I am on a mission to determine if smartphones have become more of a luxury than a necessity, especially in African settings. For the next 10 days, I will be going back to the basics. I’ll be giving up my Android smartphone for a supposed “dumbphone”, or featurephone if you prefer – the Nokia Asha 210. The debate on whether or not such a device is a smartphone is never ending.
I’ve had the device lying around the house for quite a while now. I honestly bought it on a whim, purely for curiosity’s sake. Before then, the last time I actually owned a dumbphone/featurephone was 2011. In that time services like WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram had gained popularity. I wanted to see for myself how these genre of devices had evolved to stay relevant with the trend. Needless to say, it was a horrible first experience. It didn’t take long for the withdrawal symptoms to set in and before long I was back to my Android.
I admit now that I was quick to judge the Asha 210. In the past few hours since I’ve revisited the device, I have been mildly surprised. For example, I had no idea I could actually auto-sync my Google contacts. While the process of setting it up is not seamless – especially as the settings aren’t exactly conspicuous – it is not difficult.
What are the essential mobile functionalities that the Asha 210 satisfies:
- Make calls and send texts (obviously)
- Browse the web – I already know the Nokia X browser sucks so I’ve installed Opera Mini and UC Web.
- Send and receive emails – so far I’ve been able to setup Yahoo, Gmail and Google Apps emails without stress. Oddly enough, you can only have one account auto-syncing email at a time.
- Open and at least read email attachments – yet to put that to the test
- Sync contacts – check, but not without hiccups.
- Instant messaging – there’s WhatSapp and eBuddy preinstalled. WhatsApp is good enough for me
- Play music – the stock music player is good enough
- Social networking – Facebook, Twitter preinstalled
- Read RSS feeds – found some silly RSS app that won’t let you add custom feeds. Still searching
So far, the Asha 210 has been bearable. But I still have a full 10 days to spend with the device and I am looking to push it to the limits of essential mobile computing . I need your help coming up with appropriate challenges. Please keep them within realm of what is fundamentally possible. So for example, as it has no GPS, one can’t expect the Asha 210 to use location and navigation services. I would also appreciate if these challenges are particularly appropriate to the African setting.
I’ll be sharing my experiences in a series of posts. In the meantime, you can follow my ordeal on Twitter