I'm Not Getting Rid Of My Flip Phone, No Matter How Much It Upsets You

I want to see just how long I can continue making people squirm and do double-takes every time my phone makes an appearance in public.
Publish date:
February 11, 2014
phones, smartphones, luddites

OK, I’ll admit it -– I have not joined the rest of the world in its conversion to smartphones. In fact, my cell phone is still a clamshell flip phone. That’s right, it’s not even one of the later models that had a sliding keyboard.

No, my phone is the kind you can satisfyingly snap closed, the closest thing you can get to reliving the days when you could slam a landline phone down. Not that I’m in the habit of doing that often, or even needing to. But I do like having the option.

Don’t get me wrong, I see the benefits of smartphones. I get how useful they are for checking a map while traveling, emailing on the go, or even passing the time with a game like Candy Crush Saga -– all without having to whip out a cumbersome laptop or even a tablet. But for my day-to-day needs, a smartphone is something I can live without -– so I do.

More and more, I try to commit to a purchase only when I really need it (like when my laptop died) or I simply really, really want it (like my Kindle Paperwhite, which I love). So I’m not averse to new technologies, even when they’re a splurge. But a smartphone just doesn’t fall into either category for me, so I’ve decided to forego it and its slightly higher monthly bill.

And I’m OK with that, but what I’m continually surprised by is just how many people are not OK with this decision. A decision which really only affects me (I don’t count not being able to FaceTime friends as adversely affecting them). Yet for some reason, everyone seems to have a vehemently negative reaction to my choice.

Let me illustrate with some examples. Last summer I attended a wedding and at one point I eagerly took out my phone to take photos. Another guest I didn’t know too well looked at me, horrified. “Oh, my God, you still have one of those?” she asked.

Then there was the time I quickly checked a text on my phone while at a friend’s house. Within a matter of seconds of pulling the phone out of my purse, I was bombarded with questions from two other mutual friends. They know the kind of phone I have but simply can’t help commenting on it whenever they see it. “So when are you going to upgrade already?” I was asked.

To be clear, I’m not necessarily offended by these situations; instead, I feel more curious about what makes people feel comfortable commenting on my phone. Especially since this type of phone was still relatively common as late as 2007. Plus, once you reach adulthood, this kind of behavior usually ceases. Gone are the days when you’re pressured to have the same “cool” things your friends have. Right?

I mean, let’s say you’re in public reading a hardcover book. Would anyone say to you, “You know, the printing press isn’t the only game in town anymore! Get with the times and get an e-reader!”

Or suppose you’re currently driving a 2007 Honda Accord. Would random people suggest newer models you “should” upgrade to? Would someone stare at your car with surprise, then laugh and ask, “Wow, ever think that maybe it’s time for a change?”

I think not.

If, by chance, a person did offer such unsolicited advice, I suspect anyone nearby would be embarrassed for you being questioned this way, and for the asker being inconsiderate enough to judge your choice and put you on the spot like that. Yet when a comment is made about my apparently antiquated flip phone, everyone within earshot nods their agreement.

Then they all look at me with a mix of concern for me and disgust for my phone. Doesn’t she know there are better phones now? Maybe we should explain this to her and save her from that horrible machine. You’d think I was suggesting we use carrier pigeons to send a letter to a friend who’d moved away!

At this point, some of you may be wondering why I still use a flip phone. That’s OK; I’m not upset, I promise. Basically, no matter where I am, I’m typically near a computer or laptop where I can look anything up online or respond to emails. And when I don’t have easy access to the Internet, I virtually never need it. Even when I’m traveling; in fact, I prefer finding my way on my own, without relying on technology to take over.

I’m also afraid I’d be one of those people obsessively checking websites, sending emails and playing games –- all because I can. I’m not judging people who do it, because I’m almost positive I would do it, too, if I could. I have proof, having battled some minor technology addictions in the past.

My earliest example includes my love for video games when I was a kid (OK, even until college -- and maybe a few years after that), especially while on vacation -– I would play all night until dawn, then sleep and repeat. Then there were the years I was addicted to AOL instant messenger, which I would compulsively check to chat with online “friends” even while in the presence of my close, real-life friends.

There are more examples, but I’ll keep them to myself to preserve some dignity. Anyway, that’s a major reason why I avoid smartphones; I don’t want to be like that. I want to be fully engaged with what’s going on around me and not have time sucked away from me without me even being able to fully account for it. You know, like I was abducted by aliens –- but with a far less interesting story to tell after.

Some other reasons I prefer my trusty flip phone to a smartphone include:

  • Not being afraid to drop it. I know there are durable cases for smartphones but I resent paying for something extra when my current phone needs no such protective accessory; in fact, I’ve dropped it many times and it’s fine! Besides, I’ve witnessed many rugged smartphone cases still allowing phones to get damaged when dropped, even with just a small fall from a sofa to the floor.
  • Feeling safer using my phone in public. It’s still very common for smartphone users to be attacked for their phones, even in supposedly “safe” areas, at all times of the day. But who would want my phone? Case in point: it was recently reported that a New York City mugger refused a victim’s old-model cell phone! Now if that’s not a great selling point for a flip phone, I don’t know what is! (Cell phone advertisers, take note!)
  • Not worrying that people will wonder, “Why hasn’t she responded to my email yet?” With a smartphone, I feel there’s a heightened expectation of constant accessibility. Or maybe it’s that I know the way I get with these things and how I’d put that expectation on myself. Actually, it’s probably a little bit of both. Either way, I don’t want that.
  • I rarely need to charge my current phone. Partly this is a function of using my phone far less than those with smartphones do, but I still love not having to scope out power outlets wherever I am, as my smartphone friends are constantly doing.
  • I get a twisted sense of pleasure seeing other people’s stunned reactions to my flip phone. It makes me feel like a rebel, albeit in a mundane way. This is quite possibly the most significant reason for keeping my phone, or one like it if my current one eventually dies; I want to see just how long I can continue making people squirm and do double-takes every time my phone makes an appearance in public.

Again, all of these anti-smartphone reasons don’t mean I don’t want to be accessible to the world or keep up with modern trends on some level. And I doubt I could ever go without a cell phone completely. I like knowing that if I’m needed, my loved ones can contact me via a call or text and I can do the same.

This is important not only for emergencies, of course, but for fun catch-up sessions too. And for when I have to tell them I’m running late to meet them for dinner. I also value being able to capture a special moment with a quick photo using my phone. But that’s all I need.

So, to anyone reading this who advises old-model cell phone users to upgrade, I know you likely mean well. However, I kindly suggest you avoid telling people they need to get the latest smartphone and explain why they haven’t. Unless you’re OK with them asking you why you’re still wearing that sweatshirt you got in college –- especially if that was before cell phones even became a thing.