Why the Latest Must-Have Phones Can’t Connect to the Internet

During a recent appearance on The Tonight Show, Louis C.K. announced he’s sworn off that bastion of anger and emojis at all of our fingertips: the Internet.

“I hate this feeling that I’ve got this thing in my hand all the time and it’s a bit of an addiction,” he said. “It’s not good. Everything on it is mean and weird and upsetting.”

He’s not wrong. Smartphone addiction is real — enough that it’s got a clinical name. Nomophobia, the fear of being without a connected device, affects about 65 per cent of Canadians, according to a study. Evidently, many of us have a nearly umbilical attachment to our phones — we sleep beside them, use them on the can, and check them like a nervous tick. Psychologists fear this may be making us all a little mean and weird. Upsetting indeed.

“Technology should be servicing us, not driving our emotional or physical movements.”

Of course, C.K.’s sermon from the couch is nothing new; he’s one of a growing movement of smartphone refuseniks perturbed by technology’s parasitic creep into our lives. As iPhones and Androids keep getting smarter, a boutique market is emerging for phones that are (intentionally) a few cards short of a deck. Call them dumb phones. They’re capable only of rudimentary texting and calling, but are generally way prettier than your old flip. The Jasper Morrison-designed MP 01 (above, $295), by Swiss company Punkt, has an angular, black body and round, mechanical buttons — no touchscreen — that make a pleasing click when pressed. Even more satisfying: no selfies or Siri or insufferable statuses.

“It’s about being in the moment,” says Punkt founder Petter Neby. “We’re never present where we actually are anymore — not with ourselves or the people in our lives. Technology should be servicing us, not driving our emotional or physical movements.”

Neby’s among several Luddite-lite visionaries (which, yes, may be contradictory) seeking to set boundaries between our personal and professional lives. Somewhat counter-intuitively, he’s realized breaking the spell in our gizmo-dependent era requires more technology. Punkt’s roster boasts intentionally nonintrusive devices — from a landline phone to an alarm clock — all exhibiting a function-first, 20th-century minimalist aesthetic. Ironically, the iPhone boasts a similarly industrial design, but leads to a bottomless abyss of memes and despair.

While you’re totally free to try ditching the information highway cold turkey, à la Louis, even Neby admits that might be a tad radical. He believes a healthy mix of dumb and smart tech is the way to reclaim our ever-disconnected lives. Perhaps he’s onto something: lately, the likes of Samsung and Nokia have been quietly rolling out their own minimalist phones. Apparently, not even tech giants want to live in a world full of sociopathic assholes.


Simply Beautiful

Three other dumb phones that will stop you from going and making things so complicated.

Light Phone

Meant to be a secondary device, this credit card-sized cell connects to your smartphone. It makes calls, tells time, and does nothing more.

$100, thelightphone.com

Nokia 515

Boasts a sandblasted aluminum body, no Internet connectivity, and a 33-day battery life. Go ahead. Forget to charge it.

$230, nokia.com 

Samsung E1270 


The quintessential flip hone. It’ll probably fall out of your pocket at some point. Not that you’ll care.

$25, samsung.com