If you’d missed one of the biggest tech stories of the week, Microsoft are set to acquire Nokia’s phone business. No doubt wanting more direct competition against Apple and Google, the endless smartphone arms race marches forward, seeing bigger, faster, feature-rich and eye-wateringly fantastic devices brought to the hands of the consumer.
And yet one phone announcement last week was made without the grandeur and spectacle that usually surrounds these kinds of launches. That’s because it was the launch of a dumbphone.
A Quick English lesson: ‘dumbphone‘, added to the Oxford English Dictionary in February, is the name given to a phone that performs only basic functions, such as calls, texts and… well that’s about it. It’s not a smartphone. It is the opposite of a smartphone.
The Nokia 515 is a gorgeous, aluminium and Gorilla Glass plated, dual-SIM dumbphone with a 5MP camera and LED flash. Design was at the forefront of its conception, whilst holding back on the features and specs that usually fill pages of online reviews. It was built to be high-end and low-tech.
So why in 2013, with all the thousands of powerful smartphones available, would anyone want a dumbphone? We’ll put aside for a moment that smartphone and dumbphone sales globally are practically equal, and that in emerging markets across the globe where mobile data isn’t available dumbphones are dominant, and focus for now on the Western market. There are 3 key reasons people are picking up mobile tech from yester-year:
1) Price – the Nokia 515 is the king of dumbphones, and it’s priced under £100. The best smartphones don’t come much cheaper than £500. For anyone who keeps an eye on their bank balance, its a very compelling argument on its own.
2) Battery – most smartphone owners complain that at best they’ll get 24-36 hours from their device; a lot less if they plan on actually using it. Those big touchscreens and powerful processors are incredibly power hungry. The Nokia 515’s battery meanwhile lasts a supposed 38-days.
3) Lack of features – part of what makes it so cheap and long lasting is that, beyond its camera, the Nokia 515 is very short on features. But there’s a growing mindset that favours having a phone that’s just a phone. Without Facebook, Twitter, games, emails, books, podcasts etc. in your pocket all day long, you’ll be surprised how less frequently you get distracted. It also makes it a lot easier to separate your work and home lives. Plus, with the emergence of a generation of small, cheaper tablets like the Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini, having a portable device that can keep you connected is much less of a hassle.
This isn’t a revolution. We’re not seeing the death of smartphones. But there are some compelling arguments for getting back to the days where the 3310 was in every pocket and comparing phones was purely about Snake scores.