Cat S22 Flip: Experience and Review.
My Samsung phone started having really awful charging problems last week, so I've taken this as an opportunity to downgrade to a more minimalistic device. This move is not completely unspurred; I have been watching videos on dumbphones and digital minimalism for quite a while now. What a great opportunity! As a kind of limitation for this review (and my own amusement), I have restricted myself to only using the phone's physical controls to navigate the device, unless no other option is available.
The phone is excellent, especially at its current price of ~$80CAD, which is honestly so good that I would even recommend this to someone who's looking for a cheap android device in the non-dumbphone crowd. Any complaints I can levy against this phone are severely tempered by this fact. The phone is very large (in terms of volume) and is particularly cumbersome, the screen is also quite small. The general unwieldiness of the phone make it a great choice for those looking to reduce their screen time with negative incentive, but still want to have access to many of the utilities smartphones make available to us.
Why not get a completely dumb phone?
There are a couple of reasons: Firstly, I wanted to still be able to use Newpipe on my phone. Secondly, my university uses a proprietary 2FA app that (as far as I am aware) I have to use to access my eclass account. The fact that this phone uses android also opens it up to a greater degree of customization.
Physical Controls and Keypad
Not all apps play nice with the keypad, and it is definitely quite jarring when this is the case. For example, you can scroll your email in the Tutanota app using the dpad, but you cannot select any emails without using the touchscreen.
I've never actually typed on this kind of keypad before, I can attest that with only a couple of days of practice, you will be good enough at typing on the keypad to respond to texts, or make quick searches with minimal frustration. A tip for anyone my age reading this article: Make sure you know the difference between abc and T9. T9 is significantly faster in most circumstances, and if you don't know the difference, you will be severely confused. Let's say I want to write the name “Andrew”.
- abc works like this: a, mn, d, pqr, de, w.
- T9 works like this: [abc], [mno], [def], [pqrs], [def], select "Andrew" from predictions
This approach has many benefits: Firstly, you don't have to cycle between characters, which can be very tedious. Secondly, you can tap the keys one after another and don't have to worry about the annoying cooldown that is required to ensure you're done selecting a letter. Finally, (and in my opinion the greatest advantage), it's much easier to establish the muscle memory for which letter is on which key rather than also having to remember the number of times you have to press the key to get your desired output. Excellent!
It's big and heavy, yo. Imagine if an older IBM ThinkPad was made into a phone; that is this device. As I have previously mentioned, its bulk makes it an exceptional choice for people wanting to reduce their screen time. Holding this device with one hand is tolerable, but not pleasant. As a result, the manner in which you will use the phone will naturally be far more intentional than lighter devices.
I will not mince words. The battery life of this device leaves a lot to be desired; It is easily the most underwhelming aspect of this device. From a full charge, you can probably expect ~5 hours of screen time, and ~24 hours if you don't use the device. I have heard mixed reports about this device's battery life, but you should generally be expecting to charge the phone daily. I'm also not entirely convinced the battery saving mode actually saves any battery, but I am still testing it. If you know how to significantly increase the battery life, please send me an email.
Stuff you gotta do/install
The out-of-the-box experience is not super pleasant by any means. The device is filled to the brim with Google bloatware. Fortunately, it can be easily disabled, and less easily removed altogether using a third party tool. The keypad is also non-functional for texting by default. If you want to use the keypad in this manner, be sure to download the Traditional T9 keyboard from github. By default, I found that many apps struggled to fit all the content on the small screen. Go into display settings and reduce the screen size. This does make text harder to read, but I think it's a worthwhile sacrifice.
Here is also a list of software I have tested that integrates well with the device
- Newpipe (youtube frontend)
- Auxio (music player)
- Feeder (RSS Reader)
- Tutanota (Mail client)
- KDE Connect
- Simple file manager pro
- Simple gallery pro
Even with the issues I have mentioned, this device is fantastic, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to downgrade their phone, that still might need some 'smart' apps. The phone's massive profile and small screen make it a great option for those looking to reduce their screen time via negative incentive. It does take some tinkering to get just right, but I believe it is worth the effort.
This post is a part of the November Travelouge, an effort to promote blogging on the internet.