The Nokia 2780 Flip powered by KaiOS is the phone I would like to use

I hate feeling like a servant to my phone. When it’s constantly demanding attention from one app or another, a status bar full of things I don’t really care about but need to look at, I sometimes wonder who’s in charge.

I have a couple of ways I’m trying to manage this. The weekends are in do not disturb mode and that works most of the time, but I found a better way. Nearly.

Enter the Nokia 2780 Flip (opens in a new tab). What?! A clamshell phone? Yes, a clamshell phone. But not the kind of flip phone you think.

The 2780 doesn’t run Android, but it’s not a “dumbphone” either. It runs KaiOS and can do pretty much anything I want my primary communication device to do. It’s the phone I’d use every day if I could, but two things are holding me back. (Spoilers: neither are the features or the software).

(Image credit: Jerry Hildenbrand)

The elephant in the room is that if I’m going to write honestly and accurately about Android phones and Google’s software to make a living, I have to have a phone that uses Android. I don’t see it as a liability or anything because Android is a damn fine piece of software, but to know it well enough to get paid for it you have to use it every day.

The second reason is the dream killer though and that is the fact that the 2780 is a 4G only phone. It’s not future-proof and often hates navigating T-Mobile’s squirrel network, leaving me with no signal or a really weirdly slow signal that I can’t share with another device. We’ll get to that in a moment.

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The important things first. The Nokia 2780 Flip is a budget phone that’s well built but fairly basic. I won’t list OMG specs or anything as there is nothing worth listing – Snapdragon 215, basic camera, SD card slot and 1,400mAh battery. It has a removable battery and an FM radio, so that’s pretty cool.

The positives outweigh the negatives. Two days of battery life would be good. The 2780 gets four. You can get it brand new with no strings attached for $89. It is unlocked and works with every GSM network operator in North America, including MVNOs like Mint Mobile. Some people say it works 100% with Verizon and is fully supported, but I can’t test that.

It runs on KaiOS, a mobile Linux system based on the open-source Firefox OS project. It’s like Android-lite in many ways. It is optimized to run on devices with less memory and processing power. This makes it a great option for people looking for a smartphone that won’t cost an arm or a leg.

(Image credit: Jerry Hildenbrand)

Another great thing about KaiOS is that it is very easy to use. The user interface is simple and intuitive, and even non-technical people will quickly get to grips with it. Because HTML5 applications run natively, there’s even an app store with titles like Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, and more.

If you’re looking for a smartphone that doesn’t cost a lot of money but still offers a great user experience, then a KaiOS phone like the Nokia 2780 Flip is a great option. And when you want to get the most out of Kai OS, you can pair it with a Chromebook or an Android tablet.

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This leads me to the other reason I can’t make the switch – tethering over a spotty connection isn’t fast enough for the modern web.

Like many people, I carry a laptop with me most of the time I leave the house. It might be a bit easier for me because I’m like a rolling U-Haul with a backpack attached to the back of my wheelchair, but many people carry a lightweight laptop or tablet with them when they’re out and about.

This really is the best of both worlds. You’ve got secure and solid software on your phone to keep you in touch with everyone, and you get everything Chrome or Android (or Apple or Microsoft) has to offer with your bigger screen.

(Image credit: Jerry Hildenbrand)

That’s great if you’re somewhere with Wi-Fi like a store, but what if you want to sit in the park or by the Dupont Circle Fountain and just people watch? You can easily tether your phone to your other device when you need some screen time.

That’s why I want KaiOS to support 5G. The phone on 4G works for now in most places that aren’t like my neck of the woods and are “in permanent transition” from Sprint to T-Mobile, but it won’t be forever. When I’m watching people I don’t necessarily want more screen time, but when I do I want it to be good. This renders the 2780 or any other KaiOS phone useless to me.

However, you may live in a place where 4G still works the way it has always worked – carriers aren’t going to phase it out any time soon. If you want to try something different, the Nokia 2780 Flip doesn’t cost Android flagship money.

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But it really does everything you want in a smartphone, as long as you have something else to run the apps you need every now and then.