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Are cheap feature phones making a comeback?

With all the talk around the new iPhones ready to launch on 10 September, there are many debating something on the other end of the spectrum: a cheap, prepaid mobile phone.

It may just be an addition to you high end smartphone, not its replacement, but a low-cost phone has some positive benefits.

For emergencies: A practical use for a cheap phone is to keep it for emergency purposes only. Toss it into your cubby hole of your car or bag and you will know its there, just in case.

Maintains your privacy: you might not want to use your main phone number if you’re posting items on Gumtree or OLX or another classifieds site. You are opening up the possibility of unwanted calls or texts from strangers on your personal line. Instead, when the transactions are completed, you can simply stop using the temporary phone or pre-paid sim card. Maybe you’re using a dating app, and might not want to give out your main number to someone you don’t end up with. Sure, you can block someone on your main phone, but they could still contact you from another number.

Cheap pre-paid phones can be bought with cash and no contract, plus retailers that sell these devices don’t track your personal data. Anonymity isn’t fully guaranteed, however, as feature or basic phones can still be located over a cellular network by the temporary phone number or logged whenever you call someone else’s phone via their network.

Other advantages aside from privacy why you might consider a pre-paid phone:

Back-up phone: While some feature phones have some advanced features, most are no-frills devices used for calls or texts only. Because most of these devices don’t have big screens and advanced radios like 4G/LTE and GPS, they likely boast much longer battery life than a premium smartphone. This could be ideal for travelers, perhaps, or at least as a back-up phone if your main devices battery dies out. Or maybe you want to toss one into a child’s backpack to use on the way home from school in an emergency.

Low cost: Price is a big motivator, too. Rather than spend over R10,000 for the latest Apple or premium Android device, prepaid phones could be as low as R199 for the Mobicel C4 feature phone. If you want a cheap prepaid smartphone, the Vodacom Smart Kicka 4 for only R450.

Tip: Your cheap prepaid phone doesn’t have to use data as many social networks like Twitter and Facebook have an SMS option, so you can still be notified to get updates via text message.

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