Feature PhoneThe feature phone is dead. Long live the feature phone!

In the era of ever expanding screen sizes, glitzy, upgradable operating systems and user interfaces, a gazillion sensors and 4 or even more cores stuffed into the processor of your phone, the humble “feature phone” is lost somewhere among these confusing choices. There’s the occasional new release that does grab headlines, but hey – that’s usually a feature phone trying very hard to be a smartphone.

But seriously, you must have a basic, low end handset in your device-arsenal. Why?

1. Battery, especially on long trips

When you’re out there, furiously responding to mails, getting into online arguments on Facebook, and returning calls from all, your smartphone battery suddenly does not feel quite as smart – does it?

That’s where the feature phone rules! A lot many of these devices last 4-5 days on a single charge, even with a few calls made everyday. The basic screen helps, as does the fact that apart from voice calls and texting, everything else is either non-existent or too painful to use. But sometimes, just having access to the essentials is important!

2. Pocket friendly in more ways than one

Some of these devices are a mere Rs.1200/- or so! Cheap to buy, no accessories to worry about, and hardly any heartache if you lose it to a careless drop, coffee or even theft.

And while they fit any pocket, they also fit into any pocket and are ultra light. No worries at all carrying them on a two wheeler, or on a trek, or a bike ride!

3. Robust. And nifty.

A lot of these phones are built to take a fair bit of abuse. For starters, they’re simpler, with small screens, and reasonably durable shells. They’re small enough to fit in between other luggage in your bag, and the chargers are easily available in most places you might travel to.

These phones also come with useful little things like a torch, basic games, alarms and the user interface is usually simple and very very intuitive. Given the simplicity of the software, these are also often less buggy than smartphones!

4. Vacations : no smartphone please!

A vacation is a great opportunity to give that smartphone a rest and take the simpler cousin out to the countryside. It interrupts you lesser and vacations are meant for quality time spent with the family or friends, not online!

Of course, the peace of mind that a longer standby and cheaper phone provide also free you up to enjoy your break rather than stress over the device as usual.

Seriously, just for this reason, keeping a basic phone handy is a very good idea.

5. For the kids

Check out what Louis C.K. has to say about kids on (smart)phones. It’s true – the more kids spend time on phones and tablets, the less they interact with the real world out there and that cannot deal with real people, real situations and real issues.

Yes, we are a lot more paranoid and its a bigger, badder world out there – so we need the kids to carry a phone once in a while and let us know where they are. A basic feature phone does this well, and avoids the kids getting addicted to that screen that overpowers all. You will do them a huge favour by keeping them off phones as long as possible, and off smartphones and tablets altogether!

These humbler phones definitely have a place in your life. In fact, oftentimes, you might enjoy the electronic liberty they provide and reach out for them over the more cumbersome smartphone! Simplicity can indeed be a blessing.

Here are some of the best feature phones in India.

The Nokia 105nokia 105

This is a very smart looking, rugged little device that – at around Rs.1150/- is cheap and packs a fair bit – alarms, a flashlight as well as a couple of games. No camera on this, though.

The Samsung Guru 1200/1205Samsung Guru 1200

This is a very similar pair of devices priced between Rs.1000/- to Rs.1300/- from Samsung. Again with a pretty huge battery with an impressive standby, and basic set of features.

The Micromax X101Micromax X101

This one is a dual SIM, with a larger 1000mAh battery, supports a microSD card, GPRS and has a VGA camera, and plays videos too! Pretty awesome value at about Rs.1500/- though the build quality and after sales might not compare to the Nokia. Still a very good choice.

The Nokia Asha 501nokia-asha-501

This one’s almost good enough to be a primary phone! At under Rs.5000/- with a touchscreen, S40 providing enough jazz, apps, speed and smartphone-feel, a 3.2MP camera, a 1200mAh battery that lasts fairly long, and supports GPRS/EDGE/Wifi! It’s pretty robust, from what users have reported. However, it supports microSIM cards- two of them – so it might not be the best option if you need to swap a regular SIM card out of your main phone and into this one. Pretty great little phone otherwise.

If you do carry around a basic feature phone as a backup, do share why and what phone it is. As more discover the fragility and limitations of their primary smartphone, it just might become the done thing!

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