Going Back to the Flip Phone



Why, in the age of the smartphone, would someone voluntarily go back to a flip phone?  I can hear you asking, “You run a Tech Blog, why would you do that!” Well, there are a few reasons why I have done it.  I will try to lay out a couple of them here for you.  Maybe it will convince you to give it a try, or make you clutch your smartphone that much tighter.  Let’s get one thing straight to start with, I am not going all Luddite.  This is just one area of my life I have chosen to take a simple approach too.

Can you even buy a flip phone anymore?

Turns out you can, you don’t even need to dig your old Motorola Razr out of the closet.  I was able to purchase a brand new Cingular Flip 2 from AT&T.  The phone is made by Alcatel and branded as a Cingular phone.  Cingular doesn’t really exist as a company anymore, it’s a brand name owned by AT&T.  This flip phone features a lot of not so backward features.  It operates in full 4G LTE mode, has Bluetooth connectivity, WiFi, and a built-in MP3 player.  For a “dumb phone” it’s pretty smart.  I can still check my email on the go if I want to.  Responding to the email, on the other hand, is a little more difficult.  The phone also allows you to listen to over the air FM radio if you have a pair of wired headphones plugged in to act as the antenna.  So not so bad and not your grandmother’s jitterbug either.

Since this is a tech site, let’s bring out the phone’s stats:


DESIGN

  • Size: 4.13in x 2.06in x 0.73in
  • Weight: 4.16oz
  • Color: Dark gray

MEMORY

  • ROM/RAM: 4GB/512MB
  • SD Support: Up to 32GB

FEATURES

  • Processor: MSM8909 Quad Core CPU 1.1GHz

OPERATING SYSTEM

  • KaiOS

DISPLAY SIZE

  • 2.8”

RESOLUTION

  • QVGA (320×240) TFT-TN

CONNECTIVITY

  • Network: GSM 850/900/1800/1900
  • 3G/4G/LTE
  • UMTS B2/4/5 FDD B2/4/5/7/12 MFBI
  • HD Voice: Yes
  • Wifi Specs: 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: 3.0
  • FM Radio
  • USB Type: Micro-USB
  • SIM Type: Nano
  • Others: A-GPS

BATTERY

  • Size: 1350mAh
  • Standby Time: 384 hours (16 days)
  • Talk Time: 8 hours (3G)

CAMERA

  • Main Megapixels: 2MP
  • Focus: FF
  • Angle: 60°
  • Main Camera Video: 720P @ 30fps

SOUND

  • Music Player
  • Supported Formats: PCM,MP3,AAC,AAC+,eAAC+
  • HAC Rating: M4/T4
  • Headset Jack Size: 3.5mm
  • Speaker Size (In Watts): 1 x 0.7W

IN BOX

  • Quick Start Guide
  • Charger
  • Battery
  • Safety and Warranty Information

*HD Voice is not available in all areas. HD Voice Requirements: To experience HD Voice,both parties on the call must be located in an AT&T HD Voice coverage area and have anAT&T HD Voice-capable device and SIM with HD Voice set up on their account. Incompatible Services or Features: The following services and features are currently incompatible with HD Voice: prepaid service, Smart Limits, Ringback Tones, andOfficeDirect and OfficeReach (for business customers). HD Voice is available at no additional cost; standard voice rates apply and are charged according to your wireless rate plan.


All of this flippy goodness was bought for the low price of $60 US, that’s right $60 bucks.  You can’t even get an iPhone’s screen repaired for that.  Buy two to have one as a backup for when you accidentally lose one.  These phones are not the bricks of old.  I have been using this phone for a couple of months and I don’t even notice it in my pocket.

So why did I switch to a flip?

Simple, simplicity.  A smartphone is designed to keep you engaged with it.  Call it FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), boredom, the need to be doing something with our hands, the fact we have forgotten how to be bored, or whatever, a smartphone keeps it all within reach.  Never before in human history has so much information been so easily available.  Try and think about the last time you were having a real in-person conversation with someone and one of you didn’t pull out a smartphone to fact check something on Google.  Does proving yourself instantly right or wrong bring anything better to the conversation?  Probably not.

I personally sit a desk all day with a computer in front of me.  A smartphone is an accessory to most of my day.  Why would I access the internet on its small screen when I have an awesome 24-inch monitor and a keyboard in front of me.  Same thing at home, I have a nice laptop and a tablet.  I was finding more and more I was limited by the smartphones smallish screen.  My smartphone was pretty awesome, it was no other than last years (2016) Google Pixel.

So it’s not like I had a crappy phone, I had a great one.  But I felt myself being more interested in it than what my kids were doing, or other things going on around me.  Sure a lot of it was my own self-discipline.  I wanted to not have the distraction of a smartphone around.  Just turning it off, of removing the apps, etc, wasn’t enough.  It’s like when I first tried to quit smoking a long time ago, I would keep a pack hidden in the house, “just in case” and I would always go back to them, maybe a little less.  The only way I was able to quit was just to remove them from my environment.  Same thing with the smartphone.  If I wanted to be better about not using it, I had to get rid of it.

These are just my reasons, if you are feeling the nagging that you need to do something about your smartphone use, or just want to have a good backup phone, the flip is the way to go.

What have I noticed?

Since I switched to the flip I find that I text people less.  Since it’s hard.  I never embraced T9 back when it was new, I was always the multi-button pusher.  I got pretty quick at it, and was kind of amazed how fast the muscle memory came back.  So now I call people.  It’s interesting how many people don’t like taking phone calls anymore.

I miss maps.  I have a horrible sense of direction (pull my man card now) and I used a smartphone and Google Maps as a crutch.  The only time I have found it would have been really helpful was when my older daughter came out to visit me in Washington DC.  We were wandering around seeing the sights, but we needed to find a Metro station.  I “knew” one was nearby, but not sure where exactly.  We had to *gasp* look at the many maps posted around the National Mall to figure out where to go.  We also double checked by asking someone.  Crisis averted.

I am more focused at work mostly in meetings, I usually only need small pieces of the overall meeting I am attending.  So it was easy to just pull out the smartphone and find something to distract myself till my part came up.  Now I am finding that being more present in the whole meeting has made me more productive since I am gathering more the contexted of the information I am collecting.

I also really notice other people on their phones.  Resturants are the biggest one, whole families sitting around staring at their phones and not talking to each other, or their conversations revolve around showing each other things they have found on their phones.  I am as guilty of this as anyone else.  I just don’t want a part of that right now.  My little kids tell great stories if I just really listen.

Will I ever go back to a Smartphone?

I won’t say I never will, the convenience of a smartphone does tend, to me, to outweigh the drawbacks.  Our culture is becoming more smartphone-centric, which is good and bad at the same time.  Since all the things that people use their phones for, don’t work once the power goes out.  Smartphones are great when they are working and have a good connection to the internet, not so much when they don’t.  It’s always a good idea to have a “back-up” communication system.

For now, I am enjoying the mental clarity that comes from not being constantly distracted.  Is it for everyone?  I don’t know, it works for me, but I am not everyone.  If you think you might be too involved with your smartphone, try turning it off, go to a flip phone for a couple of weeks, or months.  See how you feel.  Also, the lower data plans tend to be much cheaper.  As of this writing (late-2017), it looks like the unlimited plans are coming back, so it might not matter.

What do you think about giving up your smartphone?  Something you think you might try, or will they pry your iPhone from your cold dead hands?

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