[FLIP] The Rise of Anti-Smartphones

Category: Mobile , Telephony

Those of us old enough to remember 90s-era flip phones often wax nostalgic about their elegant simplicity and ruggedness. They were good for phone calls and texts, and not much else. But it seems that those so-called “dumb phones" are making a comeback, and you'll be surprised at some of the people who are sporting them. Read on to learn why, and which models are available...

Is It Smart to Have a Dumb Phone?

Those flip phones from days gone by had some features that I miss. They had real buttons that gave tactile feedback. When you were finished using them, they closed with a satisfying snap and were well protected against falls. Oh, and their batteries lasted for days and days, not mere hours.

Good news… you can still buy an old-school flip phone. AT&T offers the $60 Cingular Flip with a 2.8 inch screen and 2 Mpixel camera. Go to Best Buy for Verizon’s $20 prepaid Samsung Gusto which provides 3G Web surfing (on a 1.3-inch screen) and Bluetooth 2.1 connectivity to other devices. Home Depot, of all places, sells a $4.97 LG 440G Tracfone prepaid flip phone that connects to the Web via GSM and includes a 1.3 Mpixel still or video camera.

The noteworthy thing about these and other “dinky” little flip phones is that people really like them. Even though you can't play Pokemon Go on these devices, their buyers give them average ratings of 4.0 or higher! And maybe that's exactly why they like them.

Old-school flip phones are making a comeback

For the past two years or so, there has been a growing backlash against bulky smartphones and their bewildering arrays of pretty but time-wasting apps. Celebrities and high-powered business executives have been spotted using ancient flip phones. Warren Buffett has sung their praises. Rock icon Iggy Pop told New York magazine that he uses a flip phone, in part, “because you can drop it a lot and it won’t break.” Even Rhianna has been spotted using a flip phone, and any teenage girl will tell you there’s no one cooler than Rhianna.

So take heart, old-timers; it’s not just “the elderly” who prefer simple phones that just make calls and (maybe) texts. “Beyond the senior demographic, there’s a bit of a pushback against technology that’s too complex for its own good. And we’re seeing it at the fringes of the phone market in rising demand for simple phones that remind us of days gone by,” technology analyst Carmi Levy told CTVNews.ca recently.

What Goes Around Comes Around...

flip phone buffett rihanna

But the “anti-smartphone” movement is not confined to backwards-looking nostalgia for flip phones. Over two-thirds of Americans already own smartphones, and they’re not about to give them up. So a new class of mobile device is emerging; call it the “dumb phone accessory.”

The Light Phone The $100 Light Phone is the size of a credit card; indeed, the promo video shows a man slipping his Light Phone into his wallet alongside Visa, Mastercard, et. al. It connects to a user’s existing smartphone through an app, allowing you to leave that bulky, complicated smartphone at home. The Light Phone only beeps when a call or text arrives. Its flush keyboard has large keys that make dialing and texting easy.

The MP 01 by Punkt does a little more; it adds an alarm clock. But that’s it. Calls, texts, and alarms are all you get for $295. No data plan is required because the MP 01 doesn’t use data; the company recommends the most basic 2G service from T-mobile.

Note that all of these futuristic anti-smartphone devices are still in the future; you’ll be invited to “pre-order” a unit that will ship later this year or in early 2017… if all goes well.

It appears that the anti-smartphone market will end up divided between nostalgic flip phone users, most of them in their senior years, busy people who don't want distraction from a dozen apps, and hip youngsters who want novel technology but don’t want complicated smartphones. I sincerely hope the last category grows in numbers.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "[FLIP] The Rise of Anti-Smartphones"

(See all 53 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Concerned Citizen
21 Jul 2016

I can't find a Flip Phone without a browser (usually built with JAVA) & WiFi & Bluetooth. I've had some odd behavior on my smartphone that numerous calls to many tech supports can't figure out; it seems to be something beyond the phone itself; perhaps the actual phone #. If it's some sophisticated malware, I don't want MY phone to suddenly turn on WiFi and/or Bluetooth in a crowd and infect those around me -- or for MY phone to infect a polling location or medical office.

But it seems like the flip-phones of the past 10-15 years are the telephony equivalent of smart TVs and printers -- too dumb to protect themselves against malware, but smart enough, after a rogue update, to become spyware or vectors of malware.

Your article doesn't specify if there are any phones with NOTHING beyond talk/text & headset-jack.

Posted by:

21 Jul 2016

My old Motorola flip phone (TracFone) was getting slow so i tried to get a new battery from Motorola but they were out of stock. Then i got an email from TracFone that the 2G cannot be used in my area any longer. They sent me a 3G LG flip phone for free. When i looked the phone up i saw that Walmart sold it for $5.99. I said to myself "how can TracFone send me such a cheap phone?" I like the phone, the screen is easy to read, it tells you all the information you need to know about the phone at the touch of a button. Everything is very clear, fast and simple.

Posted by:

21 Jul 2016

And you can call it a "communicator"

Posted by:

21 Jul 2016

I have the ultimate no frills phone. The SpareOne by AT&T. It cost $50 and then you pay $25 (120 minutes) for a YEAR. You can get an add'l 100 minutes for $10. I wanted a cell phone for emergencies -- to carry in my car in case I break down or get lost. It has a flashlight which can send out an SOS in Morse Code. It has the 911 emergency number programmed in as well as an opportunity to set it up to make calls to friends when the emergency button is pressed. And you don't have to worry about recharging the battery because it runs on 2 double A batteries. Works for me. Oh, and I went to the local AT&T store to register it (pay my $25) and they helped me set it up.

Posted by:

22 Jul 2016

Just a bit of an fyi for mmcquownm - the "obamaphone" should actually be called the "reaganphone" as he was the one who started the program. No insult intended, it's just a bit frustrating when people use that term and don't know the real story behind it and too many don't want to because it'll mess up their hate of President Obama.

My $0.01, all done, no more.


Posted by:

22 Jul 2016

@Michael >> "...And believe it or not, there are a few telecommunications experts insist that the Obama Phone program began all the way back in the early 20th century during the Woodrow Wilson administration." From

Q. >> What brand of phone did Hillary Clinton make famous? No cheating!

Posted by:

Sarah L
22 Jul 2016

The small size might be nice, for $100.
But I got a phone for $20, an Alcatel phone, with touch screen, voice to text, internet and all the features of an iPhone and with excellent coverage from Straight Talk. The only difference is that the camera is not as fancy.

Push buttons are nice, but no good for typing words. The big screen area for phone numbers on my touch screen works well for me. The tiny space for typing words on the screen, that is more challenging. Getting voice to text to be more accurate, that would be the real advance.

Sorry the person who used the FCC phone (called Obama phones because the program shifted from land lines to cell phones during his administration, nothing to do with him personally). My friends who get those phones, they just request another phone, one that does work. Or ask for assistance. That program is truly fantastic, though the details of it vary by state. In California, they hand out touch screen phones that take text messages & calls. What is limited is the minutes on the phone.

Posted by:

22 Jul 2016

Commenter "Nancy" has it correct. Services using AT&T will no longer support the 2G, therefore the efficient flip phones will no longer work as of December 31, 2016. We were notified by PureTalkUSA, an MVNO of AT&T that consumers using the 2Gs will have to use a newer phone. That is both bad and good news for some. I still keep a quad band flip phone for international travel as an "emergency" phone using a foreign SIM. I love flip phones too!

Posted by:

22 Jul 2016

I think the comment by jphuf should be removed.

Posted by:

Mac and Cheese
22 Jul 2016

Jphuf wrote, "The remark posted by mmcquuownm (I ordered an "Obamaphone") is inappropriate for this website, comments like that, I can get on Fox News, if I were that stupid. It should be removed, although, it should not have been allowed to be posted."

That's an interesting perspective, Jphuf. For myself, I prefer not to have someone else decide what I may and may not read.

We're losing a lot of our freedoms in this country, it seems to me, but one that remains so far is our freedom to speak our mind (in most places) without censorship.

Just as mmcquuownm has the right to say what he chooses here, within the bounds of good taste, freedom from slander, and common sense, you have the right to read, comment on, or ignore what he said.

Please, Mr. Rankin, don't succumb to those who are uncomfortable hearing ideas they disagree with and want them eliminated from public discourse. There are many governments in the world that do that for for their citizens. Fortunately, at least for now, the U.S. is not one of them (except on those college campuses where "soft" millennials can't bear to consider opposing ideas and actually think for themselves).

Posted by:

22 Jul 2016

A smart phone is an ergonomic nightmare, ever worse than a tablet or laptop computer. The keys are too small for typing. Holding the phone high enough for you to see the screen stresses your shoulders and neck. Besides, do you really need to play games or surf the internet while you are at work or school?

I use a small cell phone, just a little larger than a flip phone, that has a slide-out keyboard for texting. Everything I do on the internet is from a desk top computer with a full-size keyboard and a full-size display.

Posted by:

RG Schmidt
22 Jul 2016

And for those of us who remember (and used) both rotary dial 'phones and central live operators ... As with much of technology, many of those terms are remnants of those systems. A bit like a "carbon copy" of an email. ;>}

Posted by:

RG Schmidt
22 Jul 2016

On the serious side, we have a flip 'phone, with the text feature disabled, and a landline. Don't miss a "smart phone" at all.

Posted by:

J Spencer
23 Jul 2016

My wife has a flip phone and loves it. But she's also glad she can ask me to find travel routes, traffic info, weather, pay for Starbucks, get Yelp reviews of restaurants, check Red Sox scores, and check our bank balance on my Nexus 5 smartphone.

Posted by:

23 Jul 2016

I can't believe it!! I'm finally up-to-date with something!! All I've ever owed are 'dumb' phones with a pay-as-you-go usage rate. Thanks to Trackphone, the phone cost $20 a few years ago, and it costs about $6/month for about an hour of talk time. It's all I need to call anybody I want whenever I want. It's crazy how some people pay a small fortune to do that.

Posted by:

23 Jul 2016

just a little levity:

The POP sensation's name is spelled: R-i-h-a-n-n-a


YES! I have a smart phone but I longed to get my hard flip-phone back . . . Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Rankin!

We Love You here in Brooklyn, New York!


Posted by:

Gordon Peterson
23 Jul 2016

A lot of people seem to miss the big point... these smaller phones (and flip-phones) can be carried around your neck on a lanyard, so you don't have to worry about stuffing them into (or them falling out of!) a pocket.

Like several other commenters, I used to have a small LG phone from Net10, and they replaced that with a LG flip phone (that still will work with my lanyard). I pay $100 for 1500 minutes every six months, and those minutes roll over (I have 3810 minutes presently, and am about to add 1500 more since I've only got 7 days left...).

And, yes, the battery lasts nearly a week between charges.

(Will my old Net10 2G phone work on T-Mobile's 2G network, or are they retiring that 2G network too?)

Posted by:

23 Jul 2016

My boss supplied us with smartphones; balky, unwieldy, too much crap I don't need. Use my flip phone instead-sturdy, push a button, get it done, texts IF I HAVE TO. Plus, he can't find me w/out the GPS.

Posted by:

24 Jul 2016

I'm still a fan of the simplicity and durability of "old fashioned" flip phones. About the only reason I recently "upgraded" to a smart phone was, as mentioned above, the fact that the older 2G service is being phased out, and that I work for a number of event management companies at trade shows and conventions, and the program guides are all done by apps (eventbase, guidebook) rather than a printed program book. Smart phone becoming a necessity.

And to enter the fray: the so called Obamaphone is probably in reference to the SafeLink program (part of TracFone by the way), part of a govenment supported Lifeline program. It provides phone service to those with limited incomes and is actually cheaper than providing landline service. And no, they aren't Galaxy 7s or something, but the ones I've seen are often the older 2G style phone-calls-only phones, not smartphones. Although you can now get a free refurb smartphone from TracFone (see website). And yes, the last time I looked flip phones were still available on same TracFone website.

Posted by:

Charles Snyder
15 Aug 2016

Really glad to see this article for I have been so mad about not being able to get a decent basic flip phone. I am with Cricket and the last two basic phones they offered were junk; very poor battery life and poor reception. How can cell phone companies think that everyone needs a smart phone?
Internet and email I prefer to do on my laptop. Navigating through all the icons on a smart phone is a hassle. And it is easier to type a text message on a flip phone than the touch key pad on a smart phone. Give me talk, text and decent camera and good battery life.
Thank you

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