Giving up my smartphone - Duoqin F22 Pro
I was first attracted to the dumbphones after seeing a series of articles on Hacker News. I like the idea of using - and relying on - my phone less and less.
No plan survives contact with the enemy, and I knew that I wouldn’t manage in life with a stripped down phone that could only do calls, texts, and maybe some music.
Eventually I stumbled across the dumbphones subreddit (/r/dumbphones). On this subreddit I discovered ’transition phones’, that is a phone that can do some smartphone things, but with dumbphone characteristics. I found that you could have a dumbphone form factor but still install all the smartphone apps you might need.
Things I don’t like about smartphones
- The size – I really don’t like the increasing size of smartphone handsets. Every year, flag ship phones get bigger and bigger, and the smaller sizes are dropped or discontinued. I want a phone that I can easily use with one hand; and that’s not just scrolling and clicking, I want to be able to use the keyboard and reach all areas of the screen without doing some jedi-level-thumb-dislocation-acrobatics.
- The distraction – I find the big screens of smartphones incredibly distracting. Apps and web pages are well optimised for these large screen sizes, and you can end up either distracted by the phone, or using it for longer and longer without realising. I’m sure some of you readers will read this on a phone. I wanted a phone that I used when I wanted and needed to, not something that sucked me in for longer and longer periods of consumption.
Finding a new phone
I mentioned transition phones, these are often smartphones in a handset form factor that helps combat some of the above problems.
If you’re interested in dumbphones and transition phones, Jose Briones’ dumbphone finder is brilliant He’s also got a YouTube channel with some reviews of dumbphone handsets that’s useful when researching which phone to get.
Originally I like the old-school romance factor of a flip phone. I thought a little about a Samsung or Motorola flip, but I’m pretty scared of the folding screen breaking and these phones probably weren’t going to help me with usage.
I settled on the Duoqin F22 Pro. The phone is about as tall as my Google Pixel 7, but much narrower, which makes it feel much smaller. It cost me ~£150 on AliExpress from the Qin Phone Store. I bought the international version.
Useful things to remember when choosing a phone
- Google play store – lots of dumbphones run a version of Android but not all of them have Google Play Store installed. Having access to the Play Store also gives you access to all the apps you need navigate modern life. For me that’s apps like WhatsApp, Spotify, Gym Membership app, Cycle Hire app, etc. There are other Android flavours and versions, with different app stores, but I’ve not explored that yet. It looks like some deep reddit rabbit holes, often from the pureists who want to de-google their entire lives (an admirable goal!)
- Connectivity – the F22 Pro supports 4G, which is a step down from my previous Google Pixel 7 with 5G. For browsing the web, the difference in speed isn’t really noticeable. Some transition and dumbphones have 3G or 2G, which might be deprecated by your carrier. The other bit about connectivity is that lots of these phones are not well supported by the US carrier cell service radio frequencies. In the UK we don’t have this problem (yet).
- Cameras – When I selected the F22 Pro, I knew it had two cameras (back and selfie), but I also knew those cameras and their associated software wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as what I was used to on the Pixel 7. So I was resigned to keeping my Pixel 7 for photos, or using a specialised camera. What I didn’t fully appreciate is that a camera in a phone has evolved into an interface between software and the human world. QR codes are an example of this, using the camera to get info into the phone. But there are other uses, like identity checks, or signing in to mobile banking that work best with a selfie camera. If you’re going to choose a phone without a camera, be warned.
- Debloating – Phones often come with a whole bunch of stuff pre-installed that you aren’t going to need. You can remove much of this. The category of things you’re searching for is “Debloating”. For the F22 Pro, here are two sites I found: Binboupan’s blog and Shuuryou’s Github.
Things I’m enjoying with this phone
- The size – I’ve banged on about it in this post, but being a much narrower phone I can actually hold it, and its a joy.
- Tactile keys – It’s really nice to press an actual key, not a touch screen keyboard. The phone does support an on screen keyboard, but as part of using the phone less, I’m opting to use the supported T9 keyboard instead, with the actual 0-9 keys.
- Button scrolling and screen retail – I’m paying more attention to what is on the screen, because there’s less. I find it more enjoyable to read articles because I only have to see a small section of the content of the article at once. I’ve had no real problems with webpages or apps resizing to the screen. Similarly, scrolling through the article using the down arrow key is really nice. It’s more conscious and I find myself infinite-scrolling less and less.
- To lock the screen, you have to close the app – The end call button is used to close the app, and from the home screen the end call button will lock the phone. So to lock the phone, you have to close the app you were using. This sounds bad, but it means that when you come back to the phone you are always dropped back into the home screen. You’re never distracted by the previous app you were using, and you can continue to use the phone for what ever you were going to do.