Culture

Is It Possible To Use A Dumbphone In 2018?

The classic "banana phone" from The Matrix is back, but is it any good?

Nokia bananaphone 8810 review

When the new Nokia 8110 landed on my desk, it was in a reflective gold bubble wrap envelope the size of my laptop. Immediately, I was entranced.

The 8110 isn’t a new phone, per se — it’s 2018’s version of a classic phone you might remember from The Matrixwhere it is notable for being dropped out a window. You may also remember it as the “banana phone” because it had a subtle curve that evoked the famously curved fruit (the 2018 version comes in bright yellow, which really enhances the banana comparison). It’s a lot like a flip phone, except that it slides open instead with a satisfying click.

The 2018 bananaphone is much like its predecessor, except sleeker, more aerodynamic, and with a larger screen. One of its most touted features is its suitability for placing on a table and spinning incessantly. I can report that it does indeed spin well — this phone is, to be frank, a fidgeter’s dream. I made sure to use it to call an irate government spokesperson just so I could have the tactile satisfaction of sliding the phone shut to hang up the call. Fumbling for the end call button on an iPhone screen just isn’t the same.

Nokia 8110 spinning on a table

It really is a fun phone to spin.

That’s not all it can do, either — the Nokia 8110 is more than just a glorified fidget spinner. The phone functions broadly as a phone should: it both sends and receives calls and texts, allows you to set timers and alarms, can play music (if you still know how to transfer mp3 files to a phone, that is) and comes loaded with Snake, just like in the good old days. It has a web browser, a decent (but not great) camera, and also a handful of things you wouldn’t expect from a dumbphone, like a pretty serviceable version of Google Maps, and the ability to use it as a wireless hotspot.

In fact, scrolling through the phone’s options, things start to seem limitless. “My god,” you think as you spin it on the desk once again, “this phone really can do everything”.

And then suddenly you need to actually get something done, and you immediately go rooting through your backpack for your smartphone before you realise what you’ve done. How you’ve betrayed the poor sweet banana still spinning sadly on the desk.

Is It Even Possible To Use A Dumbphone Like The Nokia 8110 In 2018?

On my second day with the bananaphone, I was determined not to betray it again. As I left the house in the morning, I turned my iPhone off and stuffed it in my bag. Where I would normally walk to the train listening to Spotify, I listened to nothing, because I didn’t have the foresight to find and load any mp3s. I did have the foresight to pack a magazine — an actual, honest-to-god print publication — to read on the train, and it turns out that reading on a quiet train without distraction is actually really, really nice.

Once I got to work, though, I had to compromise and trade the bananaphone for my iPhone again. Regrettably, my job requires things like Twitter (which is accessible on the bananaphone, though a little hard to navigate), and my health has begun to require an increasingly complex system of apps reminding me to take my meds and log symptoms. In a perfect world where I was afflicted with neither of these issues, though, I could conceivably use the bananaphone all day.

More than that, I think I’d kind of like it. The hours I spent outside of work with only the bananaphone for connectivity were incredibly peaceful. The years have not been kind to my ability to type quickly on a keypad, and as a result things like googling random queries, checking my email or trying to browse social media were just difficult enough to override all but the most urgent impulses to do these things. The bananaphone is at its best in denying instant gratification — everything’s just too hard, so you find yourself snapping the phone shut and doing something else instead.

And for the hypothetical human who genuinely doesn’t require or desire social media, that makes the bananaphone a near-perfect phone. As a case study, consider the Nokia 8110’s ideal user: my brother. He’s in his late teens, has only ever carried a phone begrudgingly, and uses it only to respond to the occasional text (usually hours after the person sending said text required a reply). He routinely forgets to charge his hand-me-down iPhone, which has pretty rubbish battery life to begin with.

He’s also too young to have ever owned a dumbphone before, which made the bananaphone an absolute revelation. The discovery of a phone with a battery that lasts for days, that contains only the five or so features he actually uses, and that looks, well, like a banana, had him really excited. The fact that it costs just $129 really sold him: he reports that he’ll most likely be buying this phone.

For the rest of us, though, the Nokia 8110 may not quite cut it. At the end of the day, it’s much like the bubble wrap envelope mine came in: fun, eye-catching, and a novelty destined to sit on my desk untouched until the end of time.