Make the smartphone dumb again

Posted on Thu 05 November 2020 in Digital Minimalism

I have terrible, terrible impulse control. I cannot stop using my phone as a distraction tool. I simply cannot. We can discuss willpower, or being a better person, but they don’t work. I have no willpower and remain a terrible person despite how hard I try. If my phone can do something to distract me, I will use it, a lot. Then the loathing sets in.

So I needed to turn my super sweet iPhone into something entirely distraction-less and boring, it’s that, or I throw my phone away(which I’ve seriously considered but without Whatsapp I just cannot communicate easily with my family and that is not something I want to add friction to).

So here’s my approach to blocking the noise. (Note: This if for iPhone, I’m sure Android can do something similar, it’s not like the bulk of Google’s revenue is tied to you constantly engaging with their services).

What has been disabled/uninstalled from my Phone?


App Store



Social Networks

Todo Apps

Habit Apps

Reading Apps


Any app that nags me for anything that isn’t very important.

All noise that just does not add value to my life.

What remains on my Phone?



Podcasts(limit of 3 for now)

Journal(Day One)

Banking Apps

Apple Health



So basically boring tools and Whatsapp. Nothing here would particularly compel me to check my phone every ten minutes for any sort of update.

How do I disable stuff and keep them disabled?

This is all great, but I’m a terrible person and once I’ve uninstalled all of that stuff, I’m basically going to re-installed it all in 5 minutes when terrible me reappears. My solution is lock myself out of my own phone. Find someone you trust (or if you want these restrictions for life, someone who hates you) for this process. Here’s how.

  1. Uninstall all of the distracting, time-wasting apps you want to remove.
  2. Under Settings, in “Content and Privacy Restrictions”, enable it.
  3. Get your friend/enemy to set a password that you don’t know but that they will remember.
  4. Under “Allowed Apps”, disable Safari.
  5. Under “Content Restrictions”, disable installing apps.
  6. Search “Color Filters” in Settings and turn on “Greyscale”

Woo! We have a drab boring soulless rectangle that gives me exciting access to my bank.


So we can talk about getting rid of all of this stuff, but in the end, if you don’t come up with replacements to that pull for distraction you’re likely going to crack, beg your friend for the password and reinstall again. I did, many times. What I needed was replacements and these seem to have tenuously worked pretty well so far for me.

My replacements are mostly a kindle and a notebook. Kindle to keep me entertained when my brain, you know, starts to contemplate things like life and its lack of meaning or cancer or why good things happen to bad people. The notebook is for habit reminders, todos and when I get that pull towards the rectangle to search for a thing. When I’m drawn to research something, instead of the usual reinstall-fest, I write it down what I want in my notebook and look it up later on a laptop if it still matters(it often doesn’t).