The Dumbphone Experiment, concluded

 I’m sitting here, looking at the Punkt MP02. It’s a wonderful little thing, a pleasant device to fiddle with, a lovely non-touchscreen, and buttons you want to press. This is a device designed with purpose, with taste, and with a very narrow public.

I love it. I’ve loved it almost all the way through the iPad + dumbphone experiment. The only time I don’t like it is when I need to type more than five words in a row. Man, have we evolved since the T9 days! I’ll never complain of a cramped touchscreen keyboard again.

I even went as far as to try a foldable bluetooth keyboard paired to my MP02. Zagg was kind enough to send me their Tri Fold folding bluetooth keyboard, and I have thoughts about it. I’ll get back to you on that, I did try to carry it for a few days, but it requires a flat surface, and why wouldn’t I use the iPad in such a situation? That said, again, interesting product, more later.

Anyway, here I am, piecing the iPad + dumbphone experience together.

Look, printing tickets to travel by train (which is something I haven’t done in a long time due to the pandemic) feels like the stone ages. But that was what I did before I decided to charge up the iPhone again. Digital tickets, in Wallet or in an app, is just so convenient, especially when you’re handling the whole family’s itinerary. That was what pushed me over, that’s what wrapped this experiment, that and the authentication issues.

So, what worked? Almost everything, when you can lean back on an iPad for more advanced tasks, and — let’s be honest — a more pleasant environment, most things will. What’s more interesting is what didn’t work, which were:

  • Authentication, in some cases.
  • Hailing cabs.
  • Writing anything longer than two sentences.

That’s not a lot. I’d add photography to that list, but one of the things I wanted to make happen with this experiment was taking more photos with my Ricoh GRIII, and I have. Mission accomplished, at least on that front.

Throwing out the smartphone

Some of us want to quit things, like Instagram or whatever it is that keeps you glued to the smartphone. I was there, I don’t think I am anymore, but it sure annoys me when others are focusing on their screens rather than their surroundings. I’ve left conversations because the smartphone is too much of a pull for my company. What’s left to talk to if the Latest Glaring Notification is more important than what’s right in front of you?

There are many good things with, and about, smartphones. The problem isn’t the device, it’s our inability to handle it. It’s not just the phone either, the same can be said about the iPad. It’s the apps and the services construed to keep you interested. I don’t need that, maybe you don’t either.

So quit the smartphone.


What does that entail, really? The biggest thing will be, assuming it’s an iPhone, that you’ll join the green bubble crowd most of the time. Your texts won’t be iMessages anymore. Texting will be sub-par, but it’ll work. Well, assuming you get a phone you can type on, but that’s a different matter.

What you need to consider are the tools — yes, tools — you have on your smartphone. It could be 2FA authentication apps, digital keys, payment solutions, the camera, whatever. If you see a duck in a funny position in the middle of the street, will you pull out your 12.9” iPad Pro? Probably not…

Ditching the smartphone is tricky, more so in some parts of the world. I could get by with the Punkt MP02, but there were issues, and while there are solutions they’re with a traditional computer in mind, not an iPad. If this is the route you want to take, if you want to replicate my experiment from your point of view, start by looking at what’s truly crucial on your smartphone, and if it can be replicated somehow.

Companion dumbphone

Another case for the dumbphone in 2021 is as a companion device. Let’s say you need to be accessible at all times when at work, but when you get home, and during weekends, that pinging phone isn’t doing you any favors. Then the call forwarding solution (assuming calls aren’t the problem here, but rather text-based communication) I opted for is what you want. You could even leave your iPhone at the office, enabling call forwarding when you leave, and just carry your dumbphone. When you get an iMessage you want to reply to, you just pull out your iPad, problem solved.

Another case for the dumbphone as a side-device is when you want to be able to truly enjoy your environment. That might be the people around you, your family or a certain happening, or just not missing out on the world because someone posted something on Instagram. A lot of us are struggling with maintaining a sane social media balance, and I truly believe that taking breaks, preferably long ones, is a good thing. If you don’t carry a capable and easily accessible device for your social media obsession, you probably won’t bother. Thus, the dumbphone is a solution, a social media detox tool if you will.

If you’re after some freedom from whatever sort of shackles your iPhone has put on you, I think removing the accessibility of the computer in your pocket is key. Yes, you can do just about all those things on your iPad, barring some, but it takes a lot more to pull out your iPad from your bag than it does reaching for your phone. It has become such an extended part of us, the smartphone, hasn’t it? Maybe dumbing it down, at least now and then, is a good thing?

I started this experiment feeling pretty sure I’d return to my iPhone 12 mini, and I have. My problem with it isn’t the way I use it, I’m not glued to social media, not anymore, now less than ever thanks to the past few weeks. What I don’t like with it, the iPhone, is that it’s too big as a small phone, and too small as a big phone. One could argue that I should go back to the Max models, but I think they’re too small as big phones, except perhaps for games and light reading.

I haven’t missed my iPhone. The issues I’ve had has been annoying, but not unsurmountable. That being said, I have access to a lot of gear, and not everyone will want to pay for extra SIM cards, cellular plans for their Apple Watches, or the Apple Watch itself. This whole thing would’ve been a lot easier if I started from scratch, if I hadn’t had an iPhone (or Apple Watch) already, and I just wanted a phone to complement my iPad. If that was my starting point, I don’t think I’d buy an iPhone. That’s a pretty big thing to say about something as ubiquitous as the premier smartphone. I don’t know many people who’d like to be without it, but I could see it working out just fine.

I urge you to try this. It was an interesting, sometimes fun, experience, ditching the iPhone. If you want to avoid shelling out for the (somewhat pricy but otherwise lovely) Punkt MP02, there are lots of alternatives, like the Nokia 3110 (it’s got Snake, still) for example. In fact, it’s probably a better choice thanks to its durability and battery life, albeit without the premium feel and design of the MP02.

Anyway, the iPad + dumbphone experiment is over, for now. I might return to this at a later date.

📵 This post is a part of the Dumbphone Experiment, where I put my iPhone aside to rely on a dumbphone, and my iPad. You can read all posts here →

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little series. I’m weirdly conflicted, looking at my iPhone sitting on the table. A part of me thought I’d miss it, but I really haven’t.

Do you have any questions or thoughts about this whole thing? Send me an email, or tweet to @tdh. I’d love to hear your thoughts!