Ditch your smart phone

Why do we find checking email and Twitter on our smart phones so compelling? The content of both is largely rather dull, and yet if you leave me alone in a pub for 30 seconds (literally) you'll catch me whipping out my iPhone and checking my email. I rarely realise I'm doing it.

Do I care whether I'm constantly up to date? No.

Do I crave validation, needing to know that somebody somewhere wants to communicate with me? Possibly, but it's unlikely.

Leave me alone again in this same pub and, not two minutes later, I will check my mail again. The phone is a diversion, soaking up time. Time that I could put to far better use.

There's something subliminal going on here, and it's stealing my life, eating away at my capacity for creative thought. How can we get this time back?

My solution

I'm ditching my iPhone. The only problem is that it's a genuinely useful piece of kit. I use it to:

  • Catch up with interesting articles (Instapaper) and news feeds (Reeder) while travelling.
  • Make notes on my laptop and sync them straight to my phone with Simplenote (very handy for work and shopping lists).
  • Find my way on Google maps, especially when I'm out of town.

Articles and notes don't need a 3G connection if you can sync the content onto your phone before hitting the road. The much slimmer (and cheaper) iPod touch would do the job brilliantly. Google maps obviously needs a mobile Internet connection, and I have to admit that being able to get online if necessary can very useful.

Enter [stage left] the Mi-Fi. It's a small wireless modem that gives you broadband access to the Internet via the 3G network. You can connect up to five devices at once, including your laptop and iPad. You can get them on contract (they need their own SIM card), but I bought mine on a pay as you go deal from 3. It cost me £70 (including 3GB of data).

When combined with an iPod touch (or tablet) the Mi-Fi makes a brilliant "only when required" mobile internet connection. The battery lasts 8 hours, and you can recharge it on a USB port.

So now all I need is a phone. My iPhone 3G is "okay", but it's not a great handset. It needs recharging daily. The call quality is poor and I'm often asking people to repeat themselves. Worst of all, when I'm carrying the iPhone I can't leave the Internet behind.

A simple Nokia handset is looking like the favourite option. I love the design and simplicity of the John's phone (especially the brown one), but would need to work out some way to receive text messages (John's phone can only handle calls). I'm hoping #blue will be able to help with that...

Update: I went ahead and tried this. Nine months later I wrote up how it went -- see Life without an iPhone.

Hat tip to Henry

I'd been considering the iPod touch and a new phone for a while, but last night I bumped into somebody who has already made the switch (and he's loving it). Shortly after we realised we'd come to similar conclusions (he has an iPod touch and a Mi-Fi), he turned to the bar to order more beer.

I reached (automatically) into my pocket for my phone and started checking my email. It was the last straw...

I love feedback and questions — please get in touch on Twitter or leave a comment.