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Ask HN: What “dumbphones” are available and viable in the US?
175 points by msftie 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 171 comments
There’s an increasing interest in “dumbphones” these days, but it seems that options for a basic phone are fairly limited in the US market.

If you have switched, what did you switch to? If you’re looking to switch, what are you considering?




Last time I got a phone, which is a few years ago now, I looked up the cheapest shit flip phone walmart sells and went to the store with the model number. The guy I asked it for didn't even know they sold it but it was down in some closed stock case, it was model A117 I believe or something else really close to it and it was like $20. I must admit though, it is a step down in quality from my previous flip phone that finally died after it got ran over twice busting a corner and exposing a ribbon cable which eventually failed and killed the screen (likely from me fucking with it).

The downside is maps would be useful sometimes, especially once google cancelled their free text-for-directions service. On the upside, I don't have to charge it but once every few days and if I still got a good 12 hours of battery once it gets to the low mark.

My next phone I will probably do the same, and because im only spending 10-20 bucks, I figure if I don't like it enough I can easily get a new one. The one thing I would make sure is that you can use a microsd card to put a different ringtone, all the default tones are like the screeching of satan's dirty asshole.


I've never heard of text for directions...

I wonder how hard it would be to set up a server connected to twilio, get the directions from google maps (or Open Street maps) and text it back. I might add that to my growing list of projects I'll likely never make.


It was actually part of the Google Search via SMS; You'd text 466453 - which spells Google - with the keywords: directions <your current address> to <destination> and they would text you back turn by turn directions.

They had other features as well but it was discontinued in 2013 if memory serves correctly.

There are now costs associated with Google Maps; Directions have two costs: basic (0.005) and advanced (0.010) - the advanced includes traffic. You also need to factor in the cost for sms delivery and short codes, to make it easier, so you'd need to monetize from the start unless you want to lose money.

Hardest part is parsing the commands eg current location and destination as folks make mistakes and you might need to have a back and forth dialogue via sms to get further details.

To get a concept off the ground wouldn't take much time but to perfect it and refine the parsing of commands would take some effort.


Has anybody mentioned the Punkt MP-01? https://www.punkt.ch/en/products/mp01-mobile-phone/

I've had it for 2-3 years now and it's been pretty great. Granted service can be kinda spotty because it's 2G and I'm not sure how much longer it will be viable when 2G is phased out. It's also very expensive compared to dumb alternatives but I don't know of any other phone on the market that is so clean in terms of physical design and UX.

Punkt is making an MP-02 which will run on 4G I believe but I'm not sure if it will be as minimal. I think they're partnering with Blackberry to bring like secure email or messaging or something, which to me seems anti-dumphone, but I guess people expressed demand in a user survey...


FYI, 2g is not a safe choice for security. For an introduction to the security issues, take a look at how the encryption can be easily broken: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-319-28166-...


In addition to being a security hazard, lots of countries (e.g. Canada) are phasing out or have already removed their 2G networks.

Fortunately they have announced a 4G model coming soon which I am keeping my eye on: https://www.punkt.ch/en/mp02-4g-mobile-phone/


Not super concerned with security of my texts or calls personally. Obviously it would be nice to have those covered, but the whole point of a dumbphone to me is to use it less. I want it to do as little as possible and do it well enough to get by.


That's stylish hardware, but how do you feel about the price for what you get?


I feel like I'm getting Punkt


I justified it to myself mentally by thinking of the savings of not paying for a smartphone's data plan. I pay about $20 a month for service vs paying around $60 a month for a smartphone with data. Obviously this doesn't change the fact that it's a lot more expensive than other dumbphones, but I was willing to pay more to have a UI that isn't bloated with a bunch of bs apps and junk, and doesn't have dumb colorful bubble icons or the such.


>The MP01 is made in small production runs using top-grade components, and leaves that noughties retro-look behind.

...in favor of the 90s calculator retro-look behind

I'd need a big push to trust this phone, just based on its design aesthetic... its very close to "first thing I could think of, for modern dumbphone"

Its easy to imagine the rest of the engineering is similarly complex; I wouldn't be surprised if the higher cost was purely resulting from mistakes on their part


That design looks so sleek.

I'd dream of something like this embracing 5G and open source firmware so users could add native encryption and other utility as they please.

Also, "Hashtag Key"


I have a "dumb phone", which in the context of my post means a phone that does calling and texting, and does not have WiFi. It is a backup phone in case my main phone dies, so that I can continue to do two-step auth in certain situations.

What I ended up doing was going on Amazon, to their Cell Phone section, pulling up the list of unlocked phones, and limiting the search to $50 or less. That got me a BLU Tank model (which does not run Android, and was not one of the "sends data back to the manufacturer" models) for something like $25.

It's interesting, though, in that although my phone doesn't do apps, or email, it still supports multimedia (music, images, video, via a microSD card). Also (like, I understand, many phones mainly used in the APAC region) it has an FM tuner, and includes dual SIM support.

To be clear, though, this is just a backup phone. I keep it charged, and I turn it on once in a while, but I don't use it regularly. Still, redoing my Amazon search shows that there are alot of models to choose from!


> It's interesting, though, in that although my phone doesn't do apps, or email, it still supports multimedia (music, images, video, via a microSD card)

Well, that's what `dumb/feature` phones was doing at their times. There were Java applications, that could access the web/mail/stuff but I wouldn't consider them as real "mail/whatever support" as there were no notifications, background sync and stuff.

My suggestion to OP:

Buy refurbished Nokia 5310.

Pros: - it looks beautiful - it's size is just right - it works very fast, including multimedia - it has dedicated multimedia keys - good battery time (as every dump phone should have, comparing to smartphones) - cheap (Aliexpress prices are starting at $25, but see Cons before you buy)

Cons: - watch out for bad quality refurbs. Ask seller for real photo, this is an example of bad refurb: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Nokia/724717466.html - metal parts replaced with cheap looking plastic, both numeric keyboard and multimedia buttons looks not-solid - multimedia keys can be fragile from putting phone into your pants pockets. If metal part around the buttons sticks out - it will hook your pants material and start to stick out even more. I had used this phone few years and it was ok, but seen some people that had this problem

Suggestion number 2:

There are A LOT of dumb phones produced by sometimes not-well-known brands, but they are good ones. They are cheap and you can choose from many models. Get a friend from Europe to help you if you are located in US (I assume you are, maybe wrongly)


Not really sure I trust BLU after that whole previous incident. They were ok with sending that data back before... too bad as the R 1 HD was a great backup phone IMO.


Not sure if it qualifies as a dumbphone, but I'm eyeing the Lightphone. It's definitely more expensive than the old bricks, but way cheaper than the usual smartphone.

https://www.thelightphone.com/home/


Just watched the indiegogo video for lightphone 2. I must say that while the phone seemed to make sense at first, when they mentioned music, Uber, etc. now being integrated I became lost.

At some point I don’t understand the difference between this product and a smartphone. Want to remove yourself from “feeds”? Don’t download the apps that house them.


To add on to other commenters: Uber/Lyft are services, not entertainment or distraction. I don't know anybody who "zones out" of life by ordering cars.

Disclaimer: recently signed up for lightphone 2 pre-order. Personally, I just super like the minimalist e-ink display and I hope it will help me disconnect from the news cycle.


>and I hope it will help me disconnect from the news cycle.

I remember long time ago I read a paper which suggest news is more addicted then drugs or porn. News include anything from Financial, Politics, Entertainment, etc. At the time I thought it was lots of BS. Now I am starting to believe we spent too much time in the "news cycle" from Twitter, Facebook or whatever it is distracting us.


Anecdotally, the news cycle has been the hardest (internet) addiction for me to break.

I can justify deleting social media (Facebook, Reddit) because 95% of my use of it is garbage. But the news is useful, engaging. It's "entertainment with a higher purpose". Can I really justify not reading the NYTimes at all because I just "read too much"? (I was reading the news from various sites for 3 or 4 hours a day.) In the end, I decided that yes, I had to block news sites, because it was a ridiculous use of my time for a software engineer.

On the other hand, I know of no one else in my life who's had this problem.


>On the other hand, I know of no one else in my life who's had this problem.

That is my case as well. But this also remind me they really don't know much else apart from their domain. Housing Policy? They don't care they got a house already. Zoning? None of their business. Universal Health Care? They can afford their own. Tax reform etc? Just choose one that benefits them most. K-Pop, Kids new interest? They had no idea.

I have been thinking whether generation gap is partly a age and experience problem, and partly because older generation ( as compared to kids ) just don't give a damn about what is going on with the world any more.


Uninstalling the BS apps helps you also disconnect from the "news cycle" (whatever that might be) [1]. The advantage of lightphone is that it is a next-gen dumbphone. It has high battery uptime, yet has a touchscreen (e-ink) with some basic functions. I find it very expensive for what it delivers, but right now its a unique niche (e-ink wise).

[1] I do not visit Facebook or Twitter nor do I have their apps on my smartphone. I do visit HN though.


If you get your news from websites, rather than apps, then there's nothing to uninstall unless you want to uninstall the internet.

Personally, I mapped addictive sites like reddit to 0.0.0.0 in the hostfile, so I could have just the right amount of internet.


At this point I guess I'll have both and go with the YotaPhone.


It would be nice if it also worked with things like bike sharing apps, but then it would need a camera.


Camera? With Go Bike in SF, you don’t even need a smart phone — you can use your Clipper card


Hm. Maybe in SF, but in Paris you can only take the city bikes with a card. Go Bike, OFO, mobike, lime and others all require scanning QR codes.


I think the idea is you have a phone that asks less of you and can't do more than a few things. You can't email, view video. But the battery could last for weeks. The simply can't grow into that much of a distraction.


Uber isn't really a feed, more of an occasional service people want to have. And music was on older dumphones/ipods.



Phones are a real problem for people as they age or experience visual, auditory, motor-skills and cognitive decline.

For folks like that any kind of smartphone with "off-the-shelf" software is a non-starter-- too many options, too small, not tactile.

The problem with "dumb" flip-phones is that they tend to be small and slippery. An arthritic octogenarian will have a hard time even opening a flip phone.

The ones that are "designed" for old folks tend to be setup as "medical alert" devices-- a big red button on the back and all the drawbacks of a regular flip phone. They're more designed for paranoid family members than the actual users.

The phone I purchased for my octogenarian mother is an Alcatel "GO Flip". She has difficulty opening it and the buttons are too small. As a work around I programmed numbers "1","2","3","4" as a speed-dial to me and the rest as a speed dial to my brother. She knows to press "1" for me and "9" for my brother. I tell her to hold down the number until she sees my (or my brother's) picture. $75~ for the phone, $20/month for no-contract unlimited talk/text (she doesn't use text)-- that's it. That's the best I can do.


This doesn't come as surprise to me, as I see this becoming a problem for my sexagenarians too. So I train them when I can. Whatever future brings, they'll be at least a little better prepared for it.

Bonus tip - if you have a couple of genarians, drop same phones with different colors on them, they can help each other a lot. If any sales exec is reading this - sell them like that.


Which makes me think, isn't it easier to set up a Google Assistant/ Echo to be able to call your relative ?

I don't understand why there isn't more focus in assistant to support elderly people because there is a huge market. (but maybe I missed it because I am not affected yet)


Yes, I think I would have considered that if she were still at home, but she is in a skilled nursing facility. Their wifi network isn't reliable enough for that.

There are also mobility concerns. Something like an echo/assistant would still need to have a "satellite" handset or have microphones and speakers that are good enough for communication with an elderly person in another part of the room.

I think anyone developing a communication product for the elderly should definitely spend serious time inside nursing homes. These are challenging problems.


I would pay good money for a phone for my 84-year-old mother-in-law that has photo-based dialing and easy access to a ride service such as Uber or Lyft. That’s all she needs. As you point out, a smart phone is too small and too confusing with too many options.



She uses it now. When it works, it’s great, but they’ve left her stranded on scheduled pickups twice now.


I don't have an answer (yet), but I am tracking on KaiOS[1] for a future replacement. Once there is some decent and accessible hardware behind it, I feel it may be my next 'upgrade'. There's the Nokia 8110[2] but it's not available to me yet.

[1]https://www.kaiostech.com/

[2]https://www.nokia.com/en_int/phones/nokia-8110-4g


Note that Google (recent large investment) and Facebook are KaiOS “partners” so don't assume data privacy for very long.


KaiOS has also played it loose with releasing the source code for their feature phone flavor of B2G. They've had 2 years, no code has been forthcoming. I certainly wouldn't trust them, and would have to audit the activity of their devices before I'd use them.


Too bad KaiOS is the only major project continuing work on B2G, as they have no respect for the project. They refuse to release the code they are required to open or the code they should open in the spirit of the project.


The code is at https://github.com/kaiostech

But note that KaiOS itself doesn't ship devices, so we can't publish some of the code used by OEMs to do full builds.

While I agree that we took too long to publish this code, we were not legally infringing any license contrary to what some (even at Mozilla, lol) pretend.


I just got a nokia 8110, and I think the OS is still somewhat behind series 40/60 nokias. I wish they hadn't killed all the 3g models on the older os


You got the 8110 4G? I can't find it anywhere


it's available in Italy


I got the Fsmart M5 off Amazon for $20 and is the size of a credit card.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00UWT5DM4/

Works great on T-Mobile, with one exception: it cannot receive MMS, so you don't get notified if someone sends a photo or group text.


When the 2G networks are shut down, this phone will no longer work.


Samsung phones have a low power mode on everything from s5 and up that disables every function of the phone (every sensor and radio) except texting and calling and 4 apps of your choice. It's much smarter to just disable your current phone than to completely replace it with something inferior and harder to use like an old flipphone. Samsung also makes modern flip phones running Android that have all the same simplicity of being able to be closed and of course not having apps installed if you so choose.


Newer models, and I have a Note 8 for reference, let you customize those modes, and will do 8 apps.

I use Chrome with file:/// to view docs and play media files while in the super low power mode.

Very effective. Standby is measured in days, and I have played audio files while camping for many hours without even coming close to a low battery.

My favorite feature on Samsung.


This is a really good solution for someone who wants to go nuclear on the smartphone, but isn't sure. You'll find out quick if your willpower is the main issue.


I've known for a long time that my willpower is the issue, because I've never been a fan of turning on notifications. I tend to keep it to only chat apps having notification rights, which would still translate to text notifications on a dumbphone. Pretty much any other time wasting I do on my phone is because I pull it out without prompting.


If the reasons for a "dumbphone" are smaller size, longer battery life, decreased media consumption, and increased privacy – then such a tiny smartphone as Xperia XZ1 Compact[1] with AOSP ROM without Google provided by Sony[2] would still cut the mark.

[1] https://www.sonymobile.com/global-en/products/phones/xperia-...

[2] https://developer.sony.com/file/download/software-binaries-f...


I do this with the Sony Xperia X. Updates are relatively frequent [1]. There are a few bugs with the AOSP version. For example, the phone doesn't come out of sleep when the alarm goes off. Otherwise, I'm very happy with it. Plus it's fun to hack the OS when I get time.

[1] https://developer.sony.com/develop/open-devices/latest-updat...


This is one of the best phones out there.


Are AOSP ROMs from Sony as good as Pixel ones in terms of updates?

If so, it might be a very worthwhile alternative.


Looking at the answers here, why is it so hard to get a cheap phone in the US?

Last week in Europe I got an unlocked Nokia 105 Dual Sim for $12. It's the dumbest phone but with 30(!) days stand-by time on a single charge.

edit: added "unlocked"


Because since the cost of a phone has traditionally bundled into your contract, and prepaid plans just aren't a thing, even the most expensive phones look "cheap" month-on-month - so nearly everyone with just a little disposable income has a flagship Android phone or an iPhone because they can mostly afford it. Americans think of things as costing a certain amount of their budget per month, rather than pricing their total costs, due in part to the relatively easy (and normalised) accessibility of credit.


True, but in the UK, last time I wanted something like this I was able to get one new for £7(!) on a month-by-month contract (e.g. - you can stop paying at any time).


I believe US carriers have began to shutdown their 2G network, so 3G is a requirement. Most of these dumb phones only have 2G hardware though.

I’m not sure why the EU hasn’t done the same though.


There are way too many M2M users of 2G to close it down, at least in the Nordics. E.g. electricity meters in Finland commonly use GPRS.

3G will probably be closed before 2G.


There's a lot of IoT devices using the 2G network. I've seen providers announcing they are going to shut down the 3G network and keeping 2G.


The 3G network will be discontinued soon in the Czech Republic, but 2G stays because of IoT, car and home alarms, coverage of remote areas etc.


My mom just recently got a Alcatel GO FLIP which is one of the first phones with KaiOS. I messed around with it a little and was very impressed by the OS. If you're wanting to get a dumbphone, but not go back 20 years in technological advancement, check out KaiOS phones.


Nokia's 8110 4G looks somewhat interesting, it's KaiOS, relatively basic on-board, but can act as a hotspot for your tablet or laptop.


+1 for the Nokia 8110 4G. I had to go to Europe to get it, but I am very pleased so far. Very minimal with a few critical "smart" features like the wifi hotspot. For some reason it also has Google Maps, though it's barely functional.


> For some reason it also has Google Maps, though it's barely functional.

Google invested in KaiOS to get its services pre-installed[1]. Soon, you won't be able to get a phone without Google, unless it's targeted at Chinese market or is made by Apple.

[1] https://www.theverge.com/2018/6/28/17513036/google-kaios-inv...


> Google invested in KaiOS to get its services pre-installed[1]. Soon, you won't be able to get a phone without Google, unless it's targeted at Chinese market or is made by Apple.

I agree with your concern, but I can report there are alternatives:

* SailfishOS (version 3 is due), successor or Maemo/MeeGo, uses Mer and official ports have Android emulation [1]

* LineageOS (with or without MicroG) [2] [3]

* UBPorts, a community project continuation of Ubuntu Touch [4]

* PureOS [5]

And then there's CopperheadOS though it has imploded last time I checked, and PostmarketOS which is a nice alternative if all else isn't updated anymore or otherwise fails.

I'm using LineageOS with MicroG on a FP2. If anyone got questions about that, shoot.

[1] https://jolla.com/sailfish3/

[2] https://lineage.microg.org/

[3] https://lineageos.org/

[4] https://ubports.com/

[5] https://puri.sm/shop/librem-5/


It's not about a lack of alternatives, but about the lack of accessibility to them. How many phones can we find on Amazon shipping with any of these OSes today?


Yes, there are various problems with these alternatives such a lack of availability, a lack of backwards compatibility. Many of these problems are related to the network effect.

But also to your bubble. SailfishOS targets upcoming markets such as India and Russia. So no, you won't find those on Amazon. I wouldn't use Amazon as the sole holy grail in this regard. Also, you can buy a Sony Xperia X and buy a SailfishOS license for it. You can run in on a device such as a FP2.


Where did you buy it? I'm from Europe


I just ordered one of those, I'm pumped. To me, the biggest selling point of KaiOS phones is the fact that they have GPS. That was the main reason it took me so long to get rid of my smartphone in the first place.


I don't like the KaiOS philosophy of "you can't write software for your device unless we like the idea".

In order for mostly-dumb phone like that to be useful for me there are a few small things I'd need to sort out via software, but they won't allow it.

Stallman was right etc.


I'm thinking about downgrading to a Blackberry Classic. Not quite a dumb phone, but from what I've seen it's much more of a tool than an entertainment/social-media/time-wasting device, which is exactly what I'm looking for. There's no way I could do without navigation, so I don't think anything more dumb will work for me.


I recently did exactly this. I'm heading to DefCon next week and the Classic is a nice hands-off high security device I can use for just about my email and little else. Did the same last year with an older 'Berry as well and it helped me to enjoy the conference rather than my phone.


Email still works without carrier/BB support for push email?


Yes. I've been using a Blackberry Classic for over a year now ("upgraded" from an old Nokia Symbian phone). Does plain IMAP (TLS 1.2), with IMAP IDLE support just fine. Only annoying "feature" of the email client is that it insists on sending HTML mail by default, to send text/plain you have to set it per message/thread.


To add, the old reliance on this was because older Blackberries (<= OS 7) needed to be assigned to a BIS server at the carrier. With OS 10, they work differently. There are core BB 10 servers that are set to be shut down Dec 31, 2019 though, and it's not really certain what the devices will be like after that point.


I bought one on ebay for 40 bucks. Beautiful phone. Super solid build, and design - definitely, turns more heads then your everyday iPhone X. If it wasn't so laggy (didn't take a millennium to boot-up), I would use this phone always. Also, it side-loads android, so I got Snapchat, Spotify. Slow, but they are there. The blocker on this phone is the primary interaction method (the keyboard), and that's why I found myself away from it. Just turn off the notifs. I guess I didn't need a "dumbphone", I do need one where it's not convenient enough for me to just swipe up and read on for hours.


I had to carry one for work purposes when these were popular. I found that the 15-minute startup time is pretty much negated by the three-day battery life, and the phone was faster than my android at actually running apps.


I never switched. Still using my business class Nokia E72. It has a decent camera, sd card for storage, Opera browser for basic internet, HERE offline maps for navigation. And putty terminal for SSH connections to a remote system. Fits in my trouser pocket unlike the massive smartphones. I keep two spare ones in case it breaks. It broke once, i opened it up, cleaned the inside, put back together and it still works like new. Get them on second hand on ebay.


Are there any that can act as dumbphones and hotspots for my tablet or laptop?


If you want to go fancy, the Punkt MP02 should do that at some point soon: https://www.punkt.ch/en/mp02-4g-mobile-phone/


$229,-- for the MP01 version that is 2G only is an outrage. nice design & great marketing though.


I feel like there might be some room for sensible startups in the minimal dumbphone segment if things like "less pixels", "no features" and "makes phone calls" are actual selling points now and they can price the thing at $200+.



Depending on your definition of "hotspot", most of them can. Provided the phone has bluetooth, you can address it from your laptop as a data-modem through pppd.

The cons are the setup, which may or may no be canceled out by the geek-cred from having AT modem commands whiz by.

The pro is the usually longer battery life of a dumb phone which means you can be fully online, anywhere, for the duration of your laptop battery.


The Nokia 8110 4g, which is still not out, should do that. It's a little bit expensive though...


> The unique shape also means you can spin the phone in ways you never imagined. [1]

Amazing marketing!

[1] https://www.nokia.com/en_gb/phones/nokia-8110-4g


It's been out since early-mid July, in Europe at least: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nokia-16ARGB01A03-Mobile-Phone-Blac...



The new Nokia 8110 4G can.


The Kyocera DuraXE is LTE-capable and can broadcast a wifi hotspot.


I’m gonna take a wild guess, based on my knowledge from about 10 years ago, that your best bet is going to be prepaid providers. Dunno what they’re doing nowadays, but I used to use a Tracfone Wireless phone, which cost $20–30 at Walmart for the hardware, and iirc about $60 per 120-minute card—although there were frequent promotions, so I acquired coupon codes for my family when I was in high school to help save money. The unfortunate thing was that it cost 0.3 minutes per SMS. Also the deal is that you have to buy minutes every so often to extend your service period. Anyway, if they’re still doing a “basic hardware” type option then that could be something to look into.


I have a friend who got a really tiny (like, fits in your wallet tiny) cell phone from China. Worked fine when he put the SIM card in, and the audio quality was really solid.


I was trying to avoid “things you buy from resellers who ordered 5000 of them from Shenzhen at half a dollar a pop and then marked them up 2000%” but honestly that’s also a great option in a pinch.


Can you get us a link?



I haven’t tested this idea, but what about using a regular smartphone, and simply uninstall or not enable most of the features?

Don’t want to be distracted? Turn off notifications. Don’t want access to email? Don’t set up the email account.


Frankly, addiction and bad habits make it very difficult to sustain that when it’s easy to re-enable things.

I have hardly any notifications, my phone is perpetually on silent with vibrate disabled (I often miss calls and texts), and I have no “social media” apps beyond iMessage/Signal. But I still reach for it at every idle moment (most time being spent in the browser).

The one app I truly need is a keepass client. Not sure how I will overcome that without a smartphone.


I agree. Mobile internet is a double-edged sword: super useful, super distracting / addicting. Several years ago, I rooted my android to add sites such as reddit and nytimes (news junkie) to map to 0.0.0.0 in the hostfile, effectively blocking them. Then, I removed the file navigator (ES File Explorer).

I have found this sufficient.


Why not block hacker news? Not as addicting as the others?

Edit: oops didn't see your list wasn't exhaustive.


HackerNews also seems to be designed to be less addicting and immediately rewarding, don't you think? It's more geared towards technical deep reads than BBC or something similar.


It's possible to disable the stock browser. If you really need browsing capability for something, you can temporarily install it, or carry a tablet for "emergency" web use.

This is the only method I've found that can completely crush smartphone addiction. Re-enabling the browser and waiting to install updates seems to be a big enough hurdle to prevent any casual browsing.


The problems I see with that option would be:

- More expensive

- Lower battery life

- More fragile

- No physical buttons (might be a positive if you like touch keyboards)

- Temptation to use the features anyway


Recently i got myself xaiomi m1a1 and flashed lineageos. I didnt install google play services instead i just use few things from fdroid.

Suprisingly i probably doubled battery life when i rooted phone and added some battery managment apps like greenify. Also with firewall you are pretty good blocking all outgoing stuff.


I second this. Currently waiting the 72 hour 'phone being paired to an xaiomi-account' period so I can unlock the bootloader and install lineagos for use as my new daily driver. I find this (using a custom, configurable and minimal android rom) satisfies my desire for settings tinkering and software control, provides the utility I'd like to keep (calls/email/sms-mms/mfa-otp/hotspot/calender/music/alarms/browser-when-needed) but is also boring enough to limit most of the distractions and helps alleviate alert-fatigue.


Just note with xiaomi phones not all phones are the same in terms of rooting. Some phones need 'pairing with xiaomi account' some of them don't. It depends on preinstalled flavor of Android. For example my M1A1 does not require that becuase it is "Android One" phone - making the stock quite good. The problem with rooting this phone specifically is that Android One phones use some sort of A/B partition system for seamless updating. https://source.android.com/devices/tech/ota/ab/ There are not so many guides on this and it was a littlebit of hustle. But i guess more and more phones will be like this so it will get easier.

Of course if you don't mind just buy OnePlus where everything it is very easy (i had OnePlus one before).


How do you turn off the web browser, though?


In iOS: Settings > General > Restrictions > Toggle Safari


Imagine someone asks what graphics editors are available on the C64, and people suggest using Photoshop at low resolution because that's what they are interested in, and because hey, it could be that that person hasn't heard about Photoshop yet. "About your question, that's a good question, but let me answer a better question."


The Zerophone is an interesting DIY dumbphone built on top of an RPi Zero. I've been considering getting one.

https://wiki.zerophone.org/index.php/Main_Page


I have previously contributed to that project :)


One option I've seen is the Nokia 3310 3G [1] for $60 in the US. I have it.

[1] https://www.nokia.com/en_us/phones/nokia-3310-3g


I hate this phone. Typing is slow. I swap auto completion dictionaries a lot. Limited memory forces you to delete previous reminders and sms conversations. Deleting them is done with a menu system that is inconsistent; the same command jumps to different positions. Mms does not work with my provider. With some types of phones i call, there is some weird feedback of electronic noise that is only audible on my side. Stay away from this phone!


> Typing is slow. I swap auto completion dictionaries a lot.

Maybe this is not the phone for your usages. I do not expect to type much on it, only brief SMS and calls only.

> Limited memory forces you to delete previous reminders and sms conversations. Deleting them is done with a menu system that is inconsistent; the same command jumps to different positions.

It has 128MiB internal memory and an SD card slot for expanded storage. Do you have a version of the phone with less storage?

> Mms does not work with my provider.

Why would MMS not work? There are known issues switching from iPhone to non-iPhone due to Apple switching to use iMessage between iPhones. Going back results in missed messages. Could that be your issue?

Earlier incarnations of this phone did not have 3G support and also not quad-band.

> With some types of phones i call, there is some weird feedback of electronic noise that is only audible on my side.

Perhaps you got a bad build? Get a replacement and try again? Do some process of elimination: try with a headset and see if it goes away.

Overall I am lowering my expectations going to a phone like this, as one should. I only expect to do calls, simple SMS, and slow typing. But I have high expectations for long battery life and I will get this.

It's just a telephone.


I have one as well. For reference I'm happy with it as a "talk/sms" phone but I don't use any apps on it, even only lightly the browser. If you plan on needing the 3g much, I'd recommend the bigger brother 8110 model because on the 3310 you're back to 2003-2005 mobile internet UX. I'm not sure whether you can use either as a hotspot though.

(Dat multiweek battery life. Haven't tested the "indestructable 3310" myth on this new version yet though)


Can you remove the preinstalled FB/Twitter apps?


I'm in my 3rd week using this phone (same model). I switched from iPhone 6s as an experiment/experience for few months. This phone has these apps (FB, Twitter), but they are unusable. On opening, they throw some error. Since I switched mainly to cut myself off of these apps, I did not bother to dig further.


Verizon sells one they claim is LTE capable. Consumer Cellular has a couple of grandpa-friendly models. Or you could just get something like an Apple Watch 3 with LTE, which achieves a similar goal.


I have the T-Mobile version of the LTE dumbphone (Alcatel Go Flip). It can be used as a hotspot, wifi calling, and HD voice (much clearer than previous dumbphones). KaiOS is really laggy unfortunately.

I haven't used that phone in 6 months or so because I switched to an Apple Watch series 3. I've never had a smartphone as my actual phone. I synced it to my SIM on my wife's phone with my Apple ID, then reset her phone back to her stuff.

The watch works great as my only phone. Eats batter power, about 15 hours per charge, less if I talk or listen to music more than a couple hours per day. Looking forward to watchOS 5 because it will the phone self-manage wifi settings, which should fix a lot of the battery issues. Right now I can only connect to one wifi network (since I don't have a phone to sync to that manages it). Once I can connect to my home and office wifi, battery life will improve.

Not having a phone in my pocket ever again is a great feeling. Just the default apps on it. Wish I could stream podcasts. I still keep the dumbphone around the house in case I need to take an SMS (Apple Watch apparently doesn't handle those either, just Apple Messages).


You are doing [more or less] exactly what I am planning to do when the next Apple Watch is released. I just have a S1 right now so it is tethered, but in a couple months I am planning to get an LTE model and then ditch the smartphone as often as I can. I don't make too many voice calls these days so I see only upsides.

My S1 definitely does text messages, not just iMessages, but like I said, it is tethered. If the LTE model cannot do standalone texts, that is a bit unfortunate -- I do get normal text messages periodically and I would hate to give those up entirely.


I'm genuinely curious what similar goal an Apple Watch achieves


An Apple watch LTE is more functional than almost any dumbphone you could possibly buy. It has the ability to call and text as well as not having to carry a big phone around.

Essentially everything you'd want from a dumbphone, small screen, no real apps, basic phone functions and maybe email.


The only thing an Apple Watch would not give me out-of-the-box that a dumbphone would is the ability to have a private-ish conversation. But ... airpods are a lot smaller than any dumbphone, so there's that.

I am actually thinking I might pick up an LTE apple watch in a couple months when the next generation comes out, exactly for the reason of leaving my iphone at home pretty often. Less distraction, less willpower required to stay off it.


No apps and features designed to suck your time up with. You still get notifications for the stuff you want, but there's no web browser, and far fewer distractions in general.

Although I don't know if it really fits the bill. You still need to pay for data access, it is far more expensive, and no private calls without some bluetooth headphones.


Battery life on the Apple watch is much worse than a dumbphone, if you spend any time taking calls. Also, you still have to pay for full-priced cell phone plan, plus the extra monthly fee for having virtual SIM. I look forward to the day when these things change, since having a smartwatch plus airpods would be a great way to stay just connected enough.


You need not buy a new phone. Some of the Samsung phones of the 2005-2006 era were my favorite, in terms of speed and menu design. They can be found on Ebay for <$10


I agree. And, if you have a phone that is too "smart", you can always root it to edit what is easily available to you.


I'm sure that YMMV. But there are often problems activating very old phones. E.g. Verizon won't activate phones that don't meet their GPS requirements.


I've been using this one for about 5 years https://www.amazon.com/LG-Xpression-2-Blue-AT/dp/B00J1SMJ06.

The charge still lasts 3-4 days with a moderate amount of texting and it's built like a tank.

My only complaint is only allows you to save a couple hundred texts and then you need to clear it out but it does have a micro SD card that you can keep in to drastically improve that.

I'm not sure why it's so expensive now. When I got it, it was $25.

I'm sure you could find something better nowadays. That one was released 6-7 years ago according to Google.


I used an LTE-capable Kyocera DuraXE for several trips to the US. It was solidly built and worked as advertised.

I ended up getting rid of it because going back to T9 for texting was just too painful, and I'd rather have access to WhatsApp/Signal for messaging. It seems any LTE-capable feature phones are also using some custom version of Android without the ability to install apps, or generally get any updates, which makes me generally skeptical of their security.

Have switched to using a burner iPhone SE for travel.


Dumbphone is a pretty broad term, so you have to think of your requirements first. Does the phone need a color screen? Cellular internet/wifi? Multimedia? MMS? Basic apps?

While there aren't necessarily a lot of new "dumbphones" being advertised, this doesn't mean they don't exist in the market. You can pick a ton of such basic phones released over the last 10 years on Amazon/eBay for as little as $10-$25 which will do all of this and more (or less, if you like).


I bought a Cat B100 a few years ago. It's my second phone; the iPhone is still my primary, but there are times that it's better to have a dumbphone.

It's sold by Caterpillar, but actually built by Bullit Mobile, who specialize in rugged phones.

The B100 is completely waterproof, and very rugged. It's perfect when I'm going camping for the weekend, because it's safe in the elements, I can go days without charging the battery, and it's not distracting me from the world around me. It's still got Google Maps and can do SMS / MMS, so it's practical. The FM radio is surprisingly useful, too—something I'd forgotten about since it's not as common on phones anymore.

Sadly, it's been discontinued, but it's still pretty easy to find them for sale. I really love mine, I plan to keep using it as long as the cell networks still work with it.

https://www.t3.com/reviews/cat-b100-review


How does it compare to B30? I'm currently looking for a 3G/4G dumbphones.


I haven't seen a B30 in person, but it looks pretty comparable. Seems like it's a slightly thinner & lighter update to the B100 (though "thin and light" is relative, it's a rugged candybar).

It would probably be as good. I prefer the look of the B100, but I bet the B30 is nice, too.


https://www.nokia.com/en_int/phones/nokia-3310

https://www.cnet.com/products/nokia-3310/review/

I got one of these for my Dad, and he loves it. He likes to garden and putter around in the work shop, and he hated that he always had to worry about keeping his hands clean in order to use the iPhone.

Now... if only there was a way to disable all texting, he'd be in bliss. A simple message to people, "I don't text, call me." Would be great for any phone, really. Some people hate texting.


I just came here to say 'Bring back the Razr'


As much as I love smartphones, the razr was such a great phone. I miss smaller phones in my pocket. I still have my Razr. Do they still make those size SIM cards anymore?


The still do, at least in Indonesia. You can get prepaid SIM card that is pre-cut from Mini to nano, you just pop out the size you want...

You can also buy an adapter to convert the smaller SIM to the larger ones...


I buy whatever smart phone walmart has for $35, prepaid. then I do not register it. I download skype and pay $2-3 a month for unlimited incoming and outgoing, and only use wifi. if I am traveling I turn on the prepaid, I think verizon was the last one. I think it was $10-25 per day or for something like 300 minutes

last year when we had a snow storm, the power went out. my UPC system ran my internet for about 4 hours I was able to turn on LTE data for the prepaid phone and I bought something like 5-10gb of data and watched movies, had internet, and lights off of my deep cycle batteries and solar until they were able to fix the power pole a week later


I use the Sonim XP5 with Verizon(also available for AT&T). It can be used as a wifi hotspot, has a music player, removable battery, expandable storage, bluetooth (connects to my truck just fine for calls, music and listening to messages. can respond to messages with canned responses). uses a stripped-down version of Android for its OS.

https://www.androidheadlines.com/2017/07/sonim-xp5-verizons-...


Nokia 3310 (in name and shape only) 3G? https://www.gsmarena.com/nokia_3310_3g-8876.php


Not exactly a dumbphone, but Unihertz makes extremely small phones https://www.unihertz.com/


This is cool. Thanks for sharing this!

I miss the days when phones were small enough to comfortably fit in one's pockets. I always favored flip phones over candy bar phones not due any particular function, simply because of their compactness. Ah, the past!


As an offshoot I’m looking for a second phone to use in emergencies if my primary phone is dead or lost. Is there a super cheap emergency only plan?


I don't want a dumb phone. I want a smartphone that allows me to toggle it into dumb phone mode with only phone, gps and messaging available. That way I can have best of both worlds.

I don't think either major OS maker will do that. Those silly tools they're coming up with for tracking your time are ridiculous and it's just to appease the smartphone addiction bad press.


If you have a samsung, you can do this by putting your phone in battery saver mode


Do NOT get the Nokia 3210 (2017) or any other phone running the S30+ OS:

- High input latency. Makes texting quite painful. I’m usually one or two button presses ahead of the display.

- Very limited storage capacity for texts. It seems to be some fixed limit and it won’t use free space useable by e.g. the camera.

- Terrible call quality.

I’m still using it because the phone has charm, but that’s the only redeeming quality in my opinion.


I have the Nokia 216 (which you can - or could six months ago - buy in the UK in Tesco for about £25) and it also suffers from the same limited text storage capacity: I think it's probably the most annoying thing about it, since it's clearly so unnecessary (unless it tries to store the messages on the SIM and that only has limited space? Not sure...). Otherwise I would moderately earnestly recommend this phone - it does everything you would want of a mobile phone in the late '90s, plus the BBC News web site works quite well in the browser!


oh nokia... I did believe in you. what a shame.

I almost bought one for my mom after her moto g1 battery died. I thought the 3210 2017 would be simple, latency free, sturdy tool.. apparently it's worse than the original.

I'm sure there's a comfy market for faux-dumbphones, aka dumbphone ergonomics (buttons, simple display) but with just a tad of internet and processing (say transportation/directions for instance)


Have you checked out light phones? There's a light phone 2 in the works now:

https://www.thelightphone.com/

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/light-phone-2-design#/


Is anybody aware of a dumbphone that has text entry by voice? I had to go to a featurephone a few years ago for a short time and found that going back to T9 style text entry was just too painful to make it a viable option for me.


HMD/Nokia recently launched the 3310. I was under the impression it would be available in the us too. (though I live in sweden so I didn't verify this)

Nokia is like the Apple of dumbphones, and the 3310 is the original iPhone!


It's funny that the solution to people's fears about commercialism interfering with the real world is to go out and buy another phone rather than use some self control over the stuff they already own.


Dumb phones have a real edge when it comes to battery life, privacy and ease of use.


> the solution to people's fears about commercialism interfering with the real world

That's just a completely arbitrary rephrasing to fit your supposed punch line, but describes nobody and nothing real.

> rather than use some self control

Oh. This one, again.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17624459


I agree. Every time this subject came up, there were many comments about self-control, many of them also mentioned they are from the older generation. Like they don't have vices.


Nokia 8110. I picked one up while traveling in Malaysia for about $70 US


Do you know if this phone works in the US? I have gotten Nokia phones that weren't explicitly for use in the US before and there was definitely wonkiness in the compatibility with the US wireless carrier bands


I picked up the 8110 4G in Europe and it works fine on Canadian networks.


I've used PuretalkUSA in the past. $20 a month and you can get a flip phone for $25.

https://www.puretalkusa.com/


What is the point? "Dumbphones" could be backdoored too, they are just slower. They still can run arbitrary software programs.


1. Smaller attack surface, and fewer, less efficient means of egress.

2. The Joy of Missing Out™.


Only because there's less data to steal when you can do less with them. You could choose to not use any online services on a smartphone too.


1. Yeah. That doesn't make it any less true. If you go so far as to get one that has no Internet connection, an attacker would need have to be super committed (short of social engineering) to gain access, for very little benefit.

2. Services that are intentionally designed to be addictive. That may be easy for you. It isn't for hundreds of millions of other human beings. A dumb-phone precludes the possibility of access, so you don't have to exercise any willpower.


I just bought an unlocked LG B470.

It’s old school, and it does the basics. I recommend.


My kids like their used LG Rumor 2 LX265 phones.


There is talkietalkie.el major mode for Emacs.


last time i looked to change carriers most of the web sites had at least one flip phone model for sale.


I want a qwerty phone with an eink display


Related question: why are qwerty keyboards on feature phones not really a thing anymore?




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