For the last few years I have been very fortunate in that my job has provided me with an iPhone, upgraded it to the newest model often, and paid for the top of the line plan. It’s a beautiful piece of hardware with highly functional software installed on it. But I think I’m over it.
The primary function of my smartphone is email. Sure, there are other apps but I use so few of them. I rarely play games on it. I don’t use productivity apps. The absolute most convenient and functional app I have is the bus tracker. I use it as a phone so infrequently, probably just a handful of times per week, and I text message once or twice per day. No social media. Not much else.
What I dislike about having this smartphone is how much I inadvertently check it. For no reason other than habit, I will pick it up, turn it on, and look at it. I have no intention to look at anything in particular. But I look, nonetheless. I have made strides in leaving it be, but I still slip up. Worst of all, since my most frequently used app is email, the email app is often open on my phone and the first thing I see when I unlock it. What this means is that I may catch a glimpse of work email in my off hours… and once you see a work email, you cannot unsee it. For me, it’s been quite frustrating.
Some may argue that the smartphone is a wonderful tool because it allows you so much functionality in such a small package. That’s undoubtedly true. But I question how frequently these devices are used for this functionality while the user is also sitting in front of their much more powerful computer. I know that in my case, I am in front of a computer often and having the smartphone affords very few additional benefits to my life.
Unfortunately, I had to carry my iPhone at work. Fortunately, I have finally left my job to work on my own projects and go freelance. And as such I have made the transition of getting rid of my smartphone and returning to a dumbphone. Or, more affectionately… a feature phone.
I wanted a feature phone that still had the sleek styling of the higher end smartphones, so I chose the Nokia 515. The Nokia 515 is not available in the United States, where I live, so I ordered it from China on eBay (the Nokia 301.2 is a similar phone that is available in the US, though it’s plastic rather than aluminum like the 515). The 515 is a GSM worldphone, with slots for two SIM cards. In the US it will work on AT&T and T-Mobile, as well as any other reseller carrier that operates on either of those networks. I opted for T-Mobile, with a prepaid $40 monthly unlimited talk/text/data plan. If you do any traveling, this feature phone could work well for your needs. Keep your home country SIM in it and add a local SIM on the fly.
The 515 is a sturdy beast, and runs the stable Series 40 operating system. Yes, Series 40 is antiquated. You won’t be multitasking, you won’t be remotely logging into your home computer, you won’t be reviewing and editing your latest tax return. But that’s not the point. Where smartphone operating system updates seem to make older iterations of the phone slow (planned obsolescence, maybe?), Series 40 has been around for a decade and the updates only add functionality without slowing anything down. I imagine my Nokia 515 will last a very long time and remain functional.
And that’s what I’m after. I don’t want to keep upgrading my phone every two years, I don’t want to stare into it day and night. I don’t want to pay a king’s ransom monthly just to fuel my smartphone’s data plan. I need a break from it. I get no joy from it, I see very little benefit in keeping it.
The Nokia 515 works quite well as a, you know… phone. The call clarity is great. Old school T9 texting really isn’t that bad. Ultimately, I feel mentally lighter carrying the Nokia 515 and that feeling outweighs any concessions I make in functionality. It has email functionality, so I easily connected my personal Gmail account. Though I probably won’t respond to emails on it.
Will I stick with this forever? I don’t know. For now, though, it’s helping me take back something I’ve lost over the past few years… some sort of mental energy, some habitual attention given to a device that really doesn’t do anything for me. Maybe you feel the same way.
Photo courtesy of John Ragai.