I Switched to a Feature Phone. The World didn’t End.

On a whim I decided to venture into the world of smartphone repair. The cracked front and back glass of my Nokia 7.1 had been screaming at me for the better part of a year and I finally decided enough was enough. One Amazon order later and I had the components I needed to make my phone appear factory fresh once again. This is where my folly begins. Having fixed small electronics in the past, I decided that looking up a guide would be an unnecessary waste of time; After all, how hard can it be?

Turns out. Pretty hard.

One damaged smartphone later, I found myself making another quick Amazon order. Wanting a way to stay in touch, but not wanting to shell out $250 or more of my hard won legal tender, I decided a replacement smartphone was out of the question. Thus, in my cart ended up a feature phone with overnight shipping.

I woke up the next morning and stumbled to my front porch in a daze, where I found waiting for me a package containing my new device. A Nokia 225 4G.

I took the phone out of the package and was immediately greeted with a problem; I had no idea how to turn the damn thing on. The phone boasts an attractive enough (if dated) candy-bar design that features no buttons on the outer shell. No power switch. No volume rockers. Nothing that a smartphone-raised befuddled Gen-Z’er such as myself could understand. After frantically pressing just about every button on the device, I resorted to watching an unboxing video in which I learned that the end call button acts as the power switch. Duh. How could I be so oblivious?

Power switch out conundrum out of the way, I spent the next few days living with the device, and actually found quite a workable phone. The features are sparse, but there’s enough to get the job done. A simple web browser for basic searches, a messaging app, a flashlight, an FM radio, and of course, it makes calls. In essence, it does everything a phone should do without the distractions inherent to a smartphone.

Using such a sparse device for a few weeks got me thinking: How much of the time I spent on my smartphone was really necessary? How much of that time could I consider ‘well spent’? Pondering these I came to realize what I believe most of us already know: Mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, TikTok, or whatever flavor of social media you choose simply isn’t fulfilling.

The convenience of the internet in your pocket can’t be overstated. We can order from Amazon, call an Uber, search the internet, check emails, check bank accounts, and the list goes on ad infinitum. But this convenience comes at the cost of your attention. Constant notifications and the allure of infinite feeds simultaneously pull us away from the present, and create a dependency on one’s smartphone as a cure for boredom.

And boredom seems to be in short supply in a constantly connected world.

What really is so important that we need to be checking our phone hundreds of times each day? How many notifications are so important that they truly can’t wait for a few hours? For me personally, switching to a feature phone has taught me that the answer is none. Limiting my connectivity to the world has increased my attention span, and allowed me time to sit alone with my thoughts. Boredom is not the enemy that the world makes it out to be. In fact, in a digital economy where attention itself is monetized, boredom very well may be our greatest asset.

Now of course switching to a feature phone comes with downsides. The lack of Spotify means I’m listening to much less music, and the lack of Google Maps means I’m screwed if I ever need directions. I plan to switch to a slightly smarter (read: has Google Maps) KaiOS phone soon to rectify the latter issue. But otherwise? I don’t miss social media, I don’t miss notification fatigue, and I very much enjoy having my attention span back. While I’ll probably switch back to a smartphone in the future, using a feature phone for awhile has taught me that life goes on if you’re not constantly connected. If you feel chained to your smartphone, or just would like some time to detox, consider switching to a feature phone. For $60 it won’t break the bank, and very well could lead to more mindful phone use in the future.

Thanks for reading

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