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The Feature Phone Spotlight: Celebrities Drop Smartphones

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In 2007, when the iPhone debuted, few people had smartphones. Back then, no one wanted to pay for data or wait outside stores for hours on end in hopes of getting the newest model. 

The people who first bought these pocket-sized, not-yet-perfected, mini-computers were admired. The people that couldn't afford them not only didn’t have fun games or a decent camera, but envied and loathed those who did.

A little over a decade later, smartphones are able to replace the need for laptops. They have infiltrated every nook and cranny of our lives and of society as a whole. It isn’t only about the tiny computers, but the seemingly social technology used within them - Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc.

Now, more and more people treat smartphones as if they carried the plague. Those who were thought of as strange for not using smartphones only a few years back, are now not as heavily criticized. Celebrities using dumbphones are leading the movement. 


Not owning a smartphone is the new status symbol. Just as owning a smartphone was a decade ago. 

Inspiring Icons

Celebrities are often idolized, so much so that their phone choices spur trends in their fan bases. A growing trend for stars is to bring mindfulness into their daily lives by turning off their smartphones and turning towards older, feature phones. 

They are noticing that they are not merely using technology, but being used by technology. A trend that affects everyone, not only celebrities. 

Sometimes people realize they check their phones too often. Whether through an app or by looking at your phone every minute for five minutes in a row. We all have different methods of checking our smartphone use. 

Have you ever described your smartphone overuse as obsessively regular? 

That’s how Charlotte Church described her over smartphone overuse when she was fighting trolls that created a “shitty world view” for the classical singer. In fact, Church admits she “was secretly addicted as the anxiety carousel” that comes with constant information. When she finally ditch her smartphone, she said it “changed her life”.[1]

Trial and Error

Eddie Redmayne is another good example. In 2016, the British actor who played Stephen Hawking was super attached to his iPhone. At first, Redmayne tried replacing it with his laptop, but the hours spent answering emails didn’t end.

After running into iPhone troubles, he purchased a cheap feature phone and found it quite nice. The lack of constant notifications probably helped. His wife wasn’t too keen on his choice of phone and kept insisting Redmayne go back to his iPhone. Today, he is still trying to master his relationship with his smartphone.

Doing Good

Lily Allen, the singer behind the hits Smile and Not Fair, also negatively reflected on her relationship with her phone. In the summer of 2019, Allen shared some bad news for her Instagram followers, “I am getting a burner and throwing away my iPhone.”[2]

I don't think sitting, staring at my phone for four hours a day, lie, seven hours a day is doing the world any good.” - Lily Allen

Influencing your Privacy

Another reason to ditch smartphones are privacy concerns. Let’s face it, the less expensive the phone or the bigger the brand, the more data we knowingly sell to companies. You didn’t know? You didn’t read the ‘Terms and Conditions’.

The free games? Free apps? You watch those ads and sell your information and cookies in return. We get bonuses in all sorts of apps if we recruit our friends to join us. But social media and games are created to be addictive. Just like peer pressure to smoke 20 years ago, a person isn’t ‘cool’ if they don’t use the XYZ app. 

Think of what would happen if you disconnected your social media account. Would you do it or would the thought of it make you feel a little on edge?

While selling your data is one thing, having your data stolen from you also affects privacy. Hackers often target celebrities, like Scarlett Johansson. A hacker got a hold of some photographs the actress took for private use and leaked them to the public. The perpetrator got 10 years in prison, but to this day Johanssen does not use a smartphone. 

Benefits of not owning a smartphone

Take Elton John for example. In 2016, Elton John let his fans believe that he doesn’t even own a phone. John  mentioned that before smartphones “you [could] afford to be out of your mind and behave extraordinarily badly in public and no one would be able to take a photograph”. And it’s true. “Unfortunately that’s all changed with the advent of technology. Going out now is an effort,” -- an effort to behave in a way that won’t warrant social media tags the next day that are less than flattering.

While being offline they found peace of mind

Have you ever noticed the parents that instead of watching their children, i.e. while playing in a park or riding a bike or scooter, gape at their smartphones? Next time you are out in the vicinity of children, take a look at their parents.

[Cell phone’s lead to] a bigger lack of camaraderie and community than there’s ever been.” - Shailene Woodley

Ryan TuBridey left social media and smartphones after constant comments from his children along the lines of ‘you are on your PHONE again…’ TuBridey made a public announcement because ‘he didn’t want to be one of those dads who are constantly online’. The Irish icon also compared smartphone use to the new smoking. As the smoking trend is declining and the tobacco industries try to up their game, the medical statistics are clear. The fear of being without your mobile phone, nomophobia, is harder to pinpoint since much of the data is subjective. 

While these days smoking is seen as uncool, there is a far harder to handle addiction looming. The overuse of smartphones.

We sometimes fail to realize how big of an influence our morning routine has on the rest of the day. It’s one of the many reasons that Admiral William H. McRaven’s book about how making one’s bed sets you up for productivity during the rest of the day.

Ed Sheeran, who publicly ditched his smartphone in 2015 via Instagram account, seems to have made a great step in perfecting his morning routine.. In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Sheeran proudly shared his morning routine: ‘I don’t wake up in the morning and have to answer 50 messages of people asking for stuff. It’s just like, I wake up and have a cup of tea.”

Another music mogul, Simon Cowel, commented about the positive effects of putting away his smartphone on his mental health. Cowel said “it really is good for you and it has absolutely made me happier” but also mentioned that it was a “very strange experience.”

Stars who choose feature phones or no phones

To provide an exhaustive list of celebrities who don’t use smartphones, who use dumb or feature phones or have tried digital detoxes or dopamine fasts is beyond difficult. We have provided most commonly mentioned artists in order to ensure the truthfulness of these facts. 

Stars that don’t even use smartphones:[3][4]

  • Elton John

  • Yuval Harari

  • Peter Ware Higgs

  • Shailene Woodley 

  • Vladimir Putin

  • Barack Obama

  • Vince Vaughn

  • Tyra Banks

  • Tom Cruise

  • Sarah Jessica Parker

  • Robbie Williams

  • Ed Sheeran

  • Simon Cowel

Celebrities that have tried digital detoxes or dopamine fasts:

  • Selena Gomez

  • Eddie Redmayne

Flip phone:

  • Daniel Day-Lewis

  • Warren Buffet

Have been spotted without smartphones:

  • Kim Kardashian

  • Rihanna

If you’re still not ready to part with your smartphone, no worries, we have a solution: Check out our article on how to turn your smartphone into a feature phone and experience what life is like without all the notifications & distractions.

If you enjoyed this article, please check out similar ones featured on our blog and learn more about how living more of your life offline with less distractions can help enhance your health and overall well-being. 

Let’s connect (mindfully of course! You can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To learn more about Mudita, take a look at our website and our other posts. If you enjoyed reading this article, please share and recommend it!

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