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

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*** 2020 UPDATE:  Yuck. Windows 8.1 phones have lost much of their awesomeness with Microsoft moving to end Store access in late 2019, where apps could be added. I’m lucky to have the apps that I do installed, but it will be a rockier road for anyone buying one of these phones now, and a very sad day if mine ever does die. I imagine new purchasers will be stuck with the factory installed apps, which are okay but miss some of the great (and still functioning) gems of this weird little phone. Yet, for $60 or so, you could sure get a worse music player, camera, email, navigation, call, text, FM radio, light web browsing device.***

It fits in a pocket, lasts all day and night, has a built-in FM radio and it’s easy enough 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).

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.

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

All I can say is, not bad at all for a “dead” smart-enough phone that retailed for <$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 (Lumia) phone in the wild. I’ve been this way since these phones were branded Nokia, and I have my elderly parents hooked on them, too. I still think Windows phones are good for seniors or anyone who can’t stand Android or iPhone costs — or security and privacy issues and design decisions that include planned obsolescence. It might not be your only phone considering their incompatibility with many apps and websites, but Windows phones can still make a solid primary call-making, email-checking, light web-surfing, device.

To be sure, kids HATE Windows phones. These phones have never featured the latest apps, and they now seem to lose some features daily. However, some of the remaining Windows phone features are still fantastic — probably the best keyboard in the game, a “dark theme” stock, great sound, solid build quality, native integration with Microsoft Office, etc. With sales of refurbished units on Amazon and eBay, it is still possible to join the Lumia family for well under $100.

For frugal folks and FI junkies to consider: since 2013, I’ve kept three family members equipped with smart-enough Windows Phones for <$1000 total in hardware, including cases, spare batteries and an external universal battery charger) — thank you Microsoft and Nokia. From that <$1k budget, I’ve had many phones and currently have three handsets; one is used as an offline mp3 player with swappable batteries. 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 at least two years, knock on wood.

many of my non-lost / non-destroyed older Windows phones have been donated to charities as basic phones and smart devices. Additionally, I keep one with spare batteries in an emergency / survival kit as these phones are so discount and durable.

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

Yes, some things do frustrate me about Windows phones. No two model seems to work quite alike or have the same features. Also, the charging port has been a weak spot, in my experience (hence, the external universal battery charger).

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. Personally, I’m hoping that aspects of my 2015 phone will work in 2040.

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

  1. win2008workstation April 22, 2020 — 5:55 am

    Elite X3 owner here. I still use mine as a daily driver for the wonderful keyboard, great email experience, and general ease of use. What primarily draws me to the platform still, even today, is the superior typing and email experience. Its funny how TRASH Outlook is on Android. And while I don’t “hate” gboard, its doesn’t hold a lick to Word Flow keyboard. The reason why Outlook app is so good on Windows Phone is that Microsoft spent time designing and bug correcting the app. I also haven’t found a phone/ UI set up on Android where I can check the news, weather, traffic and email faster than on my Windows Phone. The app utility is there on Android, but the UI is a mess at times. Widgets occupy 50% of the screen real estate and you can’t put more than 2 widgets on the screen. I have tried Launcher 10 (The Windows Phone UI clone) but the problem is that widgets don’t scale very well to a wide tile sized tile, so you lose the uniformity and it STILL takes up 50% of your screen.

    There are a few challenges to using Windows Phones today as you mentioned, the number one being interoperability. Pretty soon websites won’t load as web standards change, or APIs expire due to security concerns and older legacy apps shutdown and no longer work. We saw that a year or so ago with Facebook/Messenger on Windows Phone and we’ll see it again for certain. Sometimes even the web alternatives are cut off. As of right now you can’t even load m.facebook.com on IE in Windows Phone 8.1. You can still do so on Windows 10 Mobile, but not IE on WP8.1. You can use mbasic.facebook.com however but the point here is the same – compatibility will seize eventually. I agree with you that for the absolute basics (email, music, basic searching on web) its a perfectly capable phone for a long time.

    Like

    1. Excellent — and sorry to leave you hanging all this time! I’m currently still carrying a very beat-up Lumia 532 — can’t beat the dimensions or call quality for me. The screen is cracked, but I plan to use this one until it’s totally done as I’m still using some 3rd party apps that as far as I can tell no longer be loaded. Thank for sharing your experience, too!

      Like

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