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Reporter, 23, swaps high-tech iPhone for a ‘dumb phone’ to see if he could last 1 week without it





Like it or not smartphones are part and parcel of everyday life and many of us spend more hours scrolling through social media than we would care to admit.

But growing concerns over the impact of such attention-harvesting tech on our mental wellbeing has given rise to a new trend - that of “dumb phone” adoption.

I traded in my smartphone for a Nokia 'dumb phone' for seven days
I traded in my smartphone for a Nokia 'dumb phone' for seven days

As more and more people try to claw back their precious time from their addictive devices, these stripped-down, basic mobile devices we donned a decade or two ago have been making a resurgence.

Reporter Joe Crossley traded in his iPhone for a week in favour of the famous Nokia “brick” model to see if he too could reap the benefits, or whether he’d be sweating to get reconnected. Here’s how he got on…

As a 23-year-old I barely remember a world before smartphones. I was at secondary school when they were becoming more common and so for my whole adult life I have had one.

While they make life easier I hate to think about how much time I have lost scrolling through social media.

There are so many other things I would rather do but if I have a spare five minutes here or there you best believe I am going into my pocket to get a quick dopamine hit.

My Nokia dumb phone that I used for the week
My Nokia dumb phone that I used for the week

So when I heard that my generation – Gen Z (people born between 1995 and 2010) – were going back to “old school” phones I could immediately see the appeal.

When I was at university I had thought about using a ‘burner phone’ when I went to the library to study so I wouldn’t find myself flicking through my phone rather than reading my textbooks.

The supposed benefits of being disconnected from the smartphone are numerous – most notably dialling down your social media use and improving your attention span.

Even though I have tried to stay off YouTube, X (Twitter) and Instagram I still manage to rack up hours of screen time on my phone just consuming content.

I have even set timed limits on these apps and yet I still break these blocks. I could of course delete the apps altogether but to be honest I don’t want to.

With this ‘positive’ mindset I went into the challenge to see what life as a non smart phone user would be.

My Nokia 105 4G that I used for a week
My Nokia 105 4G that I used for a week

So I ordered of course the most recognisable brand of the noughties - Nokia.

It set me back a grand total of £13.50 plus £3.95 for delivery, which is half the amount that I used to pay a month for my iPhone when I was paying it off.

I swapped my sims over and after struggling to turn the sound effects for the keypad off I was up and running. I said goodbye to my smartphone which went away in a box at home not to be seen for a week.

For those who are wondering I was allowed my work phone, which is a smartphone as well, but I deleted X and Facebook off it and turned it off at the end of the day.

So what did I find out?

Well, the ‘issues’ I found with using a dumb phone can be split into two groups – one practical, and two - the social aspect of being without.

Most of us rely heavily on our phones to keep us updated on day-to-day life, from meeting with friends and family, to catching up on news.

I was most intrigued to find out therefore how I would get on being disconnected from social media and the news cycle for large chunks of my day.

I could see no group chat notifications, football-related news and, perhaps most importantly, what was going on in my Sunday league management chat.

I used my dumb phone to keep somewhat in the loop with friends and family
I used my dumb phone to keep somewhat in the loop with friends and family

While I can access social media through my laptop I am hardly ever in the house for more than half an hour and so I did not see the point of firing it up just to have a scroll.

Before I went cold turkey on my tech I sent a generic message out to all my mates that I am in regular contact with informing them of my task with the message “If you need me call me, don’t text me as I probably won’t reply”.

Then I scribbled down the numbers I thought I would need on a piece of paper and placed it in my wallet which I would now be needing to pay for everything – I usually use Apple Pay.

My friends know that I do little challenges for work but some did take an interest in this one.

After I explained it they all saw some of the benefits that I mentioned earlier but not one said they would want to switch over.

One even added: “Good luck mate, you’ll need it”.

Our phones are glued to us, so without them we can feel like something is missing.

I did instantly feel a bit out of the loop and to be honest a little alone.

I used my dumb phone to call up my mates for the week. Picture: Joe Crossley
I used my dumb phone to call up my mates for the week. Picture: Joe Crossley

Now I often spend a lot of time outside of work on my own, so without my socials ‘keeping me company’ I had plenty of time to gather my own thoughts.

But as the week wore on I got all the information I needed about meet-ups from phone calls. However, despite this the problem of feeling a bit out of the loop did remain.

Then there was the practical side of things.

I use my phone to pay for and show my train tickets, listen to music on the commute and in the gym, and also just for general entertainment.

But these were all easy to replace with other activities such as reading.

I relied on old school train timetables rather than the TrainLine app. Picture: Joe Crossley
I relied on old school train timetables rather than the TrainLine app. Picture: Joe Crossley

I had to go back to paper tickets which meant I left the house early on the first day of the challenge to ensure I would not miss my train.

But I found that because so many people now use digital tickets there was no one paying for physical tickets so really there was no problem there.

Books take me absolutely ages to finish as I only find time to read when I go to bed and I often find myself falling asleep after a couple of pages so the new routine gave me a chance to finish my Ian Wright autobiography that I was gifted for Christmas.

I finished my Ian Wright autobiogrpahy while commuting on the train
I finished my Ian Wright autobiogrpahy while commuting on the train

At first, it was a bit of a change and I did feel the urge to go on my phone but as the week drew on I found this reading time a chance to get away from everything.

These were minor adjustments to my routine but a trip to see some of my mates who live in London did give me a bit of concern.

This in itself is a little strange to think about as I am sure people before mobile phones weren’t stressed out about how they would get from A to B.

The reason for my anxiety was my journey which involved me not only getting the train, but making two changes.

I had to plan this to the minute as I feared that if I missed just one train I would be stuck at a station without easily accessing my TrainLine app to see when I would be getting off to see my mates.

Again I went to trusty pen and paper and jotted down all the times and to my surprise, it all went exactly to plan.

It showed me that in reality, mobile phones just make things that we already do easier and simpler.

So, would I keep my ‘dumb phone’ or reverting straight back to the smartphone?

In some ways, I did see the benefits.

In a practical sense, it made no real difference to my life, although I will admit that if I had to go somewhere new I would have been screwed without Google Maps.

I longed to be reconnected with my smartphone again. Picture: Joe Crossley
I longed to be reconnected with my smartphone again. Picture: Joe Crossley

I got more out of my time doing more productive things like reading and practising my shorthand by not spending 20 minutes here and there scrolling – it really does add up.

I did see an improved attention span and could happily watch an episode of TV before bed properly.

In the gym, I was more focused without a phone to distract me between sets, although I wouldn’t say it gave me the ability to suddenly double my personal records.

But would I trade it in for good?

The simple answer is no.

As much as I did enjoy being unhooked from my phone I did look forward to going back to ‘normal’.

I was out of the loop and craved simply scrolling through my phone. I also missed being in the group chat reacting to football results.

I also was just inquisitive to see what I had missed in terms of messages.

Although admittedly when I turned my iPhone back on I realised that I wasn’t missing out on that much.

But things like booking trains, keeping up with the news and texting are just so much simpler and easier.

So while the dumb phone “revolution” ramps up I don’t think I will be joining, instead staying put with my “old school” iPhone.



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