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Dumbphones being bought by Gen Z, to reduce distractions

While we might be all about our iPhones, Nokia is selling tens of thousands of its dumbphones each month – with Gen Z leading the charge toward a simpler, less distracting device.

This is despite the fact that Gen Z are referred to as “digital natives,” having grown up with smartphones from their early years …

Gen Z, or Zoomers

Labels for the different generations are not an exact science, with some variability in their definitions, but Gen Z is broadly defined as those born in the mid to late ’90s, through to the early 2010s. That is, the generation after millennials, and those who are currently in the 10-28 age bracket.

The dumbphones trend

To be clear, very few young people are buying a dumbphone instead of a smartphone, but rather as a second device they switch to some of the time – such as when going out socializing, when they don’t want to be distracted by apps.

The WSJ reports on the trend, which is led by Gen Z but not exclusive to them.

While some Gen Zers might be buying smartphones that flip and fold, like the $1,000 Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4, the chatter online centers on “dumb” models with few capabilities. These devices are experiencing a renaissance as budget second phones—allowing you to detach from constant notifications and the lure of infinite scroll, without losing the ability to send texts and make calls in an emergency […]

Young people aren’t the only fans. Nokia sells tens of thousands of its flip phones each month in the U.S., according to Lars Silberbauer, chief marketing officer of HMD Global, the Finnish manufacturer of Nokia phones. Sales are growing across demographics, he said. “It’s not a small trend.”

A few dumbphones really are as dumb as pre-smartphone era models, but most make some concessions to modern tech – for example, color screens, Bluetooth for wireless headphone use, and a camera. Their low cost, as little as $40 when purchased outright, makes them extremely affordable as a secondary device, and a basic carrier plan for phone calls and texts only is similarly inexpensive.

18-year-old Sammy Palazzolo says that people are often curious when she pulls out her $40 Cingular Flex phone, and ask to take a look at it. She said she and a group of her friends made the decision to buy dumbphones after finding themselves drawn to their screens even at social events.

We were talking about how we [felt] like slaves to our phones, like robots who keep scrolling and scrolling, even when we’re out at parties.

While some of these phones include a basic web browser, the small screens, numeric keypads, and lack of apps mean they are unlikely to prove as distracting as a smartphone.

Among older people, there are those who have always used a dumbphone, and are pleased to see others enjoying the benefits of a less distracted life.

Melissa Range, 49, an associate professor of English at Lawrence University [said], “I have a really busy job, and I’m pulled in a lot of directions,” so she doesn’t want a phone competing for her limited time and attention.

Could you use a dumbphone?

Do any of you own a dumbphone as well as your iPhone? If not, are you tempted? Please take our poll, and share your thoughts in the comments.

Personally, I can see the attraction, especially on social occasions, but the main barrier for me would be that way more friends contact me on WhatsApp than on iMessage.

Photo: Isaac Smith/Unsplash

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