Going back to a feature phone

One night I glanced at my smartphone and noticed it rebooting, over and over. It was stuck in a boot loop. Factory reset didn’t work, so I sent it off for warranty repair. Meanwhile I needed a phone to use, so I took my backup phone out, a Nokia 301 feature phone. An interesting week was about to begin.

At first I found myself reaching for the phone to check things, but after a couple of days I adjusted to the idea of not being able to do that. I wrote down things I wanted to look up later on a piece of paper using an actual pen (wild concept, I know), and when I got to my computer I looked things up and checked my email, twitter and so forth. It reminded me a lot of the early 2000’s before smartphones were a thing.

A few days in, I even started to enjoy the experience. It was nice not to have this attention-grabbing device that is a smartphone always with me. My stress levels went down initially. I liked it so much in fact, that when my smartphone showed up in working order a week later, I actually didn’t put my SIM-card back into it, but instead used it with a data only SIM in parallel with the Nokia 301. I could leave the smartphone behind when I didn’t need anything other than phone functionality, and I could keep it in my backpack most of the time in case I needed it. I kept using this setup for an additional month and I really liked it.

Some of the things the feature phone did great was call quality, battery life and size. It was really nice to only have to reach for the charger once every week and a half rather than daily. Even when I used both phones in parallel I felt more relaxed about charging, because it wasn’t the end of the world if my smartphone run low. I still had a phone in case I needed to make a call or send a text message. Call quality was generally excellent even on speaker (at least on my end), and I really appreciated the small size. Another thing that I had really missed were the physical buttons. Dialing a number on a physical number pad is way more satisfying than tapping on a sheet of glass.

Not everything was great though. The Nokia 301 did not sync contacts with the cloud, so I had to manually enter all important contacts again. It didn’t lookup incoming unknown numbers like the Google dialer does, and text input was slow and frustrating. Entering text on a numeric keypad is not something I miss at all, even though T9 does a decent job at guesstimating words. Using the smartphone in parallel helped a bit, since I could use my communication apps on that, but as I still rely on regular SMS text messages quite a bit, this became a bigger and bigger issue. Emoji support was also very limited, which turned out to be an issue. About 5 weeks into the experience I finally gave up and put my regular SIM-card back in my smartphone.


So what did I learn from all of this?

  • I really miss the battery life of the old days. I hope smartphones will one day be able to go an entire week on a charge. Or even a few days.
  • Text messages and messaging apps are the new phone calls. Having a phone that makes great phone calls in 2018 isn’t the big deal it used to be, but I already knew that.
  • Limited emoji support turned out to be problematic. It is often expected that you can see and reply with emojis, and it can be really difficult to determine the tone of a message if emojis are not shown.
  • While dialing on a numeric keypad is a great experience, typing messages on one isn’t. I don’t miss that at all.
  • I miss the simplicity of the feature phone. It was there when you needed it, but it wasn’t your entire world. There was even a time where people looked at their surroundings, and even each other, instead of their phones. Wild times. ?
  • Having access to modern phone apps makes things easier. Banking app, calendar, messaging apps and streaming music apps are things I really missed during the week with only a feature phone.
  • The cameras on feature phones are generally more or less unusable. The Nokia 301 is no exception.
  • Putting the smartphone down can give great piece of mind and lower stress levels. At least for a while. I will try and do that more often.


In conclusion, this was a fun and valuable experience, but I can say for sure that the smartphone is here to stay.