Is Gen Z’s adoption of “dumbphones” a smart financial move?

Everything old is new again, even tech for Gen Z, who are protecting their pockets and mental health by embracing bare-bones phones. 

Driving the news: A growing number of people are ditching their smartphones for less sophisticated (and addictive) "dumbphones," led by nostalgia-hungry Gen Z, who have been inundated with the internet since birth. 

  • The shift is an attempt to limit the amount of time spent staring at a screen and create boundaries for who can reach them when—they're not keen on getting an update just because someone updated a profile picture. 

  • It's also a much more cost-effective way to communicate—the phones aren't as high-tech and therefore don't cost nearly as much as the newest iPhone or high-end Android.

Why it's happening: Gen Z is all about eschewing the norms they've grown up around, and being chronically online is one of them—remember, this is the cohort that coined the term "touch grass," which is a shady way of telling someone to log off the internet and go outside.

  • Some dumbphone advocates also cite privacy concerns around smartphones and the collection, sharing, and selling of their personal information. 

Why it matters: Canadians' cell phone plans are some of the most expensive in the world. Our cost per gigabyte is 25 times more expensive than France or Ireland and 1,000 times more costly than Finland!

  • Monthly plans for dumbphones are much more reasonable, hovering at about $15 a month, and affordable for young people who can do all their online activities at home using the internet their parents pay for. 

Bottom line: For some, the idea of not having access to e-mail, social media, Netflix, and the like while on the go might be anxiety-inducing—but it might also be the cause. "Dumbphones" can create a buffer between you and your online self, providing a much-needed break from the noise of the internet.