I am aware, that while there is a trend towards smart-phones there are quite a few articles around on the subject of people swapping back to a dumb-phone or even using your smartphone as a dumphone. Apparently it can help your marriage.
I'm not that naive. Frankly, my reasons for swapping away from my smartphone is pretty pragmatic, it was simply a persistent call to mindless action. That I carried around in my pocket. Everywhere. I found myself in a constant state of half-living, meaning half of my mind is on the present moment and the other half on a device. I've flipped to it when I'm communicating with people, commuting or even watching TV. Apparently TV is no longer enough of a distraction for this half-living brain I seem to have developed.
Sure I could just not use those features, like the Gizmodo article I linked to. I tried this, and cut pretty much everything but the useful stuff out of my phone, it boiled down to maps, public transport apps, RunKeeper and Whatsapp. However, I still constantly found myself in a tug of war where I would uninstall, then re-install browsers for an information fix. Just because it was easy and I could. It got to the point where I discovered a really small(100KB or so) browser so I could get my internet fix even faster. I realised my phone wasn't giving me enough benefit for the mental costs. Maybe I'm particularly weak, I'm sure others can happily keep their smart-phones at a healthy distance, but I accepted that I simply couldn't.
As soon as I realised I hadn't the ability to distance myself from my phone and that this was negatively effecting my mindfulness, I needed to figure out a way solve this. What I wanted to do was maintain some of the useful benefits of a smart-phone minus the distractions. Taking a cold hard look at the realistic benefits I got from my phone really helped.
The features I wanted(not needed) started with GPS-based maps of some sort. London is big, without GPS maps I knew I'd spend a lot of time getting lost, which isn't so bad sometimes but maps are essential when I need to be at a place at a certain time, which happens quite often. I also use RunKeeper a lot and enjoyed looking at my stats and progress, it wasn't a deal-breaker but I worried about my motivation to run. The same with can be said for using Sleep as Android which I used for logging sleep patterns. I like being able to view how many hours I'm sleeping each night, it's a very useful to me and has generally improved my wellbeing. Finally, as I'm a contractor, I spend a lot of time taking photos of receipts for expenses etc, I've found Evernote really useful for this. Eventually, I decided to get myself a Symbian, so a half smart/dumb-phone. Specifically the Nokia 6730. Essentially because it supports 3G and GPS. Symbian also supported Whatsapp, Viber, Endomondo(no RunKeeper unfortunately) and even Evernote. I also picked up a FitBit One, for exercise and sleep logging.
- I don't browse anymore, ever. Frankly, browsing the web is so painful to do on this phone I've tried once, got nowhere and never again.
- The OVI store is terrible. It doesn't even save my username and password, and typing those in on this device is enough of a reason never to install another app.
- Google Maps/GPS has been better than I expected. Basically, there's a little more typing but the GPS/maps combo has been spot on for me.
- Endomondo has been terrific. Granted you can't multi-task with it, so if you get lost you need to stop your run, check your map and start another run. I still thing it's great. I even contributed some code to an app that allows you to convert your RunKeeper data to Endomondo. You can grab it here.
- I also discovered SoundHound is on here, a nice to have little discovery.
- My phone is no longer a thing. It's a boring piece of tech in the background. When I need to get in touch with someone, odds are I'll just call them. No twitter, email or facebook. It is just a phone with a few bells and whistles.
- The Fitbit sleep logging shows a little timer of how long I've slept, I found this quite useful if I've woken up too early.
- The Fitbit hasn't been very useful. I could've survived without the sleep logging and it doesn't really capture runs properly. It's trying more to be an overall health system and one that requires a smartphone so you can input a ton of data into. How much water you drink, what calories your taking in etc etc. I didn't need any of this. In hindsight I wouldn't have bothered with it.
- The Evernote client also didn't support my phone. This is quite annoying, it means I can't in the moment grab useful data or take quick snapshots and have them backed up. But the phone's camera is decent enough, so I'm hoping I'll work out a different alternative.
- Viber didn't actually support my phone, not a big deal. That's about it really. I've been using my dumb-phone for the last few weeks, and I haven't really missed my Samsung SIII, other than Evernote really. Honestly, considering how distracted I was with the phone I thought it would be a much more difficult transition. I guess because I'd reduced my smart-phone down to the bare essentials as it was, I wasn't losing a tremendous amount of features. It genuinely looks like the future of my phone tech is going to be a crappy 4 year old phone running an even crappier 13 year old operating system.
February 28, 2014 – Counterfeit Update - I'm still using my dumb-phone and loving it. In fact, one Saturday I trialled using my Samsung S3 for a day and couldn't stand it, I constantly kept checking it and that drove my crazy. Giving it away as a gift.