Not smart but clever? The return of ‘dumbphones’

Seventeen-year-old Robin West is an anomaly among her peers – she doesn’t have a smartphone.

Instead of scrolling through apps like TikTok and Instagram all day, she uses a so-called “dumbphone”.

These are basic handsets, or feature phones, with very limited functionality compared to say an iPhone. You can typically only make and receive calls and SMS text messages. And, if you are lucky – listen to radio and take very basic photos, but definitely not connect to the internet or apps.

These devices are similar to some of the first handsets that people bought back in the late 1990s.

Two dumbphonesImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,

Two phones pictured in 2005, two years before Apple released its first iPhone, and 11 years before TikTok

Ms West’s decision to ditch her former smartphone two years ago was a spur of the moment thing. While looking for a replacement handset in a second-hand shop she was lured by the low price of a “brick phone”.

Her current handset, from French firm MobiWire, cost her just £8. And because it has no smartphone functionality she doesn’t have an expensive monthly data bill to worry about.

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