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‘Dumbphones’ a smart move?

At last, a technology trend that those of us who are sceptical about the benefits of ubiquitous tech in these oh so modern times in which we live.

As reported by the BBC late last month, and more recently picked up by NZ outlets like Stuff and RNZ, there is apparently a growing number of people who are making the switch back from so-called smartphones to what have been inevitably dubbed ‘dumbphones’.

Although younger readers may find it hard to wrap their heads around the idea that, once upon a time – or, more precisely, 18 years ago – no one was wandering around the place with a small, slim supercomputer masquerading as a portable telephone in their pocket or handbag.

Instead, they had clunky cell phones that you could use to make calls, laboriously send short and expensive text messages, set alarms and … well, that was pretty much it.

Or, even more mind-blowingly, a little under two decades ago there were actually a fair few people – perhaps even a majority of the population – who didn’t feel the need to own these either, instead limiting their communication with people who were not standing directly in front of them to calls via landline telephones. Which meant having to go to a phone, as opposed to everybody and everything in the world being able to come to – or at – you at any time of the day or night.

Now, some will find the thought of having such inconstant access to a communication device – even such a relatively rudimentary one – both bizarre and anxiety-producing.

Others, though, might find the prospect quite appealing – imagine being able to take yourself off for a few hours, or even days, at a time without anyone being able to instantly get hold of you, or even having the expectation of being able to.

Of course, the ‘dumbphone’ movement isn’t advocating such a radically all-encompassing communication blackout; its adherents are simply seeking to turn the tap down – hard – on the information tsunami that most of us appear to be drowning in on a daily basis.

It’s not like there isn’t plenty of steadily mounting evidence indicating that being permanently ‘plugged in’ is bad for human beings in a myriad of ways.

Indeed, there’s a stack of seemingly sound studies that suggest that, on an individual level, having the world at your fingertips can destroy your concentration, adversely affect your sleep patterns, and exacerbate – if not actually create – mental health issues. Not to mention it being hard to achieve anything like work-life balance when the boss can always get hold of you.

It’s also arguable that a smartphone in [almost] every pocket has been having negative impacts on a societal level too.

Could it be that the observable increase in impatience is – at least in part – the product of the convenience facilitated by smartphones, insomuch as the unexpected interruption of one’s ability to instantly conjure up a delivered meal, call a cab, or find an obscure fact to settle an argument is now viewed as a personal affront that’s likely to provoke spluttering frustration and rage?

And might it be possible that the ever-accelerating information ecosystem we inhabit is contributing to a ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach to decision-making that encourages people to make too-quick choices when some contemplation is in order?

Could be – what do you think?

Even better, maybe try spending some time away from your smartphone this long weekend and then send us an actual letter about how you found the experience.


  1. How about climate change 🤔 to many cell phones 📵 cell phone towers 🤔 not recyclable and batteries 🤔 are so pollutant plus the mining requirements 🤔 😳. Just the same as EV VEHICLES. CLIMATE CHANGE PEOPLE LOVE TO USE THEM PLUS OTHER THINGS SO JUST STOP BEING HYPOCRITICAL.

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