The AtlanticThe Atlantic

Phones will never be fun again

By Kaitlyn Tiffany

07 Apr 2023 · 8 min read

Editor's Note

If you want a mobile phone that isn’t a “haunted glass rectangle,” your options are extremely limited. The Atlantic explores the state of the non-smartphone and comes away disappointed.

When they came up with machine-sliced bread, did we start referring to other bread as “annoying”? After the invention of the dishwasher, did we start calling our sinks “stupid”? Post-railroad, did we slander boats as “useless and embarrassing”?

Obviously not. Yet after the smartphone came along, a category of product that was once known simply as “phones” became, rudely, “dumb phones.” If a phone didn’t have an app store and a powerful operating system and an internet connection, it was no longer considered particularly admirable that it performed the core function of telephoning. It was dumb. If you held one, you’d be like, “This doesn’t do anything,” despite the fact that it did at least one thing perfectly well.

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