Back to the Feature (phone)

Whoever said that “you don’t know what you got until it’s gone”  probably didn’t have smartphones in mind, but it still rings true. Take for example the curious case of Paul Briden, who decided to abandon his Android device (for a week) and go back to using a feature phone. He reported the experience yesterday on

It’s interesting to note that outside the United States, feature phones still reign supreme, which means that feature phone testing is also alive and well. So if you have the chance to participate in such a project, the following excerpts could serve as a useful starting point. Here are a few, in no particular order:

  • Being restricted to phone calls and texts wasn’t really as much of a problem as we anticipated, which just goes to show that, despite all the extra capabilities, we’re still using smartphones as phones first and everything else is an extra.
  • Firstly, we’ve become very accustomed to the handiness of account synchronisation across devices and this isn’t something feature phones, for the most part, are capable of – we weren’t expecting this to be an issue but it’s very much a case of ‘don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone’.
  • We’re well out of the habit of transferring contacts between a phone and a SIM and then onto another phone – it’s Google accounts (and similar setups) all the way for us.
  • Secondly, the menu layout on these feature phones is just crazy, there’s no real logic there that we can see. Finding and changing any settings is enough to send the blood pressure of even the most docile individual soaring to dangerous levels.

  • Standardisation of platforms like Android, Windows Phone and iOS seems to have made a substantial difference when compared to the haphazard, bespoke Java systems of your average feature phone, where no two are alike even from the same manufacturer.
  • Once you’re used to this smartphone logic it’s very difficult to go back, because you realise how mind-numbingly obtuse feature phone menu layouts actually are.
  • They’re so horrific that even if you only wanted a phone that calls and texts, seemingly the main motivation behind still buying feature phones, we’d still recommend getting a basic smartphone instead just for the interface fluidity.
  • Room for improvement, without ending up in total smartphone territory, could include Wi-Fi capability, which would make the inclusion of web browsers and email much more useful – email in particular is something we use smartphones for quite a lot but its inaccessible nature on feature phones was offputting. An absolute must for feature phones to evolve would be more intuitive interfaces.
  • We suppose one good reason for still getting a feature phone as they stand currently is that it will disconnect you from your phone a little bit, if that’s what you’re after.
  • In short, we didn’t really miss a lot of the extra stuff you get with modern smartphones, although given the choice we’d always rather have it because it’s just way more fun and we like to have variety. What we did miss, however, was the ease-of-use in just doing normal phone tasks and that, we think, is hugely significant.

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