As the world waits with bated breath for the latest Apple iPhone and Google phone announcements, phone maker Nokia did something very unusual. In late February, Nokia announced a re-release of the classic 3310, an unabashedly retro move at a time when the world is obsessed with the latest and greatest smartphone technology.
The Nokia 3310 is considered a feature phone (sometimes jokingly called a “dumb phone”), which places it a few rungs down the technology ladder from a smartphone. The original 3310 came out in 2000 and earned a reputation as a durable phone stocked with fun games, good text messaging features, and a solid battery life. The modern version sports a slimmer design, a color screen, and a 2-megapixel camera, but it won’t run all your fancy smartphone apps.
The 3310 will not initially be available in the U.S. when it launches, but Nokia isn’t ruling out bringing it to America. A side effect of the announcement is that people around the globe are thinking about feature phones again. It’s a neglected corner of the phone market, but there are reasons why feature phones have not completely disappeared.
Is a feature phone right for you? Let’s explore why you might actually want one:
1. Long battery life
Smartphones are amazing. They can take crystal-clear pictures, surf the internet, and direct us to our destinations while giving us traffic updates. All that brainy computing power inside a small device comes with a caveat: you’re going to need to charge up the battery constantly. Feature phones don’t suffer from the demands of big screens and power-hungry apps, so you can usually expect to go several days (or longer) between charges.
You’ll be the envy of your backpacking companions when it’s your fourth day of roughing it out in the wilderness and your phone can still make a call. A long battery life is also nice for forgetful people who don’t want to deal with plugging a smartphone in every night.
2. They’re cheap
You can buy a no-contract unlocked iPhone 7 for $650. You can easily buy a no-contract feature phone for $50 (or even less if you shop around). While some feature phones have rudimentary web browsers and other internet features, you’re not going to want to use them to get online thanks to the small screens and often awkward keyboards. That also means you don’t have to fret about dropping a lot of money each month on a big data plan.
3. Use it as backup phone
You can have your smartphone and keep a dumb phone, too. Many people have an old feature phone stashed somewhere deep in a desk drawer. You could recycle it, or you could keep it around in case your current smartphone gets lost, stolen or broken. You can reactivate the old phone and keep up on calls and messages while you get a replacement.
Even unactivated phones can still dial 911. You can keep a feature phone in your car in case of an emergency when you’ve forgotten your normal phone. Just be sure to stash a car charger with it or remind yourself to charge it up periodically.
4. For kids
Some parents are wary of giving their young children smartphones, but they still want a way for the kids to get in touch when needed. A basic feature phone is an easy way to do this. You will have fewer worries about monitoring your child’s phone use or dealing with parental controls.
5. Simplify your life
If you can’t resist the temptation to constantly bury your face in your smartphone, then a feature phone can feel like a respite and refuge from the constant barrage of emails, social media alerts and app notifications. It’s a way to declutter your digital life, even if it’s just as an experiment in unplugging, or as a phone to take on vacation so you’re not tempted to answer emails the whole time.
If you absolutely need a smartphone for work, then consider a feature phone as your at-home phone. Tuck that smartphone away at the end of the work day and switch to your distraction-free simple phone for talking and texting with your family and friends. As a bonus, you can share your feature phone’s number with only the people you want to get in touch with you after hours.
Smartphones are here to stay, but feature phones, especially convenient and compact flip phones, never really left the scene. They have their place in a connected world. They’re budget-friendly. It’s a simpler way of handling communication. The long battery life is a joy. Manufacturers continue to release updated feature phone models because millions of people around the world still use them.
If a feature phone sounds like an intriguing idea, you can check with your carrier to see what’s available. Some carriers may simply refer to them as “basic phones.” They’re not glamorous, but they can get the job done if all you really need to do is make voice calls and send text messages (and maybe play a simple game now and then).