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General Category => Other retro => Topic started by: mr_lou on 11:16, 08 December 18

Title: Using a "dumbphone" in 2018
Post by: mr_lou on 11:16, 08 December 18
(If this isn't retro enough, moderator must move it to Other).
So it's been several months now, since I gave up using modern smartphones. They just kept disappointing me in various ways. So in the end I decided to go back to an old feature phone.
I found a used Sony Ericsson W995 at a flea-market very cheap, did a factory reset, and I was off. Literally, as in offline.  ;)
At the time of writing, I have been using this old phone for many months. It wouldn't surprise me if it's been a whole year already.

So what's it like using such an old phone here in 2018, when you're a geek like me?
Well, actually pretty cool. Here is a short story from my life. :)
Every morning, I take the bus with my daughter, to bring her to school. At school while waiting for another bus to take me back again, I realize that my old phone is really retro, because the other kids from my daughters class come up to me, see me stand there with my old W995, and then go: "I've had one of those too. It was my old playphone"...  and by that they mean that they used to play with one of these - long ago. That's how old it is....  :laugh:
These old phones does run apps, and there are plenty of apps to choose from - all nicely ad-free too. :)
There's a nice big app store available at http://sony-ericsson-w995.oms.apps.bemobi.com/en_dk/

I've installed Moby Explorer, which is a file explorer with a built-in ftp client and text-editor. So I can use the waiting time writing various texts.
And I know what you're thinking here. How can I possibly write on such an old phone with such a tiny screen and closely placed tiny buttons? Doesn't it take like forever? No it doesn't. But it did on smartphones. I never learned to get along with touchscreens. Typing on touchscreens took forever for me. I'm faster on a good old T9 based button input. :)
Everything you're reading right now was actually written on my phone. Then copied to this forum post later (after a few edits of course). :)
You probably wouldn't think all of this was written on an old phone, but it was - and it was rather effortless too.

I used to use my trusty Ericsson MC218 pocket computer for these things. But it broke a while back, sadly, to such a degree that not even the mighty Bryce could rescue it. So I had to find another solution. And that ended up being my new old phone. :)
Sometimes the bus back is running late. So I risk standing outside in the cold for quite some time before the bus arrives. But luckily I don't have to. Because I can see on my old phone how late it is, and how far away it is. So I can stay at the school those extra minutes instead of moving outside in the cold. I have to admit though, that this is only possible because I made my own little PHP file that extracts this information from a bigger website that my W995 can't view.
After work I go shopping. Here I use a nice little app I made myself long ago called "SimpleList On FTP". It lets me maintain the lines in a simple text file via an FTP connection. That way my better half can update the shopping list at home, and then I can do the shopping on my way home. We use the same app for various other lists, like Christmas shopping list for example.
In the afternoon I have to go pick up my daughter from school again - also by bus. Once seated I open jmIrc; a J2ME IRC client. Then I connect to my channel where I have a chat with a game-developer that I'm doing music for at the moment. This is our daily status chat about the progress of the project. :)

I don't use any of the various social media channels available out there, but if I did there ARE apps available for those too. Yes, they are limited compared to smartphone versions, but they'll do fine.
So while I'm on the bus, I'm chatting on IRC while listening to music and checking if the bus back is running late. Yes sir, multitasking on a dumb old phone. ;)

Sometimes I go out for a run. The W995 comes with a built-in app called "Tracker" that can tell me how far I ran and how long it took. And that's all the info I'm interested in after a run. Well it was fun to see the graphical outline of the route too at first, but that's not so interesting anymore.

What could I want more?
Well, it could of course be awesome if it was possible to use my travel time and waiting time for some CPC productivity. But I haven't been able to find any apps that would let me do this yet. Something like a sprite editor, or level editor, or music app. The closest I got was with an app called PaintCAD that can be used to create pixel graphics, but it was a bit too tedious I thought. I suppose I could create such an app myself of course, but that's just yet another of a thousand ideas I will never have the time for.
I did start a Sprite Editor MIDlet a while back though. But we all know how it is, don't we? A million projects are started up - extremely few are ever continued.

I thought I might also enjoy some games on my W995, but I've found that's not the case. None of the many games I've tried seems to appeal to me, except a single one called BrainJuice which was fun for a while.

But the overall conclusion is that an old dumb feature phone is all I need.  8)

Who will join me in my retro revolution?  ::)
Title: Re: Using a "dumbphone" in 2018
Post by: Widukind on 11:50, 08 December 18
My family joined your retro "revolution" long ago. :-)

P.S. IRC rules!
Title: Re: Using a "dumbphone" in 2018
Post by: tjohnson on 18:37, 08 December 18

Thing I've noticed lately is nobody calls much anymore, everyone wants to communicate by WhatsApp.  A few years back the phone was always ringing, things would be organised by ringing people, now things seem to be done by WhatsApp or text.

I resisted the smartphone for quite some time but currently use a Sony XZ1 Compact or is it XZ1 Compact.  The thing I don't like is the constant helpful messages, and requests to give Google free data for little or nothing in return.  Google search isn't very good anymore since it seems entirely centered around selling things to you.
Title: Re: Using a "dumbphone" in 2018
Post by: ComSoft6128 on 18:54, 08 December 18

Totally agree with the points above.

I use a £35 Nokia Asha 201 from 2012.

Looks like a Blackberry down to the Qwerty keyboard.
One of the last Nokia phones released before Microsoft bought Nokia.

As well as phone/text it can access my email, Wikipedia, Google, Amazon etc.
Facebook and WhatsApp are also available via pre-loaded apps if required.

Uses a cut down version of the Opera browser.
Also has a radio and mp3 player.
No good for video "on the move" but I don't need that.
One charge lasts about a week.
Only one problem - it is 2G and that won't last forever.

A great phone for everyday use.
Title: Re: Using a "dumbphone" in 2018
Post by: GeoffB17 on 21:30, 08 December 18
Well, I thought I had a 'dumbphone', but seems I'm from another planet.   If the things others here are describing are 'dumbphones', but are so MUCH less dumb than mine, then what does that make mine?

I'm using a HTC P3470, that came with the 'job' a number of years ago.   It's driven by Windows CE (I think that's what it is).   Yes, I can connect to the web, but I don't bother, as it's SO slow, and so few sites render at all, that it's just not worh it.   Email, google, all those other things - forget it.

Normal telephone calls - fine.   Texts, in and out, GREAT.   A little game or two, OK.   What more do I need??

A lot of years ago, I tried to install DOSBOX in the hope that I might do some useful things with the device, but DOSBOX - although essentially 'working' - is so hamfisted it's just not worth it, and no useful way to communicate things in/out anyway.

So, mine's just a phone.  With texts.  Full stop.   Is mine then a dumbdumbdumbphone?

Title: Re: Using a "dumbphone" in 2018
Post by: mr_lou on 21:47, 08 December 18
I use a £35 Nokia Asha 201 from 2012.

I also have one of them Asha phones from Nokia in a box somewhere, much newer than my W995. But I've just always preferred Sony Ericsson's phones. They've always been much faster than Nokia's phones too.
I got the Asha one back when we were still developing J2ME apps and needed one to test on.

Well, I thought I had a 'dumbphone', but seems I'm from another planet.   If the things others here are describing are 'dumbphones', but are so MUCH less dumb than mine, then what does that make mine?

So, mine's just a phone.  With texts.  Full stop.   Is mine then a dumbdumbdumbphone?

The way I understand the definition, it depends on whether the phone has an OS or not. If it runs an OS like Symbian or Windows CE or Android or IOS - then it's a smartphone. Because it runs apps natively.
Phones without an OS could still run apps though, because they were all (well most of them anyway) "Java-enabled". And the awesome thing about this was, that you could develop your Java game, and it would run on all phones regardless of OS - because they could all run Java - feature-phones and smartphones.
Of course, Apple and Google quickly changed all that. They ruined everything.

When a phone didn't come with an OS, it was called a feature-phone, and some people called it a dumb-phone to mock it. But JavaME has always been underestimated. Especially on Sony Ericsson phones who ran Java with a hardware chip (jazelle), resulting in utterly stunning framerates in games. The KVM (https://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/faqs-140539.html#11) in Nokia phones were software based, and software based JVM's are of course the reason people consider Java to be slow. Definitely not so with Sony Ericsson phones though.

I remember buying the very first Android phone from abroad, because it wasn't available in Denmark. Then being very disappointed when I saw the "speed" it could deliver. My old Sony Ericsson W800 "dumb-phone" was way faster executing apps.
Title: Re: Using a "dumbphone" in 2018
Post by: GeoffB17 on 23:09, 08 December 18


I've never looked at Java.

Just checked my phone, and I see that YES it does support Java, specifically Java 2 Micro Edition J2ME.   And there's info there, all of 2 pages in the manual, about Java MIDlets.   That's 2 out of 250 pages!

I could use some sort of database applic.   Must investigate this!!

Title: Re: Using a "dumbphone" in 2018
Post by: mr_lou on 07:20, 09 December 18
Just checked my phone, and I see that YES it does support Java, specifically Java 2 Micro Edition J2ME.

That's it yes.  :)
The first Java-enabled phones ran MIDP 1.0 CLDC 1,0. We're talking extremely old phones here, as in Nokia 7210 and Sony Ericsson T610. These were both phones with a 128x128 pixel colour display. I believe J2ME goes all the way back to phones with monochrome displays of an even smaller resolution, but I don't know which models it was.

MIDP stands for Mobile Information Device Profile.
CLDC stands for Connected Limited Device Configuration

Both are basically a set of API's, i.e. a set of Java classes you have available when coding. Read more (https://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/faq-141804.html).

J2ME later changed name to JavaME. When JavaME died the standard in most phones were MIDP 2.1 CLDC 1.1.
A JavaME cellphone app was/is called a MIDlet. (Like it's called an Applet for web, and an Xlet for Blu-ray and TV boxes).

Something I always found utterly awesome was the fact that the latest Java-enabled phones with huge colour displays could still run the very first MIDlets that were designed for older phones with much smaller monochrome displays. Now that's true backwards compatibility. Try doing that with any other platform - you can't.  :)

The only downside I experienced was this: You could code your MIDlet - and it would run anywhere. I mean on any phone out there, because they all had a JVM (a KVM) of some kind. However, these KVM's were of course different from each other, resulting in your MIDlet not really running everywhere anyway. Some devices were very strict in regards of wanting everything to be 100% correct.
To make sure your MIDlet ran everywhere, you had to get your hands on all devices and test. (This is why the community turned the famous "code once, run anywhere" phrase into "code once, betatest/bugfix everywhere").

We (LuBlu Entertainment) did a lot to make sure our small amateur games ran on as many phones as possible. We bought a lot of used phones to test on - and the testing phase took forever!

I'm not sure we tested on a whole lot of Windows CE devices though, so I can't promise that our games will run on your phone, but feel free to check them out if you want:

I have specifically targeted a Windows CE device once in later years though. When my boss was getting rid of his very old device that had just been lying in a drawer for many years, I took it and installed a KVM on it. Then created a small MIDlet for my daughter, where, when she touched the screen a picture of one of her grandparents were shown and an audio greeting from that person was played. Between messages a lot of different coloured filled circles where popping up on the screen. It was a big hit, and we have some great video footage of her replying those audio greetings: "Hello?".  :)

I still prefer JavaME today in favor of "Android Java". And luckily, Android does also run JavaME. Just install phoneME (http://davy.preuveneers.be/phoneme/?q=node/33) or some other JVM / emulator. You can even create shortcuts to the MIDlets on your startscreen, among your other shortcuts to native apps and web apps. So technically, JavaME actually still runs on most phones out there. It's just not as well-known anymore.

As far as I know, Nokia still makes Java-enabled phones. But they're the only ones who does.
Title: Re: Using a "dumbphone" in 2018
Post by: Bryce on 12:49, 09 December 18
I still use a really, really old phone for work, but not as my main phone. There are areas of my work where you cannot bring a camera in, including those in your phone, so if you want to be contactable (which I need to be), I have to use this. My current device for this is a Sony Ericsson T68i until it finally craps out, but I have an even older Nokia as backup. The SE still gets a whole week from a single charge :D

Title: Re: Using a "dumbphone" in 2018
Post by: mr_lou on 12:55, 09 December 18
The T68i is awesome! I had one too. (It's still in my possession).

Would have been nice if it ran Java, but sadly no. It could do a ton of other stuff though! I remember controling my WinAMP via bluetooth with it. Just connect it to the PC via bluetooth, and it could show me my WinAMP playlist in the display, and I could switch track and change volume etc.

I could also use the T68i to control PowerPoint presentations and other applications.

Later on I bought an MP3 player as an accessory, which connected to the bottom of the phone. Groovy times.

Sony Ericsson had an awesome start. I was sad to see them slowly decay and then break up.
Title: Re: Using a "dumbphone" in 2018
Post by: Bryce on 13:00, 09 December 18
Most people are just impressed with the curvy design :D Every phone is square these days.

Title: Re: Using a "dumbphone" in 2018
Post by: mr_lou on 14:16, 09 December 18
@Bryce (http://www.cpcwiki.eu/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=225)  Maybe you'd be interested in my old IMY ringtones? I remember creating the ingame track for the C64 game "Tiger Mission" for myself.  :)
I wonder where they are. Gotta look for them now.
Title: Re: Using a "dumbphone" in 2018
Post by: Bryce on 16:20, 09 December 18
@Bryce (http://www.cpcwiki.eu/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=225)  Maybe you'd be interested in my old IMY ringtones? I remember creating the ingame track for the C64 game "Tiger Mission" for myself.  :)
I wonder where they are. Gotta look for them now.

Other than wanting it to ring when it's supposed to and making calls when I need it to, I don't intend investing any time in this device.