The walking, talking ‘dead’: Why I (still) use a <$60 smart-enough phone

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It fits in a pocket, lasts all day and night, has a built-in FM radio and
it’s easy to switch low-cost batteries, SIMS and SD cards.

I’ve dropped it a ridiculous number of times indoors and out (without shame, I use a pleather flip cover case), and I have crawled under houses with one to inspect and fix plumbing too many times.

I listen to the latest financial independence podcasts with a ‘classic‘ player, read news and commentary from around the world, send messages via different platforms, watch Netflix and manage an Outlook calendar and several email addresses with it.

I use HERE online and offline for turn-by-turn directions and navigation around the world, and I use it often as a wifi hotspot.

All I can say is, not bad at all for a “dead'” smart-enough phone that retailed for less than $60 new in 2015!

phone
I still love Windows phones — in this case, a Lumia 435

Yes, I am one of the <1% of smart phone users operating a Windows phone in the wild. I’ve been this way since these phones were proudly branded Nokia, and I have my elderly parents hooked on Lumia Windows phones, too. I still think Windows phones are good for seniors or anyone who can’t stand Android or iPhone costs, security and privacy issues and design decisions that include planned obsolescence.  It might not be your only phone (considering their incompatibility with some ‘essential’ modern apps), but, from my experience, Windows phones can make a solid primary call-making, email-checking, light web-surfing, etc. device even in 2019.

To be sure, kids HATE Windows phones — mainly, as these phones have never featured the latest apps — and they currently seem to lose some features nearly daily. Yet, if you take time to use one even now, you start to realize how fantastic some of the remaining Windows phone features still are: Probably the best keyboard in the game, a “dark theme” since 2013, great sound, solid build quality, native integration with Microsoft Office etc. With sales of discontinued and sometimes refurbished units on Amazon and eBay, you can still join the Lumia family for (often well-)under $100.

For frugal folks and FI junkies to consider: I’ve kept three family members on smart-enough phones for <$1000 total (including cases and spare batteries) since 2013, and through a few years of hardcore home renovation work — thank you Microsoft and Nokia. My Dad is still on his original phone. I’m by far the power user / abuser / loser of phones in our clutch, and I’ve been on the same <$60 Windows phone for over a year, knock on wood.

I’ve never had to carry a phone with a cracked screen at this price point, and many of my non-lost or -destroyed older Windows phones have been passed on to charities, still working as at least basic phones or smart devices. As they are so discount but also dependable and durable, I keep one with charged spare batteries in an emergency / survival kit.

Techies for years have been declaring the Windows phone “dead,” but I note the prices of discontinued Lumia gradually pushing up as people cotton on to digital minimalism — the idea of having and using “just enough” technology.  Without going full Nokia flip phone, discount Windows phones offer users plenty of portable tech at a miserly price but with built-in social media and phone-dependency limits.

Yes, some things do frustrate me about Windows phones. No two model seems to work quite alike or to have the same features. Plus, my beloved phone is deconstructing in front of me as various apps and features just disappear, as both Microsoft and Nokia distance themselves from these awesome-for-the-price devices.

Owning a Windows Phone in 2019 is an exercise in making-do and resisting planned obsolescence. I’ve complained loudly about HERE crashing their beautiful public transit route planning tool recently, which was designed for Windows phones — but at least a version of Moovit transit route planner still works.  Lyft never bothered to make a Windows phone app, but why did Uber have to drop their working one (solution:  keep a list of local taxi companies on speed dial)? Cortana voice assistance seems to have gone mute this month (RIP the best Dad jokes!). Facebook and Twitter disappeared from Windows phone in roughly 2018(?), although there are still some work-arounds … including via a 3rd-party app called “Socialbook” (no kidding). Plus, there is a stable of free apps in the Windows store that other platforms will never have.

Even with the Windows phone declared deceased as early as 2016, more recent reports suggest that Windows 8.1 devices will carry-on until at least late 2023 … and phones running Windows 10 could potentially go on much longer. As these are Nokias inside, I’m betting aspects of my 2015-designed phone will work in 2040 :).

As a digital minimalist or at least a cheapskate, I am content to use a smart-enough phone that has no camera flash, doesn’t understand Instagram or Snapchat (let alone TikTok) and drops the appendages that it does have like a rotting zombie. It doesn’t do everything or even the things that it used to do, but it sure does more than what one would expect of a three-years ‘dead’ ultra-discount device!

 

 

 

 

 

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