Liz Dewdney often wishes she could see emojis her friends text her.
The 36-year-old server and bookkeeper of Toronto has been using flip-phones for years, and for the most part, is pretty happy about it.
“Right now all I get are rectangles or a kind of alien face if someone sends me just a single smiley. I actually kind of like the aliens; they may be my favourite part of my phone,” she tells Global News.
The smartphone business is bigger than ever, and with the news of Apple’s new iPhone X from earlier this week, the company noted it sold more than 1.2 billion phones over the past decade. Smartphones are also more accessible, and with so many options on the market, consumers are able to pick and choose exactly what they want from their mobile device.
Anna He, a wellness expert based in Toronto, says with the emergence of smartphones, our phones are no longer just our phones.
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But there are some Canadians who still enjoy the simplicities of their flip-phones: the texting, the price and of course, the art of conversation. And while this isn’t a trend or anything new — people have been using these types of phones for decades — Samsung even recently announced the possibility of new high-end flip-phone (think a smart flip-phone).
The flip-phone user
Dewdney says there are many reasons she still uses a flip-phone. For one, she feels smartphones come with the pressure to constantly upgrade.
“It’s not that I can’t afford it, but I can think of so many better things to spend my money on,” she tells Global News.
She currently spends $40 a month on her mall-bought flip-phone with Fido. And although smartphones are appealing, she doesn’t think it’s justifiable enough to spend that much money on one. She says she rather spend the money on travel or the possibility of owning a home one day.
Alyssa Ennis ended up getting a flip-phone when her smartphone broke. At the time, she was a student without a job and couldn’t afford a $700 replacement. She settled for an $80 flip-phone by Alcatel.
“It was like being in the Stone Age at first,” she tells Global News. “I had to press ‘download’ to receive text messages with pictures attached and press each number several times to text. [But] after a while I started to love my life with my flip-phone, despite the challenges I faced being a tech-spoiled millennial.”
Ennis enjoyed listening to voicemail and returning calls. It was liberating to not be bombarded by messages on social media or being attached to her device. She also liked not having a handful of apps to keep track of.
“All of a sudden, I had more time and I had to force myself to get more creative in my new free time,” she says. “With an iPhone I could never do that. I could barely study without my phone ringing.”
But it also showed her the obsession some of us have with being instant, so much so that others felt offended if she didn’t respond within a few hours.
“Current standards of messaging seems like it has to be instantaneous, but having a flip-phone reminded me I am allowed to take control of the interactions I have with people on a daily basis.”
As of now, Ennis went back to an iPhone for the camera and the fact it’s like a mini computer, but often contemplates about going back to a flip-phone. “I think everyone should try it at least once in their life. You feel naked at first and a bit lost, but eventually, you find yourself in ways that you would never imagine.”
The man who never made the switch
Dr. Zoltan Berkes became used to the geometry of the buttons on flip-phones about 25 years ago. The 68-year-old associate professor of physics at Concordia University of Edmonton, says ever since cellphones were introduced to the market, he’s always had a flip-phone.
“Even if my habits may brand me as a ‘technical dinosaur,’ I am not one,” he tells Global News. “I use technology and modern features of my desktop or laptop computers. I can search the web, read books on the screen, use drawing and word processing programs.”
Berkes says there are so many features he adores about his phone. He doesn’t have to worry about his fingers not being able to be sensed by his device or how to carry his phone on the go (it’s super compatible).
“The stream of unnecessary, irrelevant information does not flood my life and doesn’t take away my time, concentration and energy,” he adds.
And although he never has had a smartphone, he doesn’t feel a sense he’s missing out. Although, he likes the idea of looking up addresses on his phone or pay for parking through an app. But in the meantime, he has also noticed how much smartphone users become attached to their device.
“They are addicted to constantly staring at their small device, going around without being aware of their environment,” he says. “Sometimes it is I who feels lonely in the crowd of screen-staring people with my flip-phone quietly sitting in my pocket… there is nobody to talk to.”
Unplugging from your device
And as much as switching to a flip-phone just to detox sounds like a quick fix, He says it isn’t the answer. In fact, she thinks this a short-term fix for a larger problem in your life.
“A long-term solution is to have the inner awareness to ask yourself, ‘why am I constantly checking my phone? What is stressing me out?'” she says. “The phone is just an extension and amplifies whatever problem you are having.”
Instead, she says, other practical wellness tips will slowly detach you from your phone, and make you more aware of your addiction in the first place — an addiction that can lead to anxiety.
Start by scheduling a digital detox in your calendar ahead of time, this way you can plan ways to unplug in advance. He suggests doing this every six months for a week, but says some people may need it at least once a month. This can include just unplugging from your devices over a weekend, for example.
She also recommends leaving at least 20 minutes to an hour of your morning for yourself, and this means not being on your device.