Gen Z’s Desire to Limit Screen Time Leads to ‘Dumb Phone’ Resurgence

  • The maker of Nokia reported selling tens of thousands of phones each month in 2022.
  • Influencers and members of Gen Z are swapping smartphones for “dumb phones” that can only call and text, CNBC reported.
  • Many have taken to social media to share their own experiences cutting down screen time.

Digitally native Gen-Zers are ditching smartphones for pared-down “dumb phones” that only allow calling and texting in an effort to decrease screen time.

Although these phones have grown increasingly obsolete over the years, peaking in the early 2000s before the arrival of the iPhone in 2007, Gen Z is prompting a resurgence of the devices in the US, according to CNBC.

HMD Global, the maker of Nokia phones, said it sold tens of thousand of flip and slide “feature phones” — which include added capabilities like GPS or music storage — in the US in each month of 2022, despite sales of the devices being down globally, per CNBC.

The rising demand for dumb phones is in part driven by emerging movements to disconnect from social media, including organizations like the Luddite Club, a group founded by New York City teenagers in 2022 who swapped their smartphones for flip phones.

“If I have one overarching message for my fellow teenagers, it’s this: Spend time getting to know yourself and exploring the world around you,” high schooler and Luddite Club founding member Lola Shub wrote in an essay for Insider.  “It’s so much more fulfilling — and so much more real — than the one inside your expensive little box.” 

The trend has since expanded to influencers who are documenting their journey of winding down screen time with the use of dumb phones. Meanwhile, companies like Light and Punkt are capitalizing on the movement by selling phones that limit users’ abilities outside of texts and calls.

Light co-founder Joe Hollier told CNBC the mission of the company has resonated with young people in recent years. 

“What we’re trying to do with the Light phone isn’t to create a dumb phone, but to create a more intentional phone — a premium, minimal phone — which isn’t inherently anti-technology,” Hollier told the outlet. “But it’s about consciously choosing how and when to use which aspects of technology that add to my quality of life.”

TikToker Alex Purdy used a Light brand dumb phone for a month and shared an update with followers in January. In the video, Purdy mentioned some issues with receiving texts, but ultimately encouraged commenters to get one of their own. 

“I love how low stimulus it is,” Purdy said in the video. “You can add music and all that, but I’ve been enjoying just … being with my thoughts and seeing what new creative ideas come.”


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