Being Smarter with my Smartphone

Since it is apparent that a smartphone will be a part of my life I now must make sure that it adds positively to my enjoyment of life and does not distract from it. The main problem with my smartphone is games. I only play a few minutes here and there but the few minutes occupies space that far more important items could be occupying. The games also tend to keep me awake longer at night. I deleted all games off of the phone last night. Let’s see how this goes.

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30 Days Without a Smartphone

Yesterday marked 30 days since I gave up my iPhone. I knew that I was attached to the phone but have been surprised at how attached I was to it. My positive and negative experiences are as follows:

Positive:

  • Pain relief. My hands and shoulders don’t constantly hurt and my neck is much less painful than before.
  • I am not constantly on a game, looking up a meme, checking email, or otherwise distracted.
  • I am more present when I am somewhere. I focus more on the people and things around me.
  • I have accomplished more of worth in the past thirty days than in the six months prior to that.
  • I discovered the value of a dedicated GPS. It is much less distracting than using the iPhone for the same purpose.
  • My phone lasts for days without being recharged.
  • Using a paper planner keeps me from having an endless to-do list.
  • I discovered that not every moment needs to be photographed.
  • Checking off a paper to-do is more satisfying than checking off one on Todoist. With Todoist it just disappears and Todoist’s options for viewing the completed tasks on a project aren’t as good as I would like to see.
  • I get tired of forwarding unimportant tasks so they eventually get dropped.
  • Nobody can hack my paper planner unless they physically get possession of it. Once something is stored on the net it is there basically forever.
  • My current phone was about $44 but a new iPhone can run $700. I left the dumb phone visible in the car yesterday by mistake and was not the least bit concerned about anyone stealing it. With the iPhone, I would have gone out of the store and retrieved it.
  • I feel freer than I did before. Like I have stepped off of the treadmill and am refusing to play the phone and tech companies games.

 

Negative

  • People don’t pay $700 plus monthly fees just because smartphones look cool. They are powerful tools that are not going away anytime soon.
  • Finding information about things and places is more difficult. The GPS has far less information and places in it than Google Maps does.
  • Paper is limited. My Todoist task list is infinitely flexible. Everything can be captured including every step of a project.
  • I have hundreds of passwords and contacts stored electronically and have had many instances where needed information was not there when I needed it.
  • Siri will read books and web pages to me while I do something else but my Kindle will not do that. The true value of Kindle to me is that Siri will read me the book. It is the only way I got through Dune and Moby Dick a few months ago.
  • The Kindle reader on the iPhone is better in many ways than the actual Kindle.
  • My paper day planner does not do Evernote so much information is missing.
  • Communication has been more difficult as I can’t get attachments or some text messages.
  • I can’t look up where an item is on the store app when I am in a big box store or read reviews on the product while I am looking at it in the store.
  • Living without a smartphone takes more advanced planning as the information is not always available in the moment.
  • Things stored in the cloud don’t usually get misplaced or left in a shopping cart at the store.

 

So where to go from here? I wanted to go at least thirty days and I’ve now done that. However, research indicates that breaking an addiction longer takes longer than thirty days. How long exactly is subject to debate. I have also found workarounds for many of the problems encountered so far and expect more workarounds to be implemented that will make it easier to continue without a smartphone.

I have been unemployed for the past seven months and have been at home. On Monday I start a new job. The communication challenge of being away from my wife and from my desktop computer will be greater without an iPhone. An iPhone can also allow me to listen to books and podcasts during the commute. Going back to the iPhone is tempting.

An iPad may offer the benefits of the phone without some of the negatives but due to cost, that possibility is on hold for now. For today at least I am resisting the call of the “ring” and continuing without the smartphone. So far, the positives of doing without the smartphone outweigh the negatives.

Life Without a Smartphone: Day 26

I heard a radio article interviewing the guy that gave this TED Talk about machine learning. Add machine learning to the fact that Apple, Google, Amazon, the phone companies, and other online data collectors literally know our every move, every purchase, and virtually every thought is extremely scary stuff. If they have it, governments have it or could have it very quickly. The Terminator could show up in the not so distant future. The future will probably look more like 1984 than Terminator where the political elite will simply gain more control over the rest of us.

My using or not using a smartphone won’t change the future as they can get all the data they need from other sources. I’m not advocating living in the Idaho wilderness without power, doctors, or toilet paper. People and groups that live apart and refuse to change just make themselves targets and don’t change the course of history.

It is becoming clear that life without a smartphone is not something I can sustain without difficulty. My eyes and neck were hurting today and I haven’t used a smartphone or tablet in some time. Once I decide to end this experiment, I’ll keep a positive outlook and use this technology for all its worth with a new appreciation of its addictive power and hopefully greater mastery of the technology.

 

Life Without a Smartphone: Days 22-25

Going to sleep is easier without the blue screen distractor. I went to bed early two days ago but due to my regular schedule and the unprocessed caffeine from the soda I drank earlier I could not go to sleep. I read until I was tired, then laid in bed looking up into the darkness and thinking. Some productive thoughts and ideas came to me. Previously I would have been playing World of Tanks Blitz or Boom Beach on the phone.

The modern first world ceramic reading throne has been used to read National Geographic, This Old House magazine, books, and other productive items rather than playing games or looking up useless things on the internet.

The past 25 days have been the most productive and focused 25 days in years but it has not been all good. Paper just can’t organize the way the electronic tools can. Every day is precious. Life is so very brief. Even the folks that live to old age have so little time. I wish to waste no more of my time on trivial things.

Life Without a Smartphone: Day 22

It has been about three days since I charged my phone and it still has a full charge.

I am already planning how to reintegrate either an iPad or iPhone back into my life. They are simply too powerful to not use them. The trick will be to gain the benefits and minimize the negatives.

It seems that I’m not alone with the tech neck or text neck problem.

Life Without a Smartphone Days 16 – 20

The major events in these days were that my son and I packed for and went on a campout with our Boy Scout Troop, I prepared for and gave a 12-minute talk in sacrament meeting (The main worship service in a typical LDS Sunday meeting), and we had a family gathering for Easter Sunday.

The LDS church has lay clergy and no paid ministers so as a member you are occasionally asked to speak in sacrament meeting.

 

View fro atop the dune at Bruneau
The view from one of the large dunes at Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park in Idaho

 

The good and not so good of not having a smartphone were as follows:

Good:

  • My hands continue to improve though my right hand still hurts most likely because of using my trackball computer mouse.
  • I can only write so much on paper so the todo list does not become unlimited.
  • The paper map I printed of the park where we went was faster and easier to read than the version I would have been looking at on the phone.
  • The phone battery lasted the whole camping trip with no need for recharging the battery. I even left the big spare battery home that has been a part of the luggage for a long time.
  • The GPS worked just fine but there was no cellular service where we were.
  • I had a trusty Rand McNalley atlas with no need for batteries in case the GPS died. This is not really an advantage as I carry one anyway.
  • My packing list is a sheet on Google Drive. I printed the sheet and put it in my planner which was easier than trying to use Google Sheets on the phone.
  • Without the ability to look up things once there I had to look up more in advance.
  • I had to use the computer to look up things that would have been looked up on the phone and the computer is much more ergonomic than the iPhone.
  • My neck pain is lessening.
  • The 20-day experiment provided some of the subject matter for my Sacrament talk. We can miss spiritual impressions due to digital distractions.

Not so good:

  • Most of my phone numbers were in the planner when I needed some of them. However, this was a moot point as there was no cell service in the rural location anyway.
  • The Xpression 2’s camera is not nearly as good as my iPhone SE’s camera and does not link to Apple Photos.
  • Several people texted me media content that I could not read.
  • Since all of my contacts are in Apple Contacts I usually don’t know who is calling or texting me and I have no desire to enter all of the names into the phone’s address book.
  • Google Maps is more detailed than the maps on the GPS but again without cellular service that didn’t matter on this trip.

Summary:

Despite a few minor annoyances, I was better off without the iPhone. It is a strange paradox that I am more productive without one of the greatest productivity tools ever to be invented.

Perhaps it is as Hans Hoffman said, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”