Why I'm Glad My Smartphone Broke

In November, I dropped my iPhone 4 while running, and the screen broke. My first instinct was to go and buy the new iPhone 5, but before doing that, I decided to have go without a smartphone for at least a month to find out how much I really depended on it.

I've been a smartphone user for about five years. I started with the iPhone 3, grew to the 3GS and later to the iPhone 4. I was well on my way to get the iPhone 5 when my iPhone 4 broke. Looking back, I appreciate that it broke.

Unplugging

In contemporary life with smartphones and computers, we're always connected. During waking hours I was available on Facebook, Twitter, email, iMessage, my phone, Hipchat, Skype and in person. Although I disabled push notifications early on, I was still present most places. A few spare minutes would usually result in checking my email, Twitter, and Facebook. I was a little bit everywhere, all the time. But not truly anywhere.

Without the temptation available from my pocket, I feel like I am more present being wherever I am. Now I was certainly no addict, but it's led to a small freedom I encourage you to experience. I've realised that not being constantly plugged in has notable benefits. When I am not on my computer, only my immediate friends and coworkers will be able to reach me by phone. My smartphone helped fill little voids of time with mindless entertainment and shifted me away from the context of whatever I just did and was about to do, silently replacing what I see as mandatory reflection. This context switching I found to play a larger role than I thought. It's been rewarding to indulge more into my own thoughts and reflections, in lieu of attempting to occupy every gap of time with Angry Birds, news and tweets.

Concerns

I had a few concerns when I went back to my Nokia brick:

No camera. While I've never taken many pictures, I liked my sporadic Instagram posts. When I go travelling, I've always liked to have just a dozen pictures to reflect back on the trip. Perhaps it's time I just borrow a camera when I go travelling. Or just use none at all. I will figure this out when I go travelling.

No music. Frequently when I walk, I like to have music in my ears to ease the experience. However, I decided not to buy an iPod. Since I got rid of my iPhone, I have definitely missed this, however, most of the time when I really want music, I'm sitting down, able to use my computer. I found that walking to school without music wasn't scary at all. Just as I started running without music a good year before my iPhone broke — it gets you out of your bubble and lets you experience your surroundings. Of course, sometimes it's nice to just leave yourself out. Currently, I have no plans to buy an iPod.

No maps. I used Maps on my iPhone a lot — when visiting friends, travelling, and using public transport. My sense of direction is decent, so I thought getting back into relying on myself and improve these capabilities wouldn't be so terrible. I've found that having no GPS in my pocket requires more planning. Generally it has not been a problem. In foreign countries where I need this the most, I use physical maps anyhow, since data costs are still ridiculous. There's usually nothing wrong with asking a stranger or calling whoever you are visiting anyway.

Unexpected Discoveries

Three months of using an old phone led to some more unexpected discoveries.

I've started calling people more. On an iPhone, texting is extremely convenient. Since I switched to my ancient Nokia phone, I've found myself calling people more simply because it's more accommodating. It's funny how little I called people on my iPhone, and how surprised parts of my generation is when they receive a call. I have rediscovered the core functions of my phone, by indulging in pleasant conversations with people I used to just text, improved arrangements and generally had more fun communicating.

I don't care for my phone anymore. I just drop it into a pocket in my bag and go. This means I carry nothing in my pockets anymore. I have nothing to distract myself, and for odd reasons, that makes me feel free. No longer do I have to check where my phone is before going to sleep. I just don't care for it, since it's not an expensive item anymore that shouldn't get scratches. The fewer things I have to worry about, the better.

My concerns were mostly right, but I can live without these things. The concerns listed in the previous sections were right. I do miss having a camera, I do miss music, and I do miss maps. However, I also found that I can live without these things. That appeals to me, and is a major pro for me. It's handy to have all these things in one device, but for now, the pros outweigh the cons for me.

Not Going Back... For Now

Currently I do not see any convincing reason for me to go back to getting a smartphone. It was funny to observe how natural it feels to have such a powerful device always in your pocket, and how dependent I was on it. How natural it would have felt to pitch in $US1000 for a new phone. In many ways, a smartphone has become a mandatory extension of the mind. But I feel it has had no major impact on my life to leave it behind. I have come to deeply enjoy to being completely plugged out when I am not at my computer. I enjoy not always being up to date, and not having one more expensive item to worry about. It is a small temptation in your pocket that can make you lose focus on the people you're around. Only charging my phone every second weekend is an amazing feat too. I challenge you to ditch your smartphone for a month and write about it.

Why I'm glad my iPhone broke [Sirupsen]

Simon Hørup Eskildsen is a student, Ruby developer and competitive programmer. He loves walruses, and optimising and simplifying things. Follow him on Twitter @sirupsen.


Comments

    you can have a screen repair for ~$100.
    this article just proves your lack of self control
    when you had the iPhone working.

    Yawn, another article where the author talks all about how they have no self-control whatsoever but pretend it's actually about the phone. Utterly pointless, except for the fact that that it (misleadingly) counts as "content" in a report to someone.

      The problem is, no one has self control, including you.

      What's the longest you've gone without checking your phone during the day? An hour? Half an hour?

      Better check it quick, there might be a call from the President... or... someone really important!

        Two or three hours (or longer) if I'm on a shoot or doing something that dictates I don't check it. I check it when I get opportunities, I don't make opportunities to check it.

    Different to the negative comments so far, I quite enjoyed the perspective of this article. Have been weighing up the budget along with the fact my current Android phone is slowing down in its old age. I'd like to thank the author for sharing their thoughts, as it has given a different perspective from the "quick, go get the new one" articles. I, too, have been thinking "Do I really need the new phone or is the money better spent elsewhere". I must admit, though, I would REALLY miss maps. Having GPS on my phone has revolutionised my life, as I am hopeless when it comes to my sense of direction.

    I hear you Simon. Cudos.

    I grew up without a phone in my pocket, without computers and even for the most part without TV's. I spent my childhood climbing things, reading books and often, when I was outcast by my peers for being a book worm I used to climb things to find a place to read books.

    When computers first popped into my peripheral vision in 1977 (my science teachers mail order, self assembled, punch card driven, assembler language reading Altair 8800 clone) I was hooked.
    When I saw a guy playing Collosal Caverns on a TRS-80 (mid eighties) he was my new bestus friend.
    When I finally got my own first PC (386sx with 9600 baud modem) it opened a door I never wanted to close. From hand-me-down PC parts to laptops to tablets to phones (hurry up with the Nexus 4 dammit Google!), the progression in computing power has been every bit as awesome and inspiring as the sci fi I used to read as a kid.

    But sometimes I wonder what it's like growing up without ever seeing that progression, without having experienced anything but instant on, always available sensory stimulation, easy answers and peer pressure.

    It's good that your tryng something new Simon, that your exploring the world without the intellectual walking frame that is the modern PC. Like a workout at the gym it's hard at first but before you know it you'll discover cognative functions you never knew you had.
    Harder better faster stronger. ;)

    I do miss having a camera, I do miss music, and I do miss maps.

    Why deprive yourself of things you want? Even if you can "live without them" you seem to want them so why not have them? This is just senseless.

      Exactly! If Angry Birds is the problem, don't install it. I have a smartphoe in my pocket and 90% of it's usage is exactly the same as it was when I had a feature phone. I often leave it at home when I feel like it and never miss it when I do.

    Interesting article Simon. I've spent years aquiring the skills of the Alexander Technique (to my satisfaction) and my observations are little different to yours namely; people tend to be 'in the device' rather than self -aware. T'm trying to come up with an app which encourages 'good use' in text entry. This is an AT term implying enhanced awareness in all activities. As it is we have the anomoly of using a 21C device but in a way which would be familiar to someome (typist anyhow) from the horse and cart era. Maybe this is why technology can 'bore the tits' of anyone but intractable nerds.. .

    I enjoyed this article also as I still have a very basic old mobile but am tempted by the undoubted attractions of smartphones. I'm a bit wary about about devoting a further chunk of my life to another screen however due to how addictive they seem to be. A friend was in a restaurant in Hong Kong recently and everyone apparently was using their phone rather than talking and socialising - progress?

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