The Return of Dumbphones

These devices are similar to some of the first handsets that people bought back in the late 1990s and they're enjoying a major comeback.


Nokkia 3310 handset

Dumbphones are basic handsets, or feature phones, with very limited functionality compared to say an iPhone. You can typically only make and receive calls and SMS text messages. And, if you are lucky - listen to radio and take very basic photos, but definitely not connect to the internet or apps.


Apart from nostalgia, these phones are increasingly popular as they are very cheap to buy and there are no exorbitant monthly data fees to pay. Plus, the battery lasts for days without the need for charging. But also, of course, without access to social media, they don't gobble up half your life scrolling through miles of life-cluttering, unnecessary stuff - giving owners much more time for switching off and enjoying a 'normal' life.


Google searches for dumbphones, also called 'bricks', jumped by 89 percent between 2018 and 2021, according to a report by software firm SEMrush. And while sales figures are hard to come by, the BBC says that one report forecast that global purchases of dumbphones were due to hit one billion units last year, up from 400 million in 2019. This compares to worldwide sales of 1.4 billion smart phones last year, following a 12.5 percent decline in 2020.


Experts say it was the 2017 relaunch of Nokia's 3310 handset - first released in 2000, and one of the biggest-selling mobiles of all time - that really sparked the revival. "Nokia pushes the 3310 as an affordable alternative in a world full of high-spec mobiles," says Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at price comparison site Uswitch.com.

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