I Went Back to a Flip Phone – Here’s Why

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Smartphones: The Ultimate Time-Snatcher

Recently, research has shown that the average American spends 2 hours and 51 minutes on their smartphones each day. This translates to about 20 hours a week, 86 hours a month, and a whopping 1026 hours a year. And this is one of the more conservative estimates I have found! Some estimates have users spending over four hours a day on their smartphones! Is there another option? Could we be finding a better use for our time? I (re)introduce to you to: The Flip Phone!

Just for a moment, think about what could have been done with just a few of those 1026 hours. A visit to a parent’s house, a cup of coffee or a drink with a friend, a hike in the woods, or a game of Chutes and Ladders with your kids.

Smartphones are great — we can keep in touch with others, send a quick text to say hello, figure out how the hell to get to Uncle Ned’s house. But, ultimately, and more and more profusely, they are time snatchers.

In my younger days, before minimalism, before having a better concept of personal finance, before kids, (Remember those days? Full nights of sleep, lazy Saturday afternoons, being able to watch an entire movie uninterrupted, ahhh those were the days) I was on the smartphone carousel along with everyone else.

I had my shiny, new iPhone with 40 different apps.

But then my oldest son, C, came along. As children grow up, they of course become more and more aware of the attention (or lack thereof) they are getting. C was no different.

My “Aha” Moment

The tipping point happened one afternoon when I was either on Facebook, or Words with Friends, or some other app and I looked up from my phone to realize that my son had just been calling my name for the past 30 seconds. C wasn’t hurt. He wasn’t even particularly upset. He just wanted some attention. But here I was, trying to make a word out of X, L, M, and O (can’t be done, by the way) instead of spending quality time with him.

I had chosen, at that moment and many other moments before then, my phone over my son.

That was the wake-up call, the aha moment. What was important to me as a parent? The next day, I went to Verizon and switched to my circa 2007 flip phone.

My extensive collection. Two no longer work and have become C and B’s play phones.

That was four years ago. Since then, I have been the butt of quite a few jokes as well as some strange looks when I flip it out in public. (Get your mind out of the gutter!)

And that’s not even getting into the reactions I get from my students. At this point, they barely even remember that flip phones existed.

But, while I’ve been poked fun at more times than I can count, just as many people have been genuinely curious about my decision to break away from the technology addiction.

My Journey Back in Time to a Flip Phone

But do you know what hasn’t happened since then? I haven’t missed my son calling for me because I have been so distracted. I haven’t looked up from my phone and thought, “shit, where did all the time go?”.  Facebook, Instagram, and all the other apps will have to wait. I spend more time playing with my kids, talking to my wife, and living in the moment, instead of living behind a screen.

The Downfalls

Switching to a basic phone has some real negatives of which you should be aware.

First, typing in T9 (remember that) is a bitch, especially when we’ve all been spoiled by a full keyboard on our screens.

Second, I do miss being able to take pictures since I am now back to a 0.2 megapixel phone, although I don’t miss this as much as I thought I would. It’s kind of nice to live the moment instead of focusing on capturing the moment for a picture.

Third, the video capability is gone and that hurts, especially when my kids do or say something memorable, funny, or cute.

I just look at the positives as outweighing these three negatives.

So What Can You Do?

The goal of this post is not to demean or even to try to get someone to ditch their smartphone and convert to a flip phone, but simply to make sure we are all mindful of our phone use.

Here are a few possibilities:

1. Try my 21-Day Digital Detox Program. Learn about your technology dependence and take daily, actionable steps to break the addiction.

2. Keep your smartphones on the counter or nightstand when you walk in the house, don’t carry it on you when in the house.

3. Turn off app notifications on your smartphones.

4. Turn off your smartphones for a few hours.

5. Leave your smartphones on silent/do not disturb.

6. Motivate yourself by entering a contest, such as this one from Vitamin Water to win $100,000!

7. Try a 30-day challenge like this one from Jillian at Montana Money Adventures.

8. Flip it Up! – Try going back to a flip phone like I did. If you hate it after a few months, you can always go back.

9. Try out Gabb Wireless (Affiliate Code). If you use the promo code “MAYM”, you will save $10 off the phone. It looks just like a smartphone, but it doesn’t have an internet browser, social media, or anything else that might distract you from the things that really matter.

Update: Confessions and New Resolutions

I would love to hear your opinions about phones in the comments section below. Could you ever imagine going back to a flip phone or is that out of the question?

33 thoughts on “I Went Back to a Flip Phone – Here’s Why”

  1. Yes Yes Yes!!! This is amazing! I’ve heard of a few people doing this lately. I think it’s such a great concept. It’s not that smartphones are bad, they really do provide a benefit to the user – if used properly.

    1. I just ordered a Sonim xp3 – rugged flip. My plan is going down to $25, better sound quality (you know, for actually talking on the phone), and a much smaller device to carry. I got rid of data and uninstalled pretty much everything on my android phone a while back, and saw a big improvement in focus and overall mental health. Now that it is starting to wear out, I’m making the change permanent.

  2. This is my favourite post I’ve read all week! And I read a LOT of posts! Yes, yes and triple yes. While I still have a smart phone I have been contemplating taking Ed Sheeran’s lead and going back to an entirely cell phone free life.

    For ALL the reasons you’ve mentioned here, plus the additional reason of simply being less accessible. Remember the days of having just a landline phone – maybe with added “feature” of call display so you know who was trying to reach you?! That’s sounding pretty amazing to me these days! I would even skip the voice mail option – just call display – if I want to call you back to find out why you called – I will. Or you can just call again. lol.

    As of yet my ONLY stumbling block is that it’s very convenient to communicate with my husband about our boys, day and schedules, via messenger.

    For now, I will continue to use numbers 1 through 4 of your suggestion list. Even the simple act of leaving my phone in one place on the counter ends in me checking it a WHOLE lot less.

    Great post!

    1. minimalismandmoney

      Wow! What a great compliment! I’ve thought about getting rid of mine altogether as well, but I worry about emergencies or if my kids’ school was trying to get a hold of me. Let me know if you make the jump, I’d love to hear about it! Thanks for the thoughtful response.

  3. My husband and I only recently got phones with screens controlled by touch (see our cool lingo). We were the last of everyone we knew to get smartphones. We only did it once the cost of getting a different phone was about the same anyway. I can’t say our life is any better. In fact, since the contrast is so recent, I would say it only makes me feel as though I should be working constantly.

    Thank you for this reflection and your tips. I’d like to highly suggest a recent podcast by Paula Pant about Digital Minimalism. It was powerful. I think someday soon we will look at some of these digital habits like smoking. It will seem insane that we let our youth do it while being so consumed by it.

    1. So so agree with your comment about it being akin to smoking in years to come!

      Not to mention even the impact of what’s happening on screen, but even when I watch my son oldest bend over the IPAD screen it makes me think he is going to hate us in 20-30 years when he suffers from chronic back pain………

      While we have a family system to limit screen time – it still makes me wonder what are we doing to our next generation?!

    2. minimalismandmoney

      Thanks for the tip about Paula Pant’s podcast, I’ll have to check it out. I’m sure as a teacher, you deal with the same challenges I do. Technology is an amazing tool, but only when it is used properly and in some moderation. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  4. This is a great post! I’m now considering getting rid of my smart phone. But that pesky 2-year contract I am under…

    It is disturbing to think about how much time I’ve wasted on my damn phone. That thing is a time killer. It is like we are addicted to being connected all the time, that we lose site of what is happening around us. I definitely want to start limiting my phone time and be more present with my girls and Andrea. Life is too short to spend so much time on our phones.

    1. minimalismandmoney

      Thanks, Chris. I totally agree with you. Obviously, there are some great benefits to a smart phone, but it’s just so easy to get addicted. Let me know if you take the leap!

  5. I have never owned a smartphone…by choice. It’s not that I have anything against technology (I am posting this from my laptop, after all) it is just that I do not want to be connected 24/7. I see way too many people doing the “phone zombie” thing and, frankly, it is discomfiting to watch.
    I love looking at the world around me. I love to take leisurely walks, or long, lazy bike rides. I love to read books…the old-fashioned way. And – gasp – I love to do loooong brunches with close friends where we all – gasp again – actually *talk*. To each other 🙂 (throwback smiley face intentional)
    Right now, I use an LG 306G, which is a great little ‘in-between’ feature phone with a touch screen and the ability to go from numeric, to T9, to a virtual qwerty keyboard. But, it is a 3G phone, 3G is being phased out and, off course, there is nothing akin to it available anymore (because we have the tech to make a gazillion smartphones, but only a couple of mediocre flips…and zip for other feature phones. Grr) So I got a 4G LTE capable Alcatel flip phone.
    And yep. I do get some looks here, and there…but not many, since most people have their noses seemingly glued to their screens.

  6. 19 years old here, realizing the addiction I have to my phone and how many useful things I could be doing if I put my time and energy elsewhere. Afraid I’ll be made fun of if I go back to a basic phone, but I’m doing it anyway. Wish me luck! Awesome and helpful post!

    1. Hey! How’s ur flip phone journey going? Still sticking to it? I’ve been thinking of getting a flip phone when I’m done uni and emails aren’t a priority anymore..

  7. Great article, I have ordered a flip top from T-Mobile should be here tomorrow, I have been thinking of sending it back and keeping my smartphone. After reading your article I am still undecided but leaning toward keeping the flip top. Guess I will see when I get it.

  8. I had a similar realization the other day when my daughter wanted my attention. I have since been leaving it on do not disturb, just allowing calls and leaving the ringer on. but when my contract is up I plan on getting a flip phone.

  9. Check out GABB wireless. It’s a phone intended for kids but has NO internet and looks like a smartphone. The GABB+ is coming out in March and it will have GPS, group texts, ability to send/receive photos unlike the original model. I am SO excited and scared to try it. Gotta break the chain!

  10. This is great to hear people are moving away from “smart” phones. I made the choice to do so and am currently transitioning. It is an adjustment for sure, but just two days in and I am already realizing how much more mindful and present I am. I am excited to have stopped the flow of attention to another black mirror, mind control device.

    I splurged and bought the Punkt MP02 (works great with my T-Mobile service), which is a 4G phone that does only calls, text and has an option to switch on a Wifi hotspot/tethering option when you want to connect a device to the internet. The phone is super simple, stylish and small. I also bought a digital camera in order to take pictures or video when I want it and bring it everywhere.

    Going back to basics is proving itself to be so valuable in so many ways lately. Hope to see more people break away from this sad technological future we are heading towards.

  11. I too have never owned one. For many, many years, a smartphone wasn’t even on my radar. I knew they existed, but had no desire for one so I didn’t think further about it. About 2017 or so that changed – people started commenting on my flip. I tell them what my conclusion was in 2007 when Jobs introduced the iPhone: A jack of all trades, a master of none. A mediocre phone and a TERRIBLE computer with a crippled operating system and crippled user interface. Obscenely expensive to acquire and “feed” each month. Why would I want that? The last time I used something with a screen that small was an Osborne 1 in about 1982!

  12. I have never owned a smart phone. I only bought a flip phone in 2013 for a 30 day European tour. I still have it after 7 years – I understand iPhones last about 4 years. I charge my phone once a week. Granted, I am not a heavy phone user.

    I keep waiting for it to die so I can get a smart phone for pairing rides to my bike computer. After reading this article, I think I will stay with the flip phone.

    Thank you

  13. I’ve been looking at flip phones if you can find them and most are junk today. I have one that is great but can no longer use because it is 3g now I have to go to 4 g and the phones are junk and one I found was thick and really heavy- mostly for farmers and such. I would definitely like another flip just like the one I have but apparently do not make them anymore. So forcing me to look at the smart ones! And want more per month to have them too… just a money maker! Bumed

    1. minimalismandmoney

      One of the associates told me that they jack up the prices of flip phones now because these companies don’t make enough money on them. The data usage is how they really make their money. It’s unfortunate for sure.

  14. Gabb Wireless is what we got for our 12 year old. It looks like a smart phone but is absolutely a dumb phone. I really wanted to get one for me too. I haven’t convinced myself to not have access to emails and such and now apps for kids stuff and work as a nurse 😥. It’s pretty cheap too. Only drawback so far is she gets a lot of spam calls.

  15. Wondering some other downsides that I’ve already encountered while considering the switch and if you’ve had to deal with similar. Paid parking in my town is done by app — you have to call an 800 number and give your CC to pay otherwise, which is a real hassle. GPS — did you buy an old Garmin for the car? I need the Map app often enough that printing out directions in advance is not feasible. I don’t have a spouse who can take the photos, break out the GPS, pay the parking, etc, but it sounds like you do?
    I know I’m not able to break the addiction without getting rid of the smartphone, but I’m not sure I’ll be happier without it!

    1. minimalismandmoney

      Hi Alison, thanks for checking in. You brought up some great points. If the point of going back to a flip phone is to save time and not waste it, how do we justify calling an 800 number or printing out maps again. (I do have an old Garmin in my car by the way!)

      I ran into different issues, but they are along the same lines as your hesitations. I actually ended up going back to a smartphone a little while ago. I wrote a post about it here: Confessions and New Resolutions

      If you read through that, it goes into detail as to why I went back to the smartphone. It wasn’t really by choice, but I had very few other options. In that post, I also talked about some of the new habits that I have formed to really try to curb the addiction and not head down the same road I was on before with smartphones. Hopefully, you find them useful!

      1. Thanks for your super-quick reply. I’ll check out your new post. I’ll be OK with getting a GPS, maybe a pedometer, carrying around a camera, etc. What I’ll have to do is get rid of the iPhone I have, so I don’t wind up using it over wifi all day anyway. I’ll figure it out… new year resolution 🙂

    2. For what it’s worth, I went back to a Sonim XP3 flip phone about 6 months ago, and I’m loving it so far. It actually works properly as a phone, T9 texting is not too bad, and I get a week out of a battery charge. It is also smaller and lighter.

      In terms of apps for so many services that seem to demand them now, I actually carry a tablet for that. On a certain level, that may sound like cheating, but hear me out. My talk and text plan is $25, and my tablet data plan is $15 as long as I have a voice plan. That is $40, and the cheapest smartphone plan where I live is about $60 or more. With the tablet, I have all the apps and connectivity I need, but on separate devices.

      Maps work, I can get to e-mail and web when I need it, and all on a much bigger screen. The catch with the tablet is that it doesn’t fit in my pocket. I typically keep it in my backpack or in the car, but I don’t carry it around with me all the time. I can’t scroll through social media in the grocery store line (got rid of social media too BTW), or otherwise become re-addicted to a smart phone, but I have the connectivity when I need it. Being a separate and less portable device makes that connectivity much more intentional.

      It is probably like keeping the cookies in the cupboard instead of on a plate on my desk all day. It doesn’t mean no cookies, it just means boundaries.

      My flip phone does have a camera for spontaneous shots, although it isn’t a great camera. The tablet one is better. I also have an SLR if I want to take pictures that actually look good.

  16. I’ve had flip phones only for the last 17 years and have no interest in ever having a smart phone. I have a laptop and that’s enough. I’m not missing out. I only have Youtube, Facebook and e-mail…no apps. I don’t need all the extras. I don’t take selfies. I’m 45…didn’t grow up taking pictures of my food and every little thing. I prefer to have time to bike outside and live in the moment. I also have A.D.D., anxiety and O.C.D. so don’t want extra distractions in my hand. I also only go on my laptop during the week in the morning and then the laptop is put away. Keep it simple. No one ever died because they didn’t chase some Pokemon go or Tik Tok and all the rest of the stuff out there.

  17. Yesterday I decided to switch the SIM card from my worn-out flip phone to an identical leftover from storage. I turned it on and sent a test message to a friend, and it bounced back “unable to send”.

    Apparently AT&T suspended my line because I was still using a 3G device. Now I’m pissed!!!!!!

    I wouldn’t have a damn cell phone if the pay phone hadn’t been extirpated from the USA, and now I’m being corralled into using a device I have always despised, for the many reasons you’ve cited.

    Those of us kinesthetics who are repulsed by the vicarious, lazy methods deserve better.

  18. My husband and I have always had flip phones, our last phones are 3G and like many folks we are having to upgrade to 4G. We knew we were going to keep flip phones, use them for what phones were intended for and use our tablets, laptops and computers for everything else.

    I researched “smartphones vs flip phones” to read some comments. I was curious of the pros and cons. Our 40 plus children all use smartphones and they think we should upgrade, but when visiting with them I am always amazed at how much time they spend scrolling, reading and tuning out. I will be talking to my daughter on the phone and it will go silent, I know she is concentrating on what just popped up on her phone instead of concentrating on our conversation.

    The saddest thing we have found is how businesses during this “Covid” year think everyone has a smartphone. We would go to our local “Home Depot” for pickup in the parking lot and you had to have a smartphone to call in. I finally programed the local phone # in my phone so I could call and they could transfer me to the appropriate person. We obviously were not the only ones complaining because they changed their instructions when you pull up for using a phone #.

    I wanted to let you know I appreciated your column, nothing has changed our minds in all the articles that we have read. We can survive using flip phones and maybe still be cool at the same time.

    1. minimalismandmoney

      Hi Sheri,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I completely agree with everything you wrote. I think we’ve all felt like we have been talking to someone who is only half listening because they are on their phone. I think that disjointed personal connection is one of the biggest negative consequences of the smartphone.

      Keep those flip phones, you’ll always be cool in my book!!

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