Convert a Smartphone into a Dumb Phone

Customize a smartphone to remove features like Web Browsing and addictive apps while keeping Maps and useful features.

by Tech Lockdown Team
Updated August 25, 2023

There have been several times in my life that I've seriously considered getting rid of my smartphone entirely and swapping it for a "dumb phone" like a flip phone. 

But it's difficult to function in the modern world without a Maps/GPS app and the modern smartphone camera.

So why are so many people looking to downgrade their phones?

The mainstream explanation of this is that minimalist phones are "trendy" again or that people want to limit their screen time.

I don't think so.

In my experience running a website dedicated to helping people restrict themselves from their own technology, people are choosing to switch to a "dumb phone" as a way to limit their exposure to the addictive and harmful aspects of the internet, which can be difficult to block out on a smartphone.

Dumb Phone vs converting to a Healthy Smartphone

Rather than giving up your smartphone for a 'dumb phone,' another option is to customize your device and create a 'Healthy Smartphone.' 

A healthy smartphone is a standard iPhone or Android smartphone customized to remove certain features, such as web browsing and downloading unapproved apps. Alternatively, web browsing can be enabled but severely limited by blocking images everywhere or using the allowlist-only mode, which restricts access to approved websites only.

Depending on which type of device you have, you can make your "Health Smartphone": a "Healthy Android", or a "Healthy iPhone".

How to make a Healthy Android Smartphone

How to make a Healthy iPhone Smartphone

How do you set up a Healthy Smartphone?

Setting up a Healthy Smartphone requires the use of a Mobile Device Manager (or MDM). An MDM allows a device to set up Kiosk Mode, Device Restrictions, Hide Filtering Apps, and more.

Content Filtering with Allow-Only Mode

One of the most effective ways to block content on a home network , with one of the most effective methods being a DNS Filtering service. A DNS Filtering service will allow you to block specific websites. Some filtering services, like Tech Lockdown, can block an entire category of content.

When setting up protections for a device or network, it is important to choose the right filtering "philosophy" to adopt. Generally, there are two overarching philosophies to consider: Blacklisting, and Whitelisting.

The first content filtering philosophy is called "blacklisting". With a Blacklist, content is allowed by default, with specific websites/content being blocked. This is a very lenient and permissive policy that, while potentially effective, relies on someone finding the content to be blocked. Once this sensitive content is found, it can then be blocked in the future, but it was still accessed. This can be a problem if you goal is to lock down your devices or network for maximum protection. 

The other content filtering philosophy is called "whitelisting". A Whitelist is the opposite of a Blacklist. Whitelists will block all content unless it is specifically allowed. This is a much more solid approach to content filtering, since content is assumed to be potentially dangerous until proven otherwise. If you have a whitelist set up, then only approved websites, webpages, or applications will be allowed. This is the best philosophy to adopt when locking down your devices.

Device Restrictions

While you can enforce content restrictions, it is important to ensure that your devices are also restricted. Content restrictions and protections are only effective if you prevent a user (or yourself) from bypassing your content protections. Device restrictions are crucial to block adult content online , and as a result a Healthy iPhone.

There are some restrictions that are extremely valuable when setting up a Healthy Smartphone. Some of these include preventing a user from installing unapproved apps, disabling the default browser, and restricting access to unapproved Wi-Fi networks.

These stop the most common bypassing techniques a user might try, such as switching Wi-Fi networks, adding a VPN/Proxy App, or using an unmanaged browser.

Kiosk Mode

The ultimate lockdown approach for a Healthy Smartphone is Kiosk Mode. Kiosk Mode is only possible with the use of a Mobile Device Manager (MDM) and allows a Smartphone to be fully restricted. Content Filtering and other Device Restrictions will be forced on to the device and cannot be disabled by the device user. The device is now controlled remotely, and many options are not available to the user. Here's an example of what Kiosk Mode looks like on a Healthy Smartphone:

In addition to the Device Restrictions recommended above, with Kiosk Mode enabled, more options can become available. Some of these include:

  1. Blocking a User from using the General Settings App.
  2. Specifying what Web Browsers are allowed.
  3. Blocking a User from using the Default Web Browser App.
  4. Disable or Block the App Store, Google PlayStore, or other Store apps.
  5. Hide Specific Apps from the user.
  6. Prevent a user from installing any unapproved apps.

Closing Thoughts

Setting up a Healthy Smartphone is a great way to protect yourself while online. The process of setting up a Healthy Smartphone requires the use of Mobile Device Manager, which enables you to set up much more advanced restrictions on a device than a standard blocking app.

A Healthy Smartphone uses a Content Filtering service, usually DNS Filtering. This allows a device to have much more detailed approach to blocking adult content online. 

Go Beyond Beyond Basic Blocking

Elevate your content blocking and bypass prevention.