I got rid of my smartphone

But it wasn’t about the money.  I know, I know, you’re probably thinking this guy is insane because he will do anything to get a deal – yet getting rid of his smartphone wasn’t about the money?  Well… it wasn’t.

Moto KRZR Cosmic Blue

I’ve been a fan of technology for as long as I can remember.  When I was in college, I used to read Engadget incessantly.  Like, always.  I wanted to know what new tech was coming out, and I wanted to try every single iteration of the newest gadgets.  The funny thing was, I did all this ogling of the iPod Touch on my MacBook before purchasing one.  Then, I browsed Engadget on my iPod Touch… to look at the new MacBooks to be released.

I liked the time when the promise of future technology was greater than the current wares.  That has shifted, though, as now nearly everyone has an iPhone.  No one is excited for the next great Nokia N-Series phone with a Carl Zeiss lens; no one is eagerly awaiting the next Sony Ericsson phone with the PS3-like UI that plays MP3s (wow!) and lots of them; no one is on the edge of their seats for the next thinsation from Motorola.

Everyone just wants the next iPhone.  It sickens me.  It’s almost like Apple has completely undone the magic they worked with their 1984 ad.  The progress they made with changing the technology industry.  Now everyone sits subserviently until the next shiny iPhone hits the digital shelves.

So why am I quitting it?

I don’t own an iPhone.  I’ve never owned an iPhone.  I’ve only owned two Android smartphones – the very first one to exist, the HTC G1 – and it’s successor, the G2.  It was only a month or two ago that I discovered it was taking over my life.

When I was out on the town with my wife, with friends, or family, I couldn’t help but constantly check my phone.  Did I miss a great Slick Deal?  Had someone mentioned me on Twitter?  Did I get – *gasp* – an email?  If I timed it, it would probably be just about every seven minutes that I had to look at the 3.7″ glowing orb of information.

When I woke up, I would instinctively grab for my smartphone.  Time to delete all the unwanted messages and read the wanted ones.  What if those people needed replies to urgent requests?  I needed to check it the instant I woke up.  Sometimes I would constantly press the “refresh” button in my email app, even though I got notifications at each new message.  Addicted.

I was addicted to data, quite literally.  It was available everywhere, and I felt like I was wasting it if I wasn’t using it.  So use it, I did.  I didn’t save any whales, make a living, or accomplish insane amounts of productivity from it, but I browsed the internet and checked my email like a pro.  I would “google” things when a difficult question was posed.

The worst of it was that even sitting with my best friend, my lover, my wife, I would constantly be sucked back into the glow of the 3.7″ ticker.  Any new messages?  Tweets?  Updates on my favorite sites?  I didn’t stop paying attention to my wife, but I definitely wasn’t giving her all of my attention.  That started to bother me in a way that I can’t quite describe, except that it was enough for me to completely get rid of mobile technology.

The follow through

So I listed my iPod Touch 4G (32GB) and my HTC G2 on craigslist.  The only device I would use to connect to the internet and check my email would be my hoss of a 17″ MacBook Pro.  It was definitely up to the task, and still is.  I bought a lovely “cosmic blue” Motorola KRZR from Amazon, and popped my SIM card in.  It was like a whole new world.

It’s funny that I show off the KRZR like it’s the hottest new technology, and until my friends give me blank stares, I forget that it’s a five year old phone.  It still looks great, though, and you know what else it does well?  Makes phone calls.  The call quality is excellent.  I block my account from sending/receiving text messages, so the only thing this phone will be doing is calling.  And the battery lasts almost 5 days.

I feel like I’ve gotten a huge hunk of time allotted to me for whatever I like.  When I would have been nose deep in my smartphone, I’m now reading books, coding, or talking with my wife.  We go on walks now!  Imagine that!  It has seriously opened up not only my schedule, but my ability to be creative.  I feel like I can do anything now, create anything, be anything.

A lot of people have asked, “Why don’t you just use it less?”  I think that’s sort of like asking a crack addict, “Why don’t you just put the crack in the closet and do less blow?”  I don’t even want the option of using a smartphone, because if I have one, I will check it obsessively.  It’s a simple fact.

Disclaimer, a bit late

I don’t begrudge anyone who chooses to use a smartphone, so please don’t take offense from what I’ve written here.  If you get great productivity from your smartphone, more power to you.  If you are unproductive with it, but still love it – keep up the fun times!  I wrote this mainly for people who are seeking a less connected life.  For people who want to focus on human connection, conversation, and interaction more than interaction with a screen.  So don’t be upset if this isn’t for you.  If it is, though, welcome to the show!

25 Replies to “I got rid of my smartphone”

    1. Your best friend, your lover, and your wife? You know you’re in trouble when you simultaneously piss off those three people!

  1. I have resisted a smart phone for financial reasons and finally purchased a basic LG the other day through Virgin.  I am sending it  back as I don’t want to have my head buried in a screen when I take my dog to the park and such. You know the other thing is my old flip phone just fits in my pocket easier and not so concerned about losing it.  Keeping my iPod Touch though for multi-tasking when watching the idiot box at home!  I found your blog as I was curious if anyone else had similar experience. 

    1.  I’m guessing you mean it was a basic Android phone from Virgin? I totally agree about not wanting to waste your life away in a 3.5″ screen. I keep my iPod touch, but only for music and photos – I’ve disabled all the internet/app functionality.

  2. I agree, My husband and I went out to dinner and I watched a gal at another table with 2 gentleman,  She couldn’t even eat her dinner for being on her phone ,  what a waste.  Visit with the people in front of you and put the Phone down and walk away

  3. I first had a Nokia 6190 with ATT. Then every Blackberry from old to New. Every platform of android then to the iphone4S. 2 months ago my daughter asked me “why do you hold me with one hand and your phone with the other” I called ATT they shipped me a 2G sim card again for the old Nokia and its been working great. People think I am on my desk phone because of the quality. I now think the networks are not degraded but manufactures are not trying to improve quality of the devices, they are just finding ways to make them cheaper. By the way my old Nokia 6190 with the monochrome screen says “Made in USA” under the battery. The Battery sayes made in Finland. You dont see that anymore. I have a Laptop when I need to use data. Family life with my 4 daughters has improved. My Daughters have accepted my challenge of dropping the iphones for 1 month. They are using Motorola V195s I got from recellular. We all are feeling more productive. WARNING the first week withraw is hard! Good Blog

  4. I have been using a smartphone for a little over 2 years now (most of that time with a cheap android smartphone) and I’m now in the process of getting rid of my iPhone. I’m deeply bothered by how attached I’ve gotten to my iPhone and the way it has weaved its way into my day to day life. Besides the endless supply of (mostly) useless apps the phone plan is very expensive (almost $100/month). I’ve realized that it’s largely for entertainment purposes. Companies like Apple, along with wireless providers want people to get completely hooked on this technology, and it has happened. Friends of mine are less interested in having conversations when we meet and are more interested in playing with their phones, checking email, tweeting, facebook, etc..People are literally living and conducting their lives online through their phones. It’s sickening. Technology has gone beyond just enhancing our lives to completely consuming it. As someone once said: “Technology…the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it.” Spot on. 

  5. (I know this is very late in the game to give my 3 cents worth, but here goes anyway) I totally hear what you are saying with the crack analogy. This is why I have had the phone providor disable my internet/data from their end. I still have texting as it is the main practical way to make plans with my friends, and for myself I don’t feel it is an issue. I actually had an Android without internet for several months, and I got a couple of calls from my service providor trying to upsell me to a data package, and I told the rep in no uncertain terms that under no circumstances do I want internet on my phone. I dropped my android and busted the screen, so I bought a cheap flip-phone outright and I really like it. I still have the old habit of pulling it out to check for texts every so often, but I think I can kill that habit as this one is way better at alerting me to new texts than either of my smart phones were. It is cheaper than a smart phone, but I find that it works better overall.
    As much as a like the internet and all the good things that go with it, I also recognize that there are a lot of downsides to being continuously connected. I see the way people rely on the internet to find out anything and everything, and even to augment their memories (you ever notice how people with constant access are always google the same things? I know I was). About half a year ago I took the step of removing internet from my house, and other than the odd time where it would be super convenient to have access to this and that RIGHT NOW, I don’t miss it. I am not wasting my days off browsing aimlessly reading crap that I don’t really care about – in fact, I think I have spent a lot more time with friends as a result of not having the constant companionship of the internet.
    As much as internet and technology can bring us a lot of good things, I think we need to strive for a balance in how we use technology, kind of like you see in Star Trek – super high tech devices, but people still read books, exercise and spend lots of time with friends without technology being a distraction. Indeed, we could certainly take a page from the Amish and carefully weigh what impact new technologys will have on our communities and relationships with one another before diving head-long into them. As for the direction our society actually seems to be headed with augmented reality… I fear for our youth. Despite loving technology, I think I am increasingly becoming something of a luddite in my approach to it.
    Anyway, I’m rambling… good to see like minded fellows out there who know how to use technology in moderation.

  6. I have been thinking of doing this for a few weeks now. In fact I am posting this from my Android… Shortly after waking up.

    I have been playing around with the cutting edge of tech since the Apple II days. Between turning the Internet into sky net and the loss of human interaction it’s time to take the plunge. I am going with the same krzr you recommended and falling all the way back to my sixteen year old desktop.

    These days it practically makes me Amish.

  7. Great blog.

    This morning when I was getting dressed, one hand going through the sleeve, the other reaching for the phone (which I’d just checked less than 5 minutes prior), I knew it was time.

    So I went to the AT&T store and bought a Pantech Breeze. It’s a major clunker lol… but I kind of view that as a bit of payment for the 9 months I allowed myself to get sucked into the always-connected never-alone addiction. I’m looking forward to having many pleasantly lonely moments in my head 🙂

    I announced it on Facebook and was met with silence. I told my husband and I can hear he’s less than pleased. It’s like all my friends are smokers and I just kicked the habit. Oh well. I won’t be as available, but I will be more present and that is a good thing for everyone involved.

    1. Actually, you can still be connected! I took it to the extreme, as I haven’t been on Facebook for over 6 years, but as far as communicating with friends, I still chat with them through email, SMS, Google Voice, etc. I just don’t respond RIGHT AWAY, the instant they contact me.

      So don’t worry – you can still be connected without a smartphone, but you’re totally going to feel the benefits that you’re already aware of, when you can wake up in the morning and just open the blinds, instead of hitting refresh 10 times – JUST in case!

  8. I loved reading this as I am considering giving up my iPhone and getti g a regular good ol, phone. That’s all. I’m finding I spend hours upon hours on my iPhone mesmerized by Instagram or fb or anything. If hate to see collectively how much time I’ve spent on it. Hell, I’m even writing this on my iPhone while I’m “relaxing” on my couch. Ironic. Thanks for the article

  9. I dunno. I have a smartphone. I can not use it when I’m doing other stuff. And, maybe my phone is different, but I use that magical device called the OFF button. Pure genius that thing, really… lqtm

  10. I read your article with intrigue after giving up my own smartphone a week ago after watching a fantastic video popular on social media here in the UK about not being glued to your internet devices. I do dearly hope that I do not “relapse”. I am a great believer in the free sharing of information and I love the power of the internet, but there is something about having instant access to the web at any time, anywhere that brings out an addictive nature in certain people and I am very glad to have recognised in myself and have ditched the smartphone. I got my first iPhone in 2011 and recently changed to a Nexus 5. I was constantly checking emails, FB, but more than anything, reading product reviews. I know its sad, but I became obsessed with deciding what car I was going to buy next (in 2 years time), what laptop I’d buy next, what phone, what watch…the list was endless.

    It is sad to think that I missed precious conversations with my wife, missed time with my toddler (although I was there and hiding the phone from his view, I wasn’t really there), but I am enjoying so much more time with the family and am getting so much more worthwhile stuff done. The internet has its place and that place is on the desk and to be used when actually needed, not just when you “want to check something”. I thought I’d find the transition hard, like a junkie coming off of dope but after a week I really don’t miss it at all.

    The decision was not at all financially motivated, I am very lucky to be in a good financial position, in fact I’d just shelled out £299 on a new off contract phone. My advice is, ask yourself if you have missed out on things like special moments with friend and family (especially children), have you not been fully engaged over dinner, or a vacation, or even just idle chat. Was it worth it? if the answer is no, just ditch the phone, whether you have a new contract, just bought it, or whatever, if you look back in 5 years time it will make complete sense.

    1. Well done, John! I’ve been about two or three years now without a smartphone, and at this point I don’t really even have a phone (I just use Skype + Google Voice). I love being present when I’m out and about, and I’m glad to hear you do too! Really great that you can realize now the time you miss with your loved ones when you’re always focused on the internet in your pocket.

  11. Casey,

    Thanks for this. I’m happy to see that you’ve continued going without a smartphone since writing this. Do you ever find it frustrating being amongst the zombie majority out in the streets … Or are you too busy admiring the clouds scudding across the sky? I’m thinking of ditching mine. Even at home alone it’s such a distraction. Even now I’m trying to read a book I love and am fascinated with and hanging to read but instead for the last 20 I’ve been on this bloody phone. I want to throw it across the room sometimes

    1. I did end up getting a smartphone about 3 weeks ago, actually, but not to worry! It doesn’t rule my life like they did three years ago and earlier. I needed a smartphone to make calls from multiple Google Voice accounts for the multiple businesses I run, and an Android phone was the only way to do that.

      However, I ended up getting a Moto G for $60 and flashing it to Page Plus on the $80/year plan, which includes no SMS and no data. So when I’m out and about, I have no connection to the internet. I have to have WiFi to use the internet, so most of the time I either just leave it at home or leave it in the car. It’s not as good as having no phone, but since it’s primarily a home WiFi phone, it’s still pretty close. 🙂

  12. Casey I never considered my life being taken over by technology, but after careful consideration. I rethought my life.

    I am going to join you in your quest. It is not about money with me either. I want to make a change in my life and maybe help the environment.

  13. I am getting rid of my smartphone as well, it’s an iPhone 5c and the contract will expire soon. I wanna get a motokrzr as well, Used to have the other version the razr about eight years ago, but the krzr looks better. I have an Android tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 tablet and I rarely take it out, there had been some addictions in tablets as well but more so in smartphones.

  14. Hi Casey,
    your blog really speaks to me. I have found myself at addicted level with my smartphone ( samsung galaxy s6). Most internet use on it is quite random and not productive at all. I want to be more mindful, more aware and less addicted so I have vowed to make the switch. Have bought a Nokia 515 and am waiting for full sized SIM card to replace Nano.
    I am about to boldly venture into Non Smartphone Territory. How long did it take you to get over withdrawal and feel positive changes?
    Best wishes
    Hugh

    1. It was pretty quick. I’d say about a week or so. I just used my laptop for everything I needed, and it was fantastic. I actually got over it so well (going about 3 years with no smartphone) that I now have one again, and I don’t overuse it.

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