The Android ecosystem is vast, and these days you may be surprised just what gadgets are actually powered by Android. So it may come as less of a surprise that a number of minimalist or so-called dumbphones run Android too, even if in most cases you really won’t be able to tell.
Does your next Android phone have to be a smartphone? Turns out, the answer is no. And deciding to go for something simpler may be a smart decision for you to make. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Innovative Designs
The smartphone landscape has become rather dull. Each year we find ourselves faced with another crop of glass slates with slightly different screen sizes and a few color options.
Sure, a few phones are trying out something new, such as foldable screens, but thanks to the software the experience still feels largely the same. You can take steps to turn your existing Android smartphone into a dumbphone, but that won’t do a thing about the design.
In the mid-2000s, what differentiated phones had less to do with software and more to do with hardware. Some phones flipped open like a clamshell. Some had full keyboards. You could get a phone that swung open like a razor blade or had adaptive e-ink buttons.
That innovation is starting to return to the world of minimalist phones. The Light Phone 2 is a credit card-sized touchscreen phone with an e-ink, text-based display. The Punkt MP02 phone also eschews fancy graphics, and is a traditional voice phone with an LCD screen and tactile buttons.
You’re no longer limited to Android-based dumbphones that look like variations of the Sonim XP3.
2. Excellent Support
For a handful of companies, minimalist phones serve as their flagship product. This is the case for the aforementioned Light Phone 2 and Punkt. These phones have been around for several years, but they’re better now than they were at launch.
The Light Phone 2, for example, began as a phone that could make calls, send texts, and set an alarm. Today it can also play music, download podcasts, and provide navigation. There’s a calculator, and you can send texts more easily using voice-to-text.
As for the Punkt phone, the biggest addition has been Signal integration, making the Punkt MP02 one of the most private communication devices you can buy.
This is the opposite experience of most Android smartphones, where the device is almost certainly at its best when it is brand new. You might get OS updates for a few years, but you’ll rarely get major new features that weren’t available when you first bought the phone.
3. Longer Battery Life
Whether you opt for a minimalist phone or a flip phone with several apps, it will still not draw nearly as much power as a smartphone. You won’t need as much computing power, nor will you have as large a screen. This translates to longer battery life.
How much longer your battery lasts depends on which phone you choose. Since dumbphones don’t need as much power and aren’t as large, they tend to also come with smaller batteries. But some will still last for closer to a week, while others may power down after two or three days. Still, it’s unlikely you will need to scramble to find a charger.
4. Pocket-Friendly Sizes
The smaller size comes with another major benefit. If you carry your phone around primarily in your pants pocket, you may have watched those pockets fill out more and more with each phone upgrade. Modern phones are nearly the size of tablets. Meanwhile, pockets haven’t gotten any larger.
For many, dumbphones won’t just fit more easily into your pocket, they’ll fit more comfortably in your hand. You will no longer have to slide the device around or contort your hand awkwardly to reach various corners of the screen.
All this means the phone commands less physical space on your body. When you leave the house, you will literally have less weighing you down.
5. Less Tracking
Most dumbphones don’t come with any form of private communications. Your carrier will have a record of every call you place and text that you send.
Some will let you sign in to a chat app like WhatsApp or Messenger, but with these apps owned by Meta and other tech giants, it’s hard to regard them as private. In this area, dumbphones are a step back from smartphones.
Yet, at the end of the day, dumbphones still come with less tracking. On smartphones, most popular apps track your behavior in some form or another. They know what you read, where you go, what you buy, what you watch, and what you listen to, and you aren’t even aware it’s happening.
You are often giving numerous companies deep insight into many aspects of your life, throughout most of your waking hours. And when you’re asleep, well, some company has likely pieced together when you generally go to bed and when you wake up. With a dumbphone, you simply aren’t generating this much data.
6. Fewer Distractions
All of those apps that aren’t tracking you? Well, they aren’t distracting you either. You don’t have an app prompting you to watch the latest viral video, listen to the next podcast, or read the article a stranger just linked to. It’s not just a lack of notifications that makes a difference, either.
Even on a smartphone, removing apps is a key way to reduce your phone usage. Without so many apps on your phone, there’s less temptation to pull out your device in general. When you’re standing in line at the store or sitting by yourself at a park, your phone is less likely to call for your attention.
Instead, you will think of other ways to enjoy the moment. Whether that’s starting a conversation, observing what’s going on around you, bringing a book, drawing, or some other activity that, in the end, is bound to feel more rewarding.
Most Android-based dumbphones hide any reference to Android entirely. The Sunbeam F1, for example, says it runs Basic OS. Others make a mention but remain highly customized, like the AGM M7. Some have apps, but you’re very unlikely to find the Play Store. Installing apps isn’t the point.
Will Your Next Android Phone Be a Dumb One?
There are tradeoffs to making this kind of switch. Adopting a dumbphone can mean doing without the ability to share photos, make payments, or easily scan QR codes. These are just a few of the inconveniences you can expect. To set yourself up for success, make sure you’re going in with your eyes wide open.