Burner phones have a bad rep as the drug dealer's telecommunication device of choice, but that hasn't stopped people from binning their fancy iPhones or Google Pixels for much more basic gadgets. As VICE staffer Daisy Jones notes in her feature on the remarkable return of brick phones, it shouldn't come as a surprise that young people are embracing the trend – we've been raised on stories of data hacks, creeping surveillance and mass privacy leaks. There's a reason those memes about FBI agents watching us through our webcam took off years ago.
Brands and corporations have tried to channel the demand for old phones, with Nokia re-issuing its classic 3310 model in 2017 (complete with the old Snake game) and Supreme's 2019 collection of branded brick phones. There are even companies offering new, minimalist takes on brick phones – like the Light Phone, which resembles a sleek touchscreen card reader, and the Swiss-made PUNKT MP01.
But let's be real: you can't fuck with a classic. Samsung S800s, Nokia 216s and the original Nokia 3310s are still available, whether that's in a dusty corner of your local Carphone Warehouse or your parents' bedside drawer. We spoke to five people about why they chose to lose their smartphone for a more analogue choice.
"I've been using my old phone Samsung S8000 for two years now – it hasn’t slowed down and doesn’t need updates, it just keeps going. I've always loved technology – I think it’s just amazing how far we have come in the last 20 years with tech. I enjoyed using my iPhone for a very long time. But social media and the amount I was on the phone started to affect my mental health.
"My other half suggested I went back to an old phone, just for texting and ringing! If you take away all the bullshit, that is what every phone fundamentally does. You just didn't have 15 different ways to say 'hi' or stalk someone. The biggest thing is you end up looking up more, so you see more of the world."
"It's a Nokia 216. I found it in the drawer at my parents' house and started using it when I lost my iPhone. I ended up using it for longer as it was nicer to just deal with phone calls and texts, rather than 100 apps and notifications that don't let you live. I'd recommend anyone to give it a go for a couple months."
"This is some sort of bullshit Sharp Pebble 360 I must have got from Vodaphone yonks ago. The pros of an old phone: they don’t listen in and send my data to the CIA. They don’t try to sell me junk I don’t want. The lack of connection to social media relieves – at least somewhat – the crushing pressure to adhere to a society that I reject... [Plus] it makes me feel like I’m in the 90s. The cons of an old phone: texting is hard. And I can’t look at anime tiddies on the bus anymore."
"I've had it for a little while and it's just easy to use. I've got a normal phone but every time I'm out and about, I like to have the old phone with me so I'm not wasting time online, looking at Insta or wasting my money on anything. I have my new phone and for obvious reasons it's easier. But I have my old phone because it's nicer to put it down and chat. There's nothing wrong with it, to be fair – a phone's a phone, innit?"
"It's just simpler, really. Less distractions. You can be in the moment more. You're not suddenly thinking, 'I need to check this' or whatever. You can get on with something else."