Feature / "Dumb" Phone Recommendations / Thoughts?


ClockworkCoder

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I'm starting to vaguely consider getting a feature / dumb phone (not sure I like the new terminology - basically a mobile phone.

What I'd like is something that may supplement a Pyra or other laptop that I might otherwise have around, or even to my current de-googled phone - idea being that I carry the phone with me when I'm out and about, but only occasionally bring a supplementary device when I might need to make use of the internet, or have time to do study or games, etc.

Features I feel might be useful for such a mobile phone might be:
  • Be privacy respecting
  • No contract or in-built advertising
  • Preferred if it runs on completely open software / hardware (or as much as possible):
    • This is also more important as long-term support is especially unlikely from a start-up using a proprietary software stack
  • Work well for calls and texting, with good clarity and signal (duh)
  • Be easy to use for texting
  • Be rugged
  • Have a good battery life
  • [preferred] Email
  • [optional] Allow tethering of an internet connection
  • [optional] Have a camera / note-taking option

There are a couple of phones I've looked at that appear to almost fit the bill (albeit both are on the expensive side):
  • https://sunbeamwireless.com/
    • Looks good, and the apparent ties with Microsoft (which would be a definite con) appear to be optional (for speech to text, and do not tie you with an account) - this still makes me wary of it
    • Not sure if it has coverage across UK / Europe
  • https://www.punkt.ch/en/products/mp02-4g-mobile-phone/
    • Also looks good, although there appear to be bugs related to the integrated support for Signal
  • PinePhone:
    • I was hoping that this would have been the perfect choice, but poor battery, clunky size (it's basically a smart-phone wannabe), and poor performance for simple calls make it a poor choice unfortunately.

I'm curious if anyone here has done any research in to these or other devices, and have any thoughts on these or other options?
 

pyrat

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No idea. I think there's nothing worth having. But just to add to the list, Have you considered Mudita? I don't know it and it looks overmarketed and underdelivered, but I guess the original idea is nice. A bit expensive ? I'd have to research more before recommending it, so do your own research.
 

ClockworkCoder

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No idea. I think there's nothing worth having. But just to add to the list, Have you considered Mudita? I don't know it and it looks overmarketed and underdelivered, but I guess the original idea is nice. A bit expensive ? I'd have to research more before recommending it, so do your own research.
Thanks, that also looks interesting. Particularly the e-ink screen.
 

pyrat

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The MuditaOS should be in github. They say GPL3 for their inhouse written parts and the original license for the projects they've taken. It's based on FreeRTOS. But it has 2 blobs, one for E-Ink and one for bluetooth. The CPU is apparently Cortex M7 with 64 MB SDRAM ? It doesn't get much dumber for a dumbphone...
 

levi

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For not dismissing the mainstream, I'm reasonably happy with my Nokia 8xxx 4G (I forget the exact number; it's the banana phone, but mine is black). it runs KiaOS which is technically a closed source fork of firefox OS I think. Compared to your old dumb 2G phones it's a reasonable facsimile:

Pro:
Calls seem decent quality
Texts use standard T-9 input
Much better screen than you used to get, but small by modern standards.
Easy to connect to; I just plug it into my linux computers and gio mount it and then just copy podcasts and music to it.

Cons:
If you have wired headphones inserted even ones that include a microphone it cuts the mike. You have to pull them out if anyone calls you. Bluetooth headphones seem to be handled more correctly though.
It has a dictionary powered speedup for texting, but it doesn't let you add things to the dictionary or type in anything not in the default dictionary, so I am forced to leave that off and hit 5 four times to get an 's'.
It comes with google assistant and facebook and maybe whatsapp. You can't uninstall or hide those entries but I've sorted them to the end of my apps screen. But as far as I know a tweak of the main button on the home screen will still fire up google assistant.
Not as robust as old nokia phones, I think my headphone port had a bad contact with the PCB.
 
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ClockworkCoder

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Thanks Levi. I think there's potential in the likes of Punkt or Mudita (there's also Light Phone which I forgot to mention, although I'm less keen on a touch screen), but they all appear to have rather mixed reviews (mostly either bugs or reception issues), so a "mainstream" option may not be off the cards entirely

I do feel that I would like to support one of the "underdogs" in those kinds of projects, but it seems that it may be better to wait until they have matured a little...
Post automatically merged:

The MuditaOS should be in github. They say GPL3 for their inhouse written parts and the original license for the projects they've taken. It's based on FreeRTOS. But it has 2 blobs, one for E-Ink and one for bluetooth. The CPU is apparently Cortex M7 with 64 MB SDRAM ? It doesn't get much dumber for a dumbphone...
I'll keep an eye on it, as I really like the design of this one but it does appear that the software isn't quite ready ("undercooked review" - ).
 

levi

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That video reminded me of one good thing my banana phone has, the way I use it (mostly for playing back podcasts with the screen off) it lasts for 7 days on average between recharges.

But it makes me wonder what he means by 'text message'. That always means to me the same thing as SMS messages. Perhaps he's including tweets and other things like that, because I've certainly never received a picture by SMS. I have seem emoji being sent on them but half the time putting too many of those in forces the message to actually be sent over the MMS service as a picture message.
 

pyrat

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But it makes me wonder what he means by 'text message'. That always means to me the same thing as SMS messages. Perhaps he's including tweets and other things like that, because I've certainly never received a picture by SMS. I have seem emoji being sent on them but half the time putting too many of those in forces the message to actually be sent over the MMS service as a picture message.
I assumed he meant MMS when he said pictures in messages. I think the Mudita doesn't have internet access itself, so no twitter,, WhatsApp, Signal or anything. What it has it should work, and from what he says it doesn't though. In part he might not get the idea 100% because he said something like " you can have a phone without messaging or video but you can't stop people sending you messages and videos". Well, not receiving them is the best way you have to stop them. At some point he seems to want to have his cake and eat it too. The problem with the antenna is the most worrying. I don't know if the goal can be achieved. If they have good enough engineers they can lower the emissions and keep it in the spec range, but the thing is that I fear mobile networks must be build for the mobile phones that are there, no for the strict specs, so nobody cares if they work with a partly shielded antenna in a phone. The Mudita can easily work in a Lab or a limited outdoor test, but then there may be many cells that either are out of spec or simply were never tested with a low emissions phone... or are perfectly fine on paper but are used by more phones that they should and they get away by being less scrupulous about frying ears...
 

ClockworkCoder

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To support picture messages on an e-ink screen seems a little bit excessive to me anyway. But yes, reception is a (perhaps the biggest) concern. I'd also like to see predictive text working.

One last thing that's a concern to me is the lack of international input support (specifically Japanese), and the fact that they "quarantined" issues related to Chinese and Japanese input puts me off.
 

docbroke

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I agree with levi in suggesting kai os phone. I use Nokia 800 tough as my main device. Main advantage compared to feature phones available here is, wifi hotspot and 4G. Browser/email/whatsapp etc. smart features are unusable due to small screen, which makes this phone "dumb enough". Build quality is "tough" as suggested in the name.
 

ClockworkCoder

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It comes with google assistant and facebook and maybe whatsapp. You can't uninstall or hide those entries but I've sorted them to the end of my apps screen. But as far as I know a tweak of the main button on the home screen will still fire up google assistant.

I agree with levi in suggesting kai os phone. I use Nokia 800 tough as my main device. Main advantage compared to feature phones available here is, wifi hotspot and 4G. Browser/email/whatsapp etc. smart features are unusable due to small screen, which makes this phone "dumb enough"

"Dumb enough" doesn't cut it for me I'm afraid, and why would they have it forced on you if it's unusable anyway? The fact that they're pre-installed and non-removable is not acceptable (at least to my OCD, but also ethically) - one of my primary aims would be to remove social media from my devices, not just ignore it, and I'm pretty sure that would be the same argument that many people use who want to have a "dumb" phone (to avoid distractions and unnecessary clutter)
 

pyrat

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This with the mudita antenna. I wonder if they could have added an external antenna connector and an optional accessory which was just a telescopic mast with antenna at the tip, and the antenna cable some way retractable, so that the antenna is unshielded but far enough from user, and the cable is shielded enough. May not be great looking, but it would get you reception without much exposure to radiation (not that I completely believe all this radiation fear, but hey, I have no idea, and it's certainly a distinguishing feature).

I have no idea about telecoms, but it seems a rustic solution for them... or would the antenna mosve too much at the end of a largish pole ? (peopel use mobile telephony one the move, they should bear it?).
 
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