Retro phones: why buying a dumb phone or an old phone is smart

If you are like me and were born before the year 2000, you will surely remember your first cell phone as a GSM terminal. This object entered our daily life with just a few touches on the keyboard, allowing us to stay in touch with our loved ones near and far, play games on a small black and white screen, and especially play games with strong vibrations and polyphonic sounds from the American Idol’s latest hit.

You’ll probably also remember the Snake game on Nokia, your classmate’s latest flip phone, the number of hours you spent searching for a swappable case in a physical store. Our phones had become a way of affirming our similarities, individualities, and differences.

Back then, our phones weren’t really smart; WhatsApp and Instagram did not exist. We were sending messages through MSN while Facebook was just beginning to attract American college students. I’m talking about the early 2000s, when a small amount of data flowed through our mobiles. 20 years ago, all mobile phones on the planet struggled to reach 100 GB of daily data consumption. Back then, Google was a search engine that was still available on Internet Explorer and Chrome did not exist

In just two decades, our phones have changed a lot. In 2021, huawei estimated that a single user transferred an average of 1.5GB of data per day on their smartphone alone. In the age of constant and unlimited connectivity, some choose to go back to basics.

Comparison of the Nokia 8810 with a banana

With Nokia 8810, the renowned brand wanted to return to the roots of basic phones in 2018 / © NextPit by Irina Efremova

Why do retro phones work and for whom?

As we can see in the music or video game industry, objects from the past end up finding a place on our shelves and televisions. Some music lovers connected to Spotify, Apple Music or Deezer you can spend hours looking for vinyl records. The same goes for video game fans, and nostalgia for their early experiences with video games has led some manufacturers to replicate their old consoles, such as the SNES Classic Mini, of which Nintendo sold more than 5 million units in less a year after its launch in 2017.

After recovering our interiors, could the objects of the past find a place in our pockets? Could our old phones also adapt to our ultra-connected lives? That’s what my friend Christopher thinks, he can’t let go of his Nokia 3310 that he found intact at a flea market almost a year ago. More out of a concern for disconnection than nostalgia, he says he found here an alternative “to the wasted hours of accomplishing nothing” at his old iPhone. “He was a bit fed up with the impact of GAFAM in my daily life,” he insisted.

If your Nokia is no longer in working order battery-wise, it still works fine as you only need to recharge it “once every four days”. Christopher confided, however, that he sometimes takes his iPhone X with him when he goes out. “I use it like an iPod and a camera, if I want to do in-depth research or manage my emails, I mostly do it from my computer.”

A person sending messages with a Nokia 3310

Would you trade your iPhone for a Nokia 3310 in 2022? / © NextPit by Irina Efremova

The price of retro mobiles also remains well below that of our current smartphones. Unless you are looking for a rare phone like the Motorola Aura which was released in 2008 and sold for an unbelievable 4 digit amount in vintagemobile.fryou’ll easily find a phone for less than $50 on the same site.

The question of OS obsolescence doesn’t even arise on older phones because, at the time of their release, Android and iOS didn’t even exist. Therefore, there is no need to worry about it.

If you’re like Christopher, some people might be tempted to ditch the smartphone because of concerns about personal data collection, others might be tempted by their conscience about keeping the planet green. In fact, going back to a “dumb phone” is a more environmentally responsible move than buying a smartphone that contains increasingly scarce components without any recycling efforts.

The same goes for data. The French Electronic Communications Regulatory Authority estimated that digital data transfer represents 2% of greenhouse gas emissions and this figure could rise to 7% by 2050. From January 1, 2022, your electricity bills Fixed and mobile Internet even include the carbon footprint related to your connection. Try to take a look at the evolution of your energy consumption!

Are retro phones relevant?

The ecological impact, the data protection or the vintage look of GSM may push some people to switch to cell phones from another era. But in the age of iPhone 13 and the galaxy s22, fans of the “retro phone” risk having a difficult life. If you choose an old phone, there is a risk that it will fall apart. While it may be easy to repair, it will be hard to find replacement parts for your retro phone unless you have opted for a Nokia 3310 whose batteries and parts are still available and is basically one of the toughest phones ever made.

Unless you’re already addicted to preloaded games like Tetris or Snake, retro phones can get boring in the long run. In fact, our smartphones have become veritable mobile multimedia powerhouses that are capable of storing hours of video, audio, and gaming content. Over time, our smartphones have become real and viable gaming platforms. A recent study showed that mobile games share 57% of total gaming revenue worldwide.

As we have seen during the recent coronavirus pandemic, smartphones play an essential role in crisis management, be it in terms of contact tracing, weather events or seismic disasters. Some apps also help save lives by alerting the right people that they are in the vicinity of a stroke or cardiac arrest. Acting or reacting to an emergency would be more complicated without having a smartphone in hand.

Corona warning app icon on a smartphone home screen

In times of pandemic, smartphones played an important role in information and tracking areas. / © NextPit

Smartphones also allow us to stay connected to the world, to know what is happening on the other side of the planet and what is coming around the corner. And, if you haven’t chosen to live alone as a hermit, it will soon be difficult to transact without using google payApple Pay, PayPal or some other forms of electronic transactions.

Sharing the moment ‘here, right now’ with loved ones without FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook or Instagram can be impossible with an outdated mobile phone, and the simple features of your monochrome phone could keep you disconnected from your friends and family. who live far away.

Some manufacturers understand this and allow you to stay up-to-date, connected, while maximizing your phone’s battery life and retaining its essential features, arriving in the form factor of an older phone to boot.

Are feature phones a credible alternative?

Whether it’s the Alcatel GoFlip 3the nokia 3310 dual sim of 2020 or the Nokia 8110 4Gmanufacturers have understood that the continual production of replicas of their bestsellers satisfies a niche desire for those who are nostalgic for a keyboard.

Updating old models to keep them current, old sneakers, musical instruments, clothing, and even car manufacturers – all this has already been done. The integrated technology of the feature phone may appeal to aesthetic seekers more than those who prefer to remain unplugged.

In fact, most basic phones launched in recent years use the Android or KaiOS operating system, which allows you to install the most downloaded applications on the google play store. It’s hard “take off“self in this case.

The Nokia 3310 menu showing modern applications

Released in 2017, the Nokia 3310 revival had much more than just the Snake game! / © NextPit by Irina Efremova

Basic phones are also not considered green, as they follow a similar production chain as our current smartphones, but often use less power and are more durable. The alternative lies almost exclusively in keyboard or shell nostalgia, and battery life.

In my opinion, the revival of our old mobile phones is likely to become a trend. I wonder if people looking to unplug with concerns about the environment and personal data protection might fall into this niche category. With their dumb phones, they may not be able to photograph a starry sky, but admire the real deal as they ponder the future of humanity. That’s all we wish for you…

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