Mozo guides

Dumbphones: a smarter way to save money in 2022?

A 2017 re-issue of a Nokia 3310 in bright yellow.

If you’re old enough to remember life before smartphones, when the measure of your digital trendiness relied on your collection of bluetooth-acquired ringtones, getting a ‘dumbphone’ in 2022 seems like a step backwards. 

Why give up the endless ocean of knowledge – the internet – when it’s always accessible, 24 hours, seven days a week, from the palm of your hand? Why give up on the useful apps – internet banking, maps, translators, calculators, brain-games, news, social media, and the rest of it? 

Well, taking a hit to your phone’s functionality might actually prove a boon to your bank account.

What are dumbphones?

The name ‘dumbphone’ makes sense in relation to our use of the term ‘smartphone’. But are they really as dumb as we assume? After all, we used them for decades before the shiny smartphones we all know and love worked their way into the hearts (and pockets) of billions around the globe. 

Dumbphones are also known as ‘feature phones’. They can make calls, send and receive texts, have some multimedia capabilities, and may be able to access the internet. Some of the more basic dumbphones only have the ability to call and text (with a potato-like camera, if you’re lucky).  

Essentially, dumbphones contain pretty much only the bits and bobs which make a phone a phone.

Can you still use a dumbphone in 2022?

Short answer, yes. There are even companies like Nokia (once upon a time the biggest player in the mobile phone game), reviving their old products with enhanced features for the contemporary market, as well as other brands, like Light Phone and Punkt who are creating new products which embrace the idea of a lack of smartphone features. 

Generally, you can use a 4G SIM card in a 3G or 2G phone, or a 3G SIM card in a 4G phone, so long as your carrier supports it. The longer answer gets technical, but this is where many of us switch-off. 

Speaking of switching-off, around mid-2018, the 2G network was taken offline and relegated to the ethereal graveyard of technological progress. Fortunately, the removal of the 2G network doesn’t mean that any mobile phones designed during 2G’s heyday are essentially glorified Tetris consoles. In fact, the actual handsets are still technically usable today, although they’re probably a little worse for wear. Simply put, it’s the SIM cards which need upgrading. 

But the wheels of progress don’t stop at 2G’s retirement – the 3G network will be the next one to go, with Telstra confirming they’ll cease support for 3G SIM cards in 2024. 

So, with older networks on the way out, and smartphone technology well and truly established as the norm in our culture, why would you consider ‘downgrading’ to a phone with less functionality in 2022?

Why get a dumbphone in 2022?

There are lots of pros and cons to switching out your smartphone for a less feature-rich dumbphone. For some, it’s a welcome change from social media dependency and costly phone bills. For others, it’s an unthinkable leap backwards to a time when we couldn’t quickly Google the answer to a burning question.

Of course, the trade-offs will only appeal to some, but trends in Google searches suggest the appeal is on the rise. 

A report by SEMRush noted an 89% increase in Google searches for dumbphones between 2018 and 2021. 

So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of getting a dumbphone in 2022?

What are the advantages of a dumbphone in 2022?

The main advantage of making the switch to a dumbphone in 2022 is that you’ll have the opportunity to make some savings on your phone bill and on the handset itself. 

Although, it can be a bit of a lifestyle change from what you’ve been used to. 

The pros of a dumbphone include:

  • Saving money on your phone bill 
  • Less distractions
  • Change your spending habits
  • Longer battery life

You could save money by using a dumbphone

Over the long-term, a dumphone could cost noticeably less than purchasing a smartphone. Aside from the initial cost difference for the handset (for example, $50 vs $1200), you could also save on your mobile phone bill. 

Some dumbphones don’t even have an app store, let alone the apps we use everyday that chew through our data. By excluding large lumps of unnecessary data from your mobile phone plan, you could be paying a lot less.

Here’s an idea of what phone plans cost when you don't need lots of data:

Mozo may receive payment if you click to the website of one of the products below currently available via our partner, WhistleOut. They do not compare the entire market, but you can see more options by clicking on the View Full Results link in the table.
Last updated 14 July 2024

Less distractions, more productivity

One of the main reasons people switch to a dumbphone is to detox from social media and the unprecedented amount of time we spend online these days. 

By removing the distraction of incessant notifications, because your phone doesn’t have social media apps, it could be a great cold-turkey method of combating a phone addiction and staying on task. 

After all, everything worth doing takes a little time and dedication. 

Change your spending habits

Less apps means less ads. Less ads delivered straight to your screen means you might spend less of your money on things you don’t need, instead working towards things like savings goals, boosting your balance for a house deposit, or putting your spare money towards your insurance bill. 

Longer battery life

Perhaps one of the biggest smartphone problems you hear is how little battery-life they seem to have. Sometimes it doesn’t even seem like a full-charge lasts a day. Not only is that a pain in the behind, but you could end up having to fork out for a decent portable charger. 

Dumbphone batteries, because there’s less processing and displaying of high-quality graphics all hours of the day, generally have a far better battery-life. Some can even last up to 22 hours of a constant phone call, or up to four weeks on standby mode.

What are the disadvantages of a dumbphone in 2022?

The disadvantages of dumbphones are definitely somewhat bleak, especially when many of us have made using our smartphones a daily (sometimes hourly) ritual. But it’s all subjective. 

The cons of getting a dumbphone in 2022 include:

  • Less functionality than a smartphone
  • Not always as aesthetically pleasing 

Dumbphones have less functionality than a smartphone

If you love all the bells and whistles of your smartphone – facial recognition to unlock your phone, internet banking on the go, Facebook and Instagram, a selfie camera – and you reckon you couldn’t live without them, then a dumbphone probably isn't for you.

Depending on the type of dumbphone you’re considering, the features vary considerably. A more basic phone won’t have many (if any) apps or features to play around with. Then there are some of the more high-range dumbphones (yes, that sounds like an oxymoron, but we promise it isn’t) that have a much more stripped-back experience, with a little added functionality (like navigation and music apps) and customisability. 

Dumbphones aren’t as aesthetically pleasing as smartphones (mostly)

Aesthetics are a subjective realm, but most can agree that seeing dumbphones in the wild seems like an anachronistic mirage. They just look… old. 

The same goes for how the screens work. They’re not the tiny movie screens we hold in our palms. Some dumbphone screens don’t even come in colour, depending on what product you’re talking about. 

What you value aesthetically will play a large part in your decision to switch from a smartphone to a dumbphone.

What sim can I get with a dumbphone in 2022?

As long as the handset you purchase is unlocked, you will have an abundance of choices when it comes to getting a new SIM-only mobile phone plan

If you’re still undecided about going down the dumbphone route, but are looking to save on mobile costs, then your first port of call should be to compare mobile phone plans. Mozo can help you compare plans from over 30 providers to see if you can find a deal that suits your budget and lifestyle.

Jack Dona
Jack Dona
Money writer

Jack is RG146 Generic Knowledge certified, with a Bachelor of Communications in Creative Writing from UTS, and uses his creative flair to cut through the financial jargon and make home loans, insurance and banking interesting. His reader-first approach to creating content and his passion for financial literacy means he always looks for innovative ways to explain personal finance. Jack's research and explanations have been featured in government publications, and his work is regularly featured alongside major publications in Google's Top Stories for Insurance.