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Simple cell phones today - worse than what they used to be?

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Simple cell phones today - worse than what they used to be?
During the course of the last few years, we have seen tons of innovation that practically redefined the wireless industry with cell phones like the iPhone, Instinct HD and DROID. These are all perfect examples of high-end beasts that push the limits of technology. Such devices however inevitably come with features and functionality that not every user needs. In fact, there is a great deal of users who would rather stick to a traditional and simple cell phone – a device that can just handle their calls and messages… and maybe also sport a calendar, just in case. However, as manufacturers are putting more and more effort into making powerful, multifunctional smartphones, such simple  phones are getting much less attention. As a result, they seem to have become of lower quality, than they used to be a few years back. Or, at best, they haven’t moved an inch further.

And this brings us to the subject of the email one of our readers, Mr. Ryan Brune, sent to us a few days ago. Here’s what he writes:

“Hey PhoneArena,

I love coming to your site all the time to see what's new in the world of phones. I am a Verizon customer and I have been frustrated for the last four years or so about how they are treating their low-end customers. A year ago I had an LGVX8600 flip phone, which I really liked after two years of ownership. After it broke I was sent a newer phone, the Motorola W755, as a replacement, and I noticed it is not nearly as good of a phone.

Over the past few years I've been trying to look for a phone that lives up to what I found with my old phone, but I've been simply astonished at how it seems that the new phones that are coming out FOUR YEARS after the phone I liked before are technologically inferior. They are thicker, have worse cameras, cheap buttons, small front screens, and don't even look cool anymore. And now with Verizon's new "Enhanced Multimedia Phone" category, it seems they are even further ignoring those who simply want a decent phone with some decent features on an inexpensive plan.

I was wondering if you could write an article about this phenomenon so that others could be made aware of this problem that seems to be only getting worse. I'm not sure if the same thing is going on with other carriers, but if nobody starts to comment on this problem, I don't think it will ever get solved. Verizon will keep forcing their useless data plans on us with worse and worse phones.

LG VX8600
Motorola RAZR

LG VX8600

Motorola RAZR



Doesn't anybody else think it's a little strange that almost no flip phone on the market now is as thin as the RAZR was? We shouldn't be buying phones that look worse than the phones from the early last decade. That is just wrong.

We all love the technology we see in new phones, but some of us just can't afford the plans right now. There should be at least the degree of technology available to low-end consumers that was available 5 years ago.

Sincerely,
Ryan Brune”

To tell you the truth, we feel the same. Manufacturers don’t seem to care about the design and usability of their basic phones as much as they used to. So, it’s your turn now, phoneArena readers – Do you think the development of technology has actually left us with a disappointingly poor catalog of affordable, ordinary cell phones? Feel free to speak your mind in the comments section below.

And should you have a similar idea you would like to share with us, do not hesitate to write at tips@phonearena.com.

58 Comments
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posted on 20 Oct 2010, 01:45

1. Kappy (Posts: 108; Member since: 14 Dec 2009)


totally agree

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 06:57

2. Jyakotu (Posts: 844; Member since: 12 Dec 2008)


Manufacturers should never forget where they started. There are many out there who just want a basic cell phone with maybe a few extra features (Bluetooth, VGA camera, etc). But, the most important thing they need to remember is that a cell phone is just that, A PHONE!!! It's disappointing when a cell phone can excel in multimedia, messaging, and web capabilities, but it lacks in it's calling capabilities. Remember, phone first, feature packed headset next.

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 07:05

3. ilia1986 (unregistered)


I think it is inevitable and was to be expected. When people switched to cars from horses a long while ago - horses gradually got less and less attention to care-wise. Same here. People need to realize that cellphones as we know them are going to be our personal computer in several years. We will use to to surf the web, listen to music, take pictures, lock or unlock our car or your apartment, purchase goods the same way we do with credit cards today, sync our location with the schedule of public transport, arrange and rearrange meetings and conferences - not just in the calendar - but in real time. It will replace our TV' because there will be no point in a centralized TV network anymore, because all the content will come from the web, and everyone will choose what suits him - similar to youtube. It WILL be our be-all end-all device. And its happening right now. It is called advancement in technology which will bring upon advancement in our lives. And the sooner the manufacuteres AND the consumers understand it - the better. The days of a phone being for calls, SMS, music and camera only are long gone - they ended with the iphone. And to the person complaining in the article - I'm certain that regardless of where you live - you can find a pretty good affordable touch screen phone which will usually have 3.2 MP camera, and will be capable of doing all the things your LG did - not to mention quite a bit more - oh and it will probably also be quite thin.

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 09:03

13. scottmbolt (unregistered)


"The days of a phone being for calls, SMS, music and camera only are long gone - they ended with the iphone." ... I couldn't agree less. Nothing will replace voice to voice communication. Yes there are alternatives, but it will NOT be replaced.

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 11:27

26. whocares (Posts: 235; Member since: 19 Dec 2009)


mind melding will replace voice to voice... :D

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 07:25

4. BigRed83 (Posts: 144; Member since: 19 May 2008)


It's kind of a double-edged sword. As a technology involved person, I love seeing the next "shiny object" that seems to come down the pike seemingly every 20 minutes. Making coffee on your smartphone will probably debut at this year's CTIA show. Carriers and manufacturers collaborate on what gets released in order to maximize profits. The US cell market is so saturated, that there are very few customers that don't have a cell phone, making it harder for carriers to be profitable. Sure, there are carriers like MetroPCS or psuedo pre-paid services like Boost or Straight Talk that offer low cost services, but you get far less than what Verizon, AT&T or the other majors offer. What do customers want? Cheap, reliable service. How does a carrier stand out to the average consumer? Flashy ads, phones that make the afore-mentioned latte as well as providing MORE. "Mr. Customer, SURE, you want cheap, reliable service, we can do that. By the way, wouldn't you also like to... [fill in the blank here]? A large segment of the buying public want to STAND OUT. The RAZR. The Treo 600. The iPhone, Blackberry, DROID, etc. Carriers are serving that need, in addition to creating more of it at the same time. 1GHz processors? Who REALLY needs more capabilities of a desktop computer from 10 years ago in their pocket? I don't use all of the capabilities of my smartphone, but I like it, and have a hard time seeing myself going back to a Touchpoint flip phone like I had in the late 90's. Who wants a basic phone nowadays? People that are not overly technical, the older segment of the population, and the very young user market. There is one basic problem in that market model; NO PROFIT!. How much does a manufacturer get from a carrier on the back end on a dumbphone? Pennies (if anything) as compared to their latest & greatest "NewOS" wonderphone. It comes down to GREED. Technology is moving forward, not backward. Companies and stockholders want to make money, simple as that. Customers want the latest shiny object that comes out. As long as this business trend continues, any remaining dumb phones will get cheaper, uglier, and less useful. Sad? Yes. This is my opinion. If it's wrong, I'd be grateful, but I don't think I am. What do you think?

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 08:38

12. callipygian7 (Posts: 3; Member since: 11 Mar 2010)


I am completely of the same opinion that there are no reasonable basic phones in existence. I, in fact, still have the VX8600 as my current phone, and have been waiting... and waiting... and waiting for Verizon to market a phone of decent quality, without an excess of features that I don't need. What makes it more painful is that data packages are being hurled at us, whether we need it or not. I'm sorry, but I don't feel that I should have to pay for a data plan in order to have certain phone models (for example, the LG VX8360, Samsung Alias2, and other slightly better phone models REQUIRE a $9.99 or higher data package) I should also point out that I am a 20-something, very tech-savvy customer. Heaven forbid I'm not looking for a touch screen phone (which has been the focus of practically EVERY new handset for over a year) or a piece of junk. I don't spend my life on my phone, and I think it's absurd that my choices are limited to an expensive headset that I don't need, or a flimsy POS that I don't want. There is clearly a market for it, as other carriers have produced great balanced entry-level phones (Nokia 6303, Nokia 3720, Samsung Shark S5350)

posted on 15 Mar 2010, 13:47

44. Diesel44 (Posts: 1; Member since: 15 Mar 2010)


Verizon does offer good simple phones. Check out the Samsung Convoy for one of the most reliable, toughest, best sounding, and non battery draining phone on the market. Consistently rated tops by users. No, it's not the thinnest, smallest phone on the market but it works and works well for what it is meant to do.

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 07:27

5. crappypunk (Posts: 131; Member since: 15 Aug 2009)


my old vx 8600 had an awesome camera I loved that phone lol

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 07:27

6. crappypunk (Posts: 131; Member since: 15 Aug 2009)


now I have the crappy old droid :(

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 08:10

7. nancyfuqindrew (Posts: 32; Member since: 07 Jan 2010)


Totally agree with this guy. Not everyone wants to walk around with a giant brick in their pocket. Why can't there be a middle ground between piece of crap kiddie flip phone and trapper keeper sized smartphone???

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 08:11

8. totes_magotes (unregistered)


What this guy is complaining about makes sense, but this guy is providing examples of the "free" phones he upgrades too. If he spend more the $50 upfront that he just gts re-imbursed, he might not have such a problem with the quailty.

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 08:17

10. nancyfuqindrew (Posts: 32; Member since: 07 Jan 2010)


I'm on sprint, and it really doesn't matter how much I spend. Every phone has a huge drawback.. either size or quality. Pixi might be the best compromise, but really.. a 2mp camera?? It's driving me nuts.

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 09:06

14. scottmbolt (unregistered)


A camera is going to deter you from liking your phone? A Camera!? Really!?

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 09:36

18. nancyfuqindrew (Posts: 32; Member since: 07 Jan 2010)


As far as functionality goes, after the phone's ability to make clear phone calls the camera is the second most important feature to me. I use it constantly.

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 09:56

20. totes_magotes (unregistered)


It drives me nuts listeing to people complain about the camera quality on thier PHONE!. Its a phone, not a camera, you want good megapixels go buy a DIGITAL CAMERA, somthing that was designed to take pictures.

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 10:27

22. nancyfuqindrew (Posts: 32; Member since: 07 Jan 2010)


You sound like a pretty reasonable guy, being driven nuts by consumers voicing a desire for convenient products.

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 10:38

23. nancyfuqindrew (Posts: 32; Member since: 07 Jan 2010)


Also, how old do you have to be to argue that it's a phone not a camera? You're posting on phonearena.com, so you should be aware of all the other uses people have their phones besides just making calls. Yet this seems shocking for you. You're going to shit bricks when you discover your calendar.

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 08:12

9. CHEFJEFF (Posts: 144; Member since: 22 Sep 2009)


It's all about the money. High end phones come with expensive monthly plans, so why would a carrier give a damn about it's lower end phones, they don't make money off those customers. A simple cell phone plan for a low end phone is about 40 bucks a month, compared to a smartphone plan, which is about 100 bucks or more, so which phones would you prefer to have in your lineup if you were a carrier?

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 08:36

11. rwolf1984 (Posts: 531; Member since: 06 Jun 2009)


Keyword in the letter to Phone Arena...He was "SENT" a W755...Did he use his upgrade? Lesson Learned:Never under any circumstances order a phone through any companies call center. It is very likely that this was a refurbished replacement phone. The W755 was one of my best selling phones, I sold hundreds of 755s. Its an EV-DO phone loaded with features. One of the only complaints customers had was battery life. Regarding the worship of the RAZR...It sold very well because of its look, but its actually one of the worst phones ever made. Especially the Verizon and Sprint versions because they altered the software so much it hurt the performance. If you had a RAZR on AT&T they really didnt tinker with the phone's software and it performed much better. The hinges and battery doors were prone to issues and once your hinge is loose its only a matter of time before you lost your screen. In my experience 9/10 times 3G phones offer the best calling experience over less capable 1x phones manufactured by Samsung and LG on Verizon and Sprint as well as G and Edge phones on AT&T and T-Mobile. Don't be the guy that walks into the store or up to the kiosk asking for a free phone. You're going to unhappy and walk home with a POS phone. Fast forward to 2 years later only to repeat your mistake... The good news is that you can still get a quality phone from all 4 nationwide carriers, but its gonna do more than what you want and it wont be so basic. Bad news, Verizon considers most of its 3G flip phones multi-media phones that require a 9.99 data plan. The best thing a customer can do before they speak with a sales agent is to do some research on the phones they are interested in. Get the name of a phone and find customer reviews and specs. Phone Arena and Phone Scoop are the best review sites. Everyone here probably knows this, but everyday ordinary people don't.

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 09:08

16. scottmbolt (unregistered)


I agree... the RAZR was probably the worst phone ever made!

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 23:39

33. Sniggly (Posts: 7305; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)


The Razr was one of the worst phones ever made? Really? Okay. My dad just stopped using his RAZR (Verizon) last summer when his company forced him to upgrade to an ENV2 because it can do workforce manager. Previous to this he used it for THREE YEARS. In that three years he never had a problem with it. Only at the end did he notice that once in a while a voicemail would arrive late. How did he manage it with this *super crappy* phone? He took care of it. Now he's had the ENV2 (which in my experience is a REAL POS) and it's been okay too. None of the typical problems. Again, he takes perfect care of it. I've seen people complain about the best phones. The W755 wasn't that bad. Sure, it was a bit laggy, and Motorola makes some questionable design choices, but it was a solid phone overall with a tolerable failure rate. I will agree that any phone which is considered "simple" anymore is not nearly as attractive, fun, or different as they were even a couple of years ago. Especially Verizon's. They're boring. And when they're not boring they break all the time. And battery life has gone out the window too. I used to use a Moto V195s through T Mobile, and that sucker could last almost a month on one charge, even being used sometimes. Even now its battery will last at least 8 days on standby. Tell me any phone these days that can manage that. Anyway, I now have the CLIQ and love it to pieces. (In case you can't tell, I'm a Motorola fan.) But for people like my parents, simple phones which work and are unique in a good way are long gone.

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 09:07

15. Legacystar (Posts: 131; Member since: 31 Dec 2009)


You get what you pay for. Spend 30 dollars on a flip phone and you got a 30 phone. Spend $80 on like a chocolate touch and you start getting a nicer phone. Do you guys really think they should still be putting time into cassette tapes just because. You like them? And by the way I think verison has some nice slider phones, basic phones. I think one was called the samsung sway maybe? All metal it feals nice

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 15:26

28. ace1122 (Posts: 237; Member since: 23 Mar 2009)


The sway was a piece of junk. Just saying.

posted on 22 Mar 2010, 17:42

53. indirectagent (Posts: 7; Member since: 22 Mar 2010)


yeah, the samsung sway was a peice of junk. so is the rogue

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 09:23

17. jsd0108 (Posts: 19; Member since: 11 Mar 2010)


There is a flaw in the argument from the person that wrote the letter. He complains that the W755 is a "technologically inferior" phone than the Lg 8600, but the thing is that the features of the 2 phones are almost exactly the same....camera, bluetooth, mobile web, mulitmedia capabilities, and I think they even both have navigation capability. I KNOW the W755 has it which would make it one up on the 8600 if it didn't have it (I can't remember for sure if the 8600 does or doesn't have navigation capability). Anyway, my point is that the 755 and the 8600 are both comparable phones technologically speaking. What he is complaining about is really the aesthetics of the phone. He wants a thin, shiny phone...something that LOOKS expensive, but doesn't want to actually spend the money for it. That is the real argument he is making. So, in my opinion, the person that wrote the article is just upset because he doesn't have the money to keep up with the Jones'. There are many things that I can't afford to buy, but I don't blame the companies that try to sell me those things. I accept it and buy something that I can afford.

posted on 11 Mar 2010, 09:38

19. nancyfuqindrew (Posts: 32; Member since: 07 Jan 2010)


Or maybe like he said he wants a good phone that isn't a huge smartphone.

posted on 12 Mar 2010, 19:06

40. ianboon (Posts: 3; Member since: 04 Dec 2009)


Hey, this is Ryan here, the guy who wrote the letter. I guess I should have made it more clear when I said what I said. I'll agree with you that the features listed for the two phones discussed are very similar, but the W755 is by no means a better phone than the VX8600. You could talk about some new navigation feature it might have, but it's not like most people use that stuff anyway, so it doesn't really matter. I sure know I don't. What I would specifically point out to tell you that the VX8600 was better is the fact that the W755 is thicker, has an ugly, uneven hinge like one that is found on so many of today's flip phones, has a smaller front screen that doesn't even show the date when the phone is on vibrate or you have a message, has a much slower response time when pressing buttons, doesn't have the ability to check text messages when the phone is closed like the VX8600 did, and takes pictures that look much worse. But this specific case was just my personal example; it doesn't capture the bigger problem here. I will agree with you that I am complaining about the aesthetics of the phone in part. It would be great to own a thin shiny phone that looks nice and doesn't cost a lot, like you said. You may think this is a pointless wish, but it really isn't because that is the very wish I had fulfilled when I purchased the VX8600. It didn't cost over $100, looked nice, and performed well. If I was able to fulfill this wish in 2006 I would think I would be able to do the same in 2010. So far, though I have remained disappointed in my choices. And it's not the cost of other phones that deters me from purchasing them. Even before Verizon rolled out their mandatory data plans for enhanced multimedia phones, nothing in their selection really impressed me enough to want it more than my clunky W755. I'm not a person who needs a smartphone or a data plan of any kind, but I still feel I should have a reasonable degree of technology available to me to choose from if I don't want those plans. Verizon's latest awful flip phone they released, the LG Accolade, is a prime example of how simple feature phones today are being released that are technologically inferior to what we had a few years ago. If you look at the specs you'll notice that it has a shoddy 1.3 megapixel camera, a "tiny-as-possible" front screen that doesn't show the date, no front buttons for music control or viewing text messages, a hefty thickness of 0.72 inches, and the same years-old user interface that's been plaguing phones since the early 2000's. My old VX8600 had just as good of a camera, a large front screen, touch music controls and text viewing while closed, a slim profile of 0.58 inches, and a cool rotating menu interface. I don't feel like I'm asking a lot here, just for some degree of progression of technology in the simple feature phones. If you would have told me in 2006 that they would still be releasing camera phones in 2010 with 1.3 megapixel cameras I would have told you you were crazy. I would have thought by now the worst camera on a new phone would be at least a 2.0 megapixel one. And it surely seems the phones keep getting thicker. Am I the only one who refuses to buy a phone because it's going to take up too much space in my pocket? It's often a dealbreaker for me. In any case, I hope this article has created some useful discussion about the low-end market of cell phone availability. If we can make more people aware and upset about this problem then hopefully the companies will start to see that they should be offering more to their customers.

posted on 13 Mar 2010, 10:56

42. knuckleballer34 (Posts: 119; Member since: 27 Jul 2009)


Ryan, Thank you for posting an update to the letter that you sent to PhoneArena. I wish I would have read this before I posted my comment several notches below, as I now have a much better understanding of your argument. Time will do that for someone as ignorant as myself. The phones I mentioned in my post to your original comment below were for the most part, not flip phones. Carriers are still putting some time and effort into their "basic, entry level" phones...but not "basic, entry level flip phones." Currently i'm with T-Mobile, and the latest entry level flip phone they came out with, the Samsung T-139, is a horrible downgrade from the T-439 and T-639 I had in the recent past...both of which I got for free! Like you, i'm afraid that carriers have put flip phones on the backburner and forgot about them. While there are still good "basic" phones available, the same cannot be said for flip phones. Please excuse my remarks below, as I misread your letter that PhoneArena posted. Your follow up cleared things up for me.

posted on 14 Mar 2010, 00:32

43. ianboon (Posts: 3; Member since: 04 Dec 2009)


Oh hey it's no big deal really. I read your comment below and meant to reply, but I ran out of time. I know I did not say everything I wanted to say in my original letter, and I didn't really know they were going to use what I said word for word. But my comment above gave me a chance to say all what was on my mind. In any case, I agree with your comment that the flip phones are definitely the ones being ignored for the most part, and while I only know about the situation with Verizon phones, it's not good to hear that other carriers are subjecting basic phone users to this same kind of mistreatment. Regarding your comment below, I will also agree with you that at my time of purchase, the VX8600 was likely considered a "mid-range" phone, as it had pretty decent specs for the time. Nevertheless, today's "mid-range" phones of this form factor really don't compare that well. It's hard to find any mid-range phone out now that beats the thin profile found on the VX8600 or even the RAZR. The new simple feature phones may indeed have some software features that were not available on the VX8600, but they are likely features nobody uses (unless you can point some good ones out to me?). Also, as I said above, the data plans aren't even the essential problem for me. The phones Verizon used to offer outside of data plans never really seemed appealing to me, mainly due to the thicknesses, poor cameras, and strange operating mechanisms. The enV series, for example, never has appealed to me, since it just looks like a huge brick. The uneven hinge also annoys me, and when you open it to type, it's like the screen isn't even at a good angle to view what you're typing. And just for the record, I wouldn't even want to own most of the touchscreen phones that are on the market today even if the data plan wasn't required. Most of them have resistive touchscreens which I consider to be TERRIBLE for doing anything, even dialing phone numbers. I get immediately frustrated every time I try to use one of these phones. Having a touch screen for the sake of having a touch screen is not a good reason. If it doesn't work well it shouldn't be there. I won't be owning a touch screen phone until capacitive technology is the standard. Ever try out an ipod touch? That's capacitive. That is the only kind of touch screen people should want to use on their mobile devices. I would be willing to shell out some extra coin for phones with properly functioning touchscreens. Thanks for replying, and let me know if you want to discuss anything else.

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