Cell phones have made life easier, but they also introduce unexpected challenges. Look around and you’ll see parents on their phones while their kids are telling them stories, or families at restaurants staring at screens while waiting for dinner. Notice the ridiculous prices ($1,200!) and bills full of hidden costs or the difficulty some individuals have with tiny buttons, increasingly complicated technology or constant incoming information. I sometimes daydream that the world will go back to the days of pay phones and landlines. And whereas I don’t think my dream will come true, I am here to tell you that there is a current trend to take a step back — from the constant usage, costs and complexity — and to take a step forward while doing so. Flip phones are making a comeback!
If you are interested in lowering your cell phone bill, want to be more present more often or want to simplify your phone habits, it may be time to trade in that smartphone for something simpler and more affordable. Here are some options.
Plan: Monthly data plans start at $19.99
If you are willing to part ways with mainstream providers like Verizon and AT&T, the Jitterbug Flip 2 is a great option. In 2005, Lively (formerly known as GreatCall) partnered with Best Buy Health to create products to help older adults live more independently. Their intention was to use technology to create more meaningful connections. Designed with boomers in mind, this phone is perfect for anyone who wants more straightforward phone use. It has a large screen with big buttons, a powerful speaker, a camera, a magnifier and a flashlight. It also has a few bells and whistles: Dial 0 at any time and you will be connected to one of Lively’s customer service reps (100 percent of whom are located in the U.S.). The Lively team can help you schedule a Lyft ride, the cost of which is added to your monthly bill. It also has an emergency alert button, fall detection, access to an on-call nurse (no insurance or copays required) and the option to alert friends or family in an emergency. For those who want a little "smartness" in their phone, it does enable downloading of some apps or access the internet.
Plan: Prepaid data plans start at $15 per month or $99 per year
If you want a not-so-smart but not necessarily dumb phone, Nokia’s modern take on the flip phone is a great option. You can text, call and take pictures. There is access to a few essential apps, and it allows you to browse the internet with 4G. It has Bluetooth, hearing aid compatibility and a decent battery life (18 days of standby and seven hours of talking). The phone also has an SOS button, allowing you to contact the person of your choice in an emergency. Since it’s a TracFone, there are no monthly data plans with hidden charges. Instead, you can opt for a prepaid plan of varying lengths (30, 60 or 90 days) or prepay for an entire year. The downside is that you won’t be getting unlimited data, but any unused data is rolled over from month to month.