/ Technology

Do you use your smartphone as a ‘phone’ anymore?

Travel anywhere and you’ll see at least a few people in the now-traditional pose – head down, hands together, tapping away… It’s a look that has become synonymous with the modern-day smartphone.

In fact, I associate smartphones with these browsing and texting mannerisms more than any other of their functions, which raises the question – is anyone regularly using their device to actually ‘phone’ anyone?

According to research by Ipsos Mori, only three quarters of smartphone owners say they make at least one call a week. This compares with almost all (96%) of them just three years ago.

Texting and scrolling

I’ve just had a quick scroll through my call history and found regular gaps of two to three days, sometimes more. Yet in that time I’ve used my phone frequently throughout the day – easily running the battery down – doing things other than calling.

What does that tell me? That I need to get out more, probably. But it does also suggest that we’re changing how we choose to interact with one another. After all, it’s not like anyone is forcing us to use texting apps like WhatsApp instead of speaking to each other – it’s entirely our own preference to have shifted things in that direction.

But it’s not just that we’re texting rather than talking – it’s that we never seem to be looking away from our phones. There’s always something popping up on-screen to distract you; whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or that game you’re addicted to. For many, persistently reaching for their phone has become something of a reflex reaction. Apparently British adults collectively check their phones 1.1bn times every 24 hours. Who knows how close to reality that statistic actually is, but we’re no doubt glancing at our phones more than ever before.

Are we overindulging? It seems it’s in our nature to search for distractions – there have been similar concerns in the past with televisions and video game consoles. I used to spend a lot of time browsing the website on a desktop PC, then later a laptop and now a smartphone – so isn’t this just a natural technological progression towards more convenient devices?

Giving your life back

Swiss consumer electronics company Punkt certainly feels something needs to be done – it launched a new phone in September that aims to ‘give you your life back’. It makes calls, it sends texts… and that’s about it. It removes temptation by simply eliminating it entirely. Why the phone costs as much as £229 is anyone’s guess, but the idea of taking a backwards step technologically to free yourself from the consuming nature of the internet is an intriguing one.

Would you be able to go back to a phone that acts purely as a phone after all this time? A good old Nokia 3310, for example – that definitely got the traditional job done, and it was pretty damn indestructible to boot!

I suspect it may be too late to kick the habit for many – perhaps smartphones have already taken over. Or maybe you’re not like me at all and you only use your mobile phone to make calls. If so, I want to hear from you (just don’t call me about it as I probably won’t answer).

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Those of us who spend a couple of hours on the train most days would be eternally grateful if fewer people used their smartphones as a phone. There’s little sign of any diminution in this modern-day annoyance, nor that of using them to listen to music so loud that it escapes their headphones. And don’t get me started on those who hammer their laptop keyboard as hard as if it were a manual typewriter.


There’s a psychological phenomenon which causes ‘phones users to talk far more loudly when on the ‘phone. It doesn’t just apply to mobiles, either.


You should hear my Dad when he video calls Australia – pretty sure the rest of the street can!


Technology used judiciously is a godsend as far as I am concerned. I don’t think that a backward step to spare the waistlines/brains of couch potatoes/other addicts is a solution, especially at £229 a pop! (Is it gold-plated?) They’ll just go cold turkey and launch into something else. Nature always finds a way.

Education will only go some way towards reducing the overuse of technology, especially perhaps the telly, and apart from that I’m not sure that there is a non-dictatorial solution to all this.


My Nokia – a 6230i – still works well after 9 years handling calls and messages, and that’s it. I was happy when it linked to my new car via Bluetooth. I’ve never found the need to do anything more with a phone.
However since phones have transformed into computers I appreciate how other people make use of the features – satnav, reading bar codes and checking prices, internet, on-line banking and many things of which I have no knowledge. What you don’t have, you don’t miss. But once you’ve tasted it you no doubt wonder how you managed without it as it helps organise your life.


Like Malcolm, I have fallen out of step with the march of technology and have a simple phone that I use for occasional calls and texts, but since hardly anyone else knows its number I get very few and send even fewer. The index is mainly loaded with taxi company numbers for when we have to upset Nick Davies on the train home. My phone can connect to the internet and take pictures but I have never done either with it. Since it is PAYG and was given to me a few years ago it has been good value, so I feel gratified that Punkt realise that people need to get their lives back but horrified that they will charge £229 [before tariff] for it.

Some time ago there was a Which? Conversation on the apps that people use and which they would recommend. It seemed that out of the millions available only a tiny handful were being used regularly and there were very few recommendations.

I was with someone recently who was tapping away furiously on his smartphone with both thumbs and I was quite impressed. There was something childlike about his intense concentration and his sense of satisfaction with what he had created. Why should he forego those pleasures? He has a life and his phone is an integral and enjoyable part of it, indeed it is almost a physical extension of his body connected invisibly to his own nervous system. The fact that he knew when the next bus was coming a moment after I had seen it down the road was incontrovertible proof of the phone’s purpose, reliability and value.


You’re a cynic, you know…

But possessed of an excellent dry wit…



You won’t upset me phoning for a taxi, John, or even ordering a chicken tikka masala. But spending forty minutes solid holding a computer helpdesk session; or having what should be a highly confidential HR discussion; or having a deep meaningless conversation with someone clearly not you partner is something else.


Yes, I only use my phone for making phone calls and sending texts. I don’t have a smart phone but then I am of an older generation that does not feel the need to wear out our finger and thumb joint with constant twittering etc. and taking meaningless photographs of things that are of no interest to any one other than the person with the phone. I