.

The primary reason is that the phone is a very rugged and very useful phone with solid phone features. Smartphones, on the other hand, often do everything except handle phonecalls well. Most are basically camera-computers & personal monitoring devices that happen to have a meager phone app.

Originally, I kept cheap mobile phones because I was traveling internationally a lot. It may seem hard to believe now, but not that long ago you couldn’t get a “global phone”. And when they finally did start to exist, they were really expensive. It was far cheaper and easier for me to purchase a different phone and pre-paid plan for whatever country I was in. That way I had no network issues, no issues with adapters or chargers, and a local to number to use whenever I was there. Before leaving the country, I’d change the voicemail message to give my international contact details or just forward calls & texts to my Skype.

When I was back and forth between Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada, and the US often, this made a lot of sense. But several years ago now, I gradually let go of my touring schedule and stopped traveling as much.

At first I was mostly living on a sailboat in the SF Bay. After you drop your phone in the water once, you look for ways not to repeat that expensive mistake again. So that’s when I started buying those waterproof phones, which I highly recommend. Military-spec rugged phones aren’t cheap, but they’re not as much as smartphones either.

Some other advantages of not having a smartphone:
  • You can turn it off = To my knowledge there is no longer any smartphone on the market that you can turn off and know that it’s actually off and not still sending/receiving signals. The way you know your dumbphone is off is you yank the battery.
  • You can replace the battery = Because you can remove the battery, you can also carry a fully charged spare and swap it in as needed. This means you don’t have to carry the dongle-style chargers, just a small battery for a phone that won’t use as much power anyway.
  • You can get wired headsets = Ok, so you can get wired headsets for many Droid phones as well. But Apple lost the jack some time ago, and with it me. I have headphones that I like, and I like to use them. They are not bluetooth, they have a wire so I can unplug them from my computers or iPad or soundboard and plug them into my phone very simply. Try getting 5 different devices to work with one set of bluetooth headphones, I dare you.
  • You can go app-less = I do usually have an iPad or iPad Mini with me when I have my cellphone, but not always. Sometimes it’s nice to just have the phone and go for a walk in a new place. No safety net from GoogleMaps, Uber, or Yelp are needed. No distractions by The Socials (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). I actually engage with the place I am and talk to the people in front of me. (Many of whom are, yes, staring at their smartphones. But it’s still fun.)
  • You can text with a proper keyboard = Smartphones like to guess what words you mean. How good are they at that? Right. I call it “Aw-dough-ink-erect”. When texting, I prefer to type with all my fingers, not just my thumbs. I do that through my iPad that has a text app on it. When a text comes in, my phone dings and I may read it there. But I respond on my iPad, which is just better in every way.

I prefer to use phones for what they do best: talking.

All the other stuff you want your phone to do (apps, pictures, directions, internet, etc.) you can probably do way better on a tablet anyhow. So why not do that?

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