Time to Give the Telephone Back to the Cellphone?

By | October 22, 2007

Was interviewing a guy intimately involved in the mobile phone industry the other day, and we were comparing the various features of our sophisticated smartphones, when he suddenly leaned over and said, “Off the record, but this is my favorite phone.” And he showed me this:

Nokia 1100, photo Mobile Phones UK

The Nokia 1100, according to Wikipedia, is the world’s best selling handset, having shifted 200 million units. It seems to cost about $20, often less, and has a battery life of about 400 hours. And, crucially for my friend, sports two important features: It makes and receives calls and SMS. Beyond that, in the words of Bryan Ferry, there’s nothing. (Well, actually there’s WAP, but who uses that?)

The point about the Nokia 1100 is that it’s a phone. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else (except a flashlight, if you press and hold the “c” key down (presumably “c” stands for torCh or flasChlight or “come into the light where I can see you, Mildred”.) It’s designed for conditions in developing countries — dustproof keyboard, non-slip sides — but for many of us that could describe an ordinary day in the office (dusty, slippery, in need of illumination).

“For email,” he said, “I use this,” waving a Nokia BlackBerry clone. “For phoning and SMS, I use my 1100.”

Clearly my interviewee friend is not alone. A glance at Mobile Phones UK’s page on the model, the phone has a sizeable fanclub, with comments from Romania, Pakistan, Iran, the Philippines, Argentina, UK, Zaire and Tanzania. (Typical comment: “I needed a simple, sharp looking, long life phone. I got it. I love it!”) Of course, there are some who aren’t happy, but with 200 million units out there, that’s not surprising.

I guess my worry is, and has been for a while: As phones get more sophisticated, when do they stop being phones? And if it takes you longer to make or receive a call (or an SMS) than it used to, at what point do we need to split the phone/SMS functionality from our smartphone and give it back to the likes of the 1100?

11 thoughts on “Time to Give the Telephone Back to the Cellphone?

  1. Alessandro

    Actually I tend to agree with the guy you interviewed. If your only need is to make phone calls and send/receive SMSs that’s a great device.

    The question that you probably should have asked was: “What other devices are you bringing with you when you hit the road”.

    Do you carry any kind of mp3 player, personal computer, personal digital assistant and so on.

    I think that is a crucial point. I would be perfectly happy to have a very simple device if I had not to bring with me other devices that makes my mobile more funny/easier.

    Actually I am using a Nokia E61i and I sue to read my work e-mail, personal e-mail, listen to my music and browser the web when I need/want to.

    As always, there is a perfect device for every need. If your basic need is to stay in touch with voice calls and SMSs then the Nokia 1100 is the perfect device. If you need more stuff it may not be enough.

    The final point is that we should also understand what is crucial and what is not. But, I think, this is a different story.

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  4. Michel S.

    My ideal phone has Bluetooth headset, modem and SyncML support, and that’s it. So a bit higher than the 1100 series, but something like the 6102i (I believe the unbundled version is in the 3-series).

  5. Masindi

    Yes, I have the same Nokia 1100 at home. It’s my backup phone and my overseas phone. I use it when I visit Jakarta. If I lost it, it’s not much. Damn reliable.

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  8. mchiu

    I miss my Nokia 8890. But I agree with Michel S. that the ideal phone (at least nowadays) needs to have BT, some kind of sync mechanism, and a modem. In addition, I want a mini-USB port in the phone. Camera, color screen, etc. are nice, but not necessary. I want the form factor to be small like the Nokia 8890 or the Moto RAZR.

  9. Cellular in Philippine Phone

    I could only agree, Cellphone with blue tooth is better rather that infrared.



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