What happened to simple smartphones?

What happened to simple smartphones?

Younger readers might not believe this, but early mobile phones really were nothing more than portable telephones.

The UK’s first mobile phone call was made on New Year’s Day 1985 by Ernie Wise, across a basic analogue cellular network.

It would be six years before digital infrastructure became available, and almost eight years until the first text message pinged into someone’s inbox.

It was 1993 before screens arrived to permit text messaging, and consumers had to wait until 1997 to experience colour screens.

By 1999, the cutting-edge Nokia 7110’s Wireless Application Protocol enabled rudimentary internet access. At this point, the communication floodgates began to open.

Picture messaging arrived in 2002, though 3G’s debut the following year officially spearheaded the development of mobile data usage.

By 2007, the iPhone was with us, and the launch of Apple’s App store the following year transformed simple smartphones into sophisticated pocket computers.

A step too far?

Smartphone evolution has been a glorious success if you’re an enthusiastic advocate of live-blogging breakfast photos, or checking emails on a train.

But what if you prefer simple smartphones, with big physical buttons and no unnecessary gimmicks?

Until the last couple of years, consumers were effectively forced to purchase a handset with features they might never need – selfie cameras, Facebook integration, and so on.

This understandably alienated some users, especially older people who’d managed to survive without programming a VCR timer or setting up a desktop PC.

In the race to cater for every niche, this neglected tranche of consumers has recently been acknowledged with the launch of several simple smartphones.

These devices still offer basic internet functionality and modern design, albeit pared down to a level that’s less intrusive than today’s biometric-and-4G devices.

If text messaging remains a mystery, and you don’t know the difference between Twitter and Tinder, the following phones might be worth considering.

Given their limited functionality, each one costs less than £80 to purchase outright – making them ideal options as emergency handsets, or gifts for less tech-savvy relatives:

Nokia 3310

Back in 2000, when a monochrome screen still seemed sophisticated, Nokia’s indestructible 3310 became one of the world’s most successful handsets, selling 126 million units.

In 2017, Nokia relaunched their iconic Millennial product with a mild redesign and a few modern concessions including a web browser, a 2MP camera and Bluetooth connectivity.

Nevertheless, it retains its predecessor’s intuitive design, with large physical buttons and a basic colour screen. There’s no 4G (though 3G is installed), and the sole camera is basic.

Alcatel 10.66

While some people will hate the cubic simplicity of Alcatel’s 63-gram 10.66 unit, others will appreciate its uncompromising minimalism.

Physical buttons, a compact square screen and a tiny 0.08MP camera make this phone suitable for very little beyond calling, texting and listening to MP3s or the radio.

However, the 10.66’s compact operating system and negligible interactivity contribute to a standby time of 300 hours – that’s almost a fortnight between charges.

Doro 6520

The preceding devices can easily dial someone by accident if they’re not manually locked after being used, but that risk is eliminated with Swedish firm Doro’s clamshell 6520.

A large battery supports an astonishing 380 hours (16 days) of standby time, while that sleek body contains a 2.8-inch screen and a 2MP camera.

The 6520 does support 3G and Bluetooth, but there’s no voice dialling or apps, and the screen is for display purposes only rather than offering touch-screen interactivity.

Back To Top