Why Modern Dumb Phones are Dumb

As yes, the modern dumb phone. When you see someone flip one of these bad boys out in public, you just have to look! The memories of typing with that classic T9 word. Flipping (or sliding) open the phone to answer a phone call. So epic, so classic, and now with 4G!? As much as they will take you back to the good old days of 2005, the current state dumb phones are in is an absolute disaster. This is what I've learned after 2 years in the dumb phone world.

As mentioned in my article on going back to webOS, my iPhone was having issues and I didn't feel like buying a new one. This gave me the opportunity to use an HP Pre 3 that I had purchased way back in 2013. I used that device for about a year and was beginning to have some issues with the cell connection. So I decided to it to rest and try something else. I switched to a garbage Android device for a while but the screen was so bad that I couldn't even really use it. Not to mention it had major connection issues when I switched to T-Mobile. I then go my first "dumb" phone since 2009: the Alcatel Go Flip 3. Thinking that it was just a dumb phone with a few extras I had no idea what I was getting myself into…

The device runs KaiOS - which is basically the reincarnate of FireFoxOS. I thought that was pretty cool! A nice free software project and it's doing crazy well in India! It's got some apps too which is handy. Then I found something out… Something terrible… KaiOS was purchased by Google… NOOOOOO!!!!! Yeah, that explains why there is Google Assistant on the Go Flip! I just thought KaiOS was hip or something! Well, as sad as that made me, I assumed the best and continued to use the device for a few months.

I started to look for a new device because the Go Flip was so slow that typing was difficult. It couldn't keep up with even the slowest of typing! While looking for an alternative dumb phone, I began to notice something: they all run android! Serious! Light Phone, Punkt Mp02, Schok Classic, SONIM XP3/XP5, Kyocera DuraXV Extreme - the list goes on and on! Plain android isn't necessarily a bad thing but what is bad is if they didn't de-Google it. As far as I know, Schok and SONIM both don't de-Google. I know this because I have used both of their devices and they have running Google services. I am unsure about the others. I do know that Kyocera has potential for stealing user data and giving it to Verizon based on this video. The man in the video really doesn't know much about the topic but the fact that those items are in there is a concern. I don't know much about the Light Phone and Punkt but they're very expensive and I don't care for that automatically. What has the dumb phone world come to!?

What does this all mean? Well, if KaiOS is Google owned and most dumb phones run Android (assuming there is some hidden services for either Google or another entity) we can assume that they all have some sort of spyware running. Not to mention they're all proprietary so we already don't know what's going on in there. In turn, this means that dumb phones suffer from the same plague as smartphones when it comes to privacy! Not to mention some of them are really expensive too. This leaves dumb phones with one benefit: no social media. OH WAIT, KaiOS has a Facebook app! Nice. Real nice.

As far as I can tell, there are really only 3 options for folks wanting a safe dumb phone: Mudita Pure, this guy, and PinePhone/Librem 5. Pure: I see potential. The OS will be released under the GNU GPLv3 supposedly. There are 3 big issues that I see with this device: e-ink, cost, and no group texting. The e-ink display means you can't view images most likely. Maybe they'll do a thing with black and white ones? No idea but could be a major concern for some people. It's like $370 retail price which is very expensive. Hopefully the device turns out to be worth that price! I find it silly to not include this in the initial release. I personally find group texting very useful and would love to see it. This guy: I don't really see this project going anywhere. It's possible, however. PinePhone/Librem 5: These are technically smartphones but since they don't have all the apps of iOS and Android and are pretty safe, they are probably the best option currently. The biggest issue I see with these are that that you can still spend all day scrolling on them and there aren't any stable operating systems as of 2020-12-02.

In conclusion, dumb phones are just as bad as smartphones when it comes to privacy. I cannot seriously recommend any on the market as of 2020-12-02. I believe that the safest option currently would be the Punkt but I'm not 100% sure as I don't want to spend the money to see. Keep in mind the Punkt is very dumb and cannot group texting nor view images. I am very hopeful that the Mudita Pure turns out to be something great - only time will tell! If anyone knows of any possible solutions here, let me know!

Author: Kevin "The Nuclear" Bloom