Banana phone

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19 January 2020

I swapped to a new phone late last year. I’ve removed my sim card from the Oppo phone that I was using and inserted it now into a Nokia. My new phone doesn’t have a touch-screen but a numeric keypad. It’s slightly curved. And it’s bright banana yellow.

The Nokia 8110 received mixed to poor reviews on its release a couple years ago. Advertised as a dumb-phone with smart phone bits like Google Assistant and WhatsApp, people seem to have on the whole found it slow and frustrating to use. Typing messages on the numeric keypad takes an arduously long time. The internet browser is finicky and slow. The app store is empty. YouTube is slow. Snake is slow. The assistant is OK. Maps are slow.

These charges are all true. As a smart-dumb-phone it’s a failure. For someone trying to correct their digital habits it’s perfect. On my Oppo it is too easy to waste time checking messenger programs, browsing, or watching YouTube. In banana mode on the other hand, I have little choice but to use the phone less. In the first week after I switched, I’d pick the phone up out of habit, and then have to put it back down when I realised there was nothing I could do on it. Yes, the smart things are there, but they’re too broken to elicit the instant dopamine hit. The phone is slow enough to disrupt my impulsive patterns.

Full disclosure: I didn’t really use specific apps like Uber, and I didn’t depend on WhatsApp and Messenger, so I’ve probably had an easier time than most in disconnecting. Switching to banana mode in 2020 means giving up some conveniences, or at least finding workarounds. The banana at least can cast a WiFi hotspot, so you could always keep your smartphone around for times where you need an Uber or the GPS.

Bad news: the banana comes preinstalled with bloat games and a Twitter app. There is no option to just uninstall them. Good news: the banana can be easily hacked to remove these apps, and there is a whole website dedicated to just this. It’s called Banana Hackers, and I highly recommend it.

About a month in the novelty of using the phone has worn off, but thankfully none of the frustrations of using it have been unbearable. I miss being able to use emoji, but I don’t miss habitually spending time on the internet. It’s hard to say if I’m actually using my time more productively, but then there’s only so much you can blame modern technology for.

Bonus: if you buy the bright yellow version of the phone, you’ll be too embarrassed to use it in public, ensuring that you will keep your screen time to a minimum. Your mileage may vary, depending on how self-conscious you are.