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Embrace The Digital Detox: The Rise Of The ‘Dumb’ Phone

Embrace The Digital Detox

I’ve spent an average of four hours and 37 minutes on my phone per day over the past week. I know because my iPhone told me.

Of that average, 17 minutes in total were spent on text messaging, with one minute pertaining to the amount of time spent physically talking on my phone. So where does the rest of the time go? The main culprits are my Twitter, Messenger and assorted gaming apps – with over 22 hours of the week invested alone. Still, my iPhone assures me that this is an 11% improvement on the time spent looking at my screen the week before.

On average, we spend almost 3 hours per day on our phones.

Image Source: Hackernoon

Since the introduction of ‘Screen Time,’ a tool that logs how we use our iPhones and how long for, users have been dealing with the stark quantifiable realities of just how attached to their mobile phones they truly are.

However, Screen Time also offers a ray of hope for those of us who are hopelessly attached to our devices, because it’s capable of limiting the time we spend on certain apps for us. As a function, Screen Time is excellent, but it’s also part of a much wider digital detox movement.

Embracing the digital detox

Tech Crunch recently ran a story that focussed on a Penn State study in which 143 iPhone owning students were monitored for three weeks. The students were split into two groups: one was instructed to limit their usage of applications to just 10 minutes per day, and the other was told to carry on using their iPhones as usual.

When the study concluded, the results were striking. Researchers noted: “the limited use group showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group.”

Researchers also found that increased awareness from the experiment also benefitted the control group. They explained to Tech Crunch: “Both groups showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out over baselines, suggesting a benefit of increased self-monitoring. Our findings strongly suggest that limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes a day may lead to significant improvement in well-being.”

Meet the dumb phone

Last year The Daily Telegraph reported that adults in the UK now spend an average of 24 hours a week online – more than double what we managed a decade ago when smartphone technology was somewhat more rudimentary.

Image Source: Telegraph

But as usage figures rise, so too does the backlash against perpetual connectivity. Meet the ‘dumb’ phone – the technology that could well work wonders for our wellbeing.

While smartphone sales in Britain increased by a modest 2% in 2017, ‘feature’ phone sales jumped up by 5% – an impressive figure in a nation where 78% of the public say the ‘can’t live without their smartphones.’

So what are dumb phones, and how do they work?

Anatomy of a dumb phone

Readers of a certain age may remember the heady days of Nokia’s market dominance at the turn of the century. The wildly successful Nokia 3310 was released in the year 2000 and featured no WiFi, no 4G or 3G, no front or rear cameras, no GPS, no Bluetooth or infrared capabilities and certainly no USB compatibility. It did, however, feature Snake II, and its battery was only 3 hours behind of “talk time” from that of iPhone XS Max.

Image Source: SmartphoneChecker

The 3310 certainly couldn’t be regarded as a smartphone, but was so successful in selling over 125 million units, that it got a makeover and re-release in 2017 (this time with a little bit more internet connectivity).

The dumb phone represents a pivotal step for consumers in need of digital detox, and typically contains only the most streamlined of functions and features.

The Light Phone

One shining example of a highly practical dumb phone comes courtesy of a Brooklyn-based startup called Light.

Light created the ‘Light Phone’ in 2015 which and are set to release the Light Phone 2 in early 2019.

Image Source: The Light Phone

Simply put, the Light Phone is a remarkable feat of engineering. Roughly the size of a credit card and weighing 1.36 ounces, users get to enjoy an extremely stylish and discreet handset that makes a statement through the veil of understated design.

Although not as ‘dumb’ as it could be – the Light Phone can access WiFi and 4G services – its developers have confirmed that there will never be any social apps, advertisements, news or emails accessible through their phones.

This enables users to message and call to their heart’s content but steer clear of the debilitating distractions that interconnected devices relentlessly throw at us. Is going cold turkey entirely healthy? When Pokemon Go and Angry Birds are capable of sending you notifications in a bid to entice you to open their apps, a complete disconnection may feel like the only complete escape.

Nokia 3310

The 2017 re-release of the Nokia 3310 was probably the most anticipated of all the dumb phones. This model was a perfectly timed nod to the nostalgia enthusiasts as well as the digital detoxers. With basic interconnectivity and a luxury 2-megapixel camera to boot, the 3310 offers some refuge from the intense social integration of modern smartphones.

Nokia has even been kind enough to turn the 3310 into an MP3 player while they’re at it – although you may need to use an SD card to increase storage space if reviving the spirit of the early iPods is something you have in mind.

The piece de resistance for Nokia’s 3310, however, is the battery life. Due to the phone’s simple framework, you’ll have enough battery life to talk for an amazing 22 hours straight. But what’s more astounding is that this generation of the 3310 is capable of being left on standby for 31 days (yes, 744 hours) without the need for a recharge. Vive la détox.

ZTE Z233

A digital detox serves a dual purpose if you’re partial to a little nostalgia. Not only can you live a more autonomous, disconnected life, but you can also rediscover the bygone era when flip phones ruled the world.

The ZTE Z233 fills the long lost flip phone gulf in the market and at a very cheap price too. The handset is ideal for users hoping for a strong detox – there’s still Bluetooth, a camera, and 4G internet, but you’ll be out of luck if you’re hoping to keep hold of your favourite apps.

Of course, the above examples of ‘dumb’ phones represent a blend between the modern and archaic technology that mobile phones have utilised in the past few decades. If you’re keen on going full cold turkey then you may well find no better tonic than finding yourself a mint condition Nokia 3210, or a flip-screen Motorola V3. The early 21st Century was a heyday for mobile phone technology and it’s ripe for revisiting – if Penn State researchers are to be believed, taking a jump back in time could well make you happier than you’ve been.

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