Old phone technology making a comeback?

By Charles Coles: Tired of forever being drawn to his state-of-the-art smartphone every time it beeped and vibrated, Tom Richards has put his iPhone in the bottom of his office cabinet and returned to using what is commonly referred to as a ‘dumb phone’.

It’s a cheap-as-chips handset that’s smaller than a pack of playing cards and does little more than calls and texts. Pointing to a socket on the base of the handset Richards says it also picks up FM radio, so long as the original earphones are plugged in. Rummaging through his draw he fails to find them. But after 10 years he concedes they may be long gone.

“My iPhone is brilliant,” he says. “But is was huge and I carried it with me – often in my hand – where ever I went. And every few minutes it would alert me to a message via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, emails, and texts…Frankly I started to get sick of it.

“Then there’s the apps, the constant updates, people sending me videos I didn’t want to watch – it was never ending. I really did start to feel like a prisoner even when I was out with friends, not that there’s been much of that going recently. But it wasn’t long ago I’d be at a coffee shop, phone on table, chatting with clients, colleagues and friends.

“I’d pick the phone up to read emails and work on the run even when I should have been paying attention to the people sitting in front of me.”

Richards says at some point, he thinks it started last year, he began to use his phone a little less. Firstly by ignoring its beeps, rings and alerts. Then by silencing them for certain notifications, then silencing all but the phone calls. Now, he has gone cold turkey, having switched it off and charging up an old phone.

“I’ve ordered a new battery for it – just $20 – and by a million to one I found the original phone charger too,” he says. “But you can still buy old chargers for the old phones.

“It was hard at first not responding to emails as they arrived with the smartphone, but now I just handle them at my office desk when I get back.

“Sometimes the problems I’m told about in an email are fixed by the time I see it – people are too quick to share problems rather than just sit quiet and solve them on their own. I think they believe that telling me there’s a problem will make it go away.

“They put their problems on social media for a pitty-party rather than knuckle down and working through it. I’m sick of seeing it.”

While Richards is happy not to carry around a lump of a phone any more, he has a feeling it may be short-lived.

“I’m enjoying using my old phone, it’s small, light, simple to use, and when it rings I know it’s either really important or a friend is calling for a chat,” he says.

“But if they want us to use an app to go shopping due to covid then my sense of freedom won’t last long. But what if I chose to keep using my old phone because it suits me? Can they force me to have a smartphone? Can they prevent me from going shopping one day if I don’t have one?”

Richards isn’t the first person to roll-back his technology. He knows of others who are thinking about it and may follow him and he says two members of his extended family have reverted to using old phones rather than trade up after their smartphones stopped working.

Could we soon see people snapping up old phones on TradeMe?…