Life without an iPhone

Nine months ago I realised I was spending my life keeping up with "crap on the Internet". I ditched my iPhone, bought an iPod Touch, a cheap Nokia phone, and loaded up Instapaper with interesting things to read. There was enough interest in how my experiment would work out to warrant a follow up, and this is it. Am I more productive? Am I happier?

My hardware

I bought a 16GB iPod Touch, a Nokia C1-01 handset (£30 from Carphone Warehouse) and a Mi-Fi wireless modem from 3 (£70 including three months of free data, followed by £10 a month pay-as-you-go top ups).

I'm very happy with the iPod Touch. Battery life is excellent compared to an iPhone, and I actually use it to listen to music (I've always been nervous about microwave radiation when using headphones with smart phones).

The Nokia handset is fine, but I'm told the call quality isn't that great (that's what I get for paying £30 – if you pay more you get great call quality in a Nokia handset). Sadly Nokias aren't a patch on the iPhone if you need to send a lot of text messages.

The Mi-Fi modem is excellent. The battery only lasts for 8 hours so I only turn it on when I need it, but on longer journeys you can charge it from a USB socket. I've only bought connectivity when I've been travelling away from home. It's well worth the £10 for conferences or holidays, but when I'm just out and about during the day I don't need or use it.

I'm writing this post on a train. The modem is in my bag, turned off, and I'm more productive as a result. If going online was any easier than pulling my bag down from the overhead storage, digging around for the modem and turning it on, I'd be browsing the web right now. As it is I've already written one blog post, and am onto my second. Go me.

Dealing with email

One of the reasons I gave for wanting to get rid of my iPhone was my tendency to continually check my email. It had become a depressing habit.

Email can always wait until you're back at your desk, and I'm enjoying dealing with it more since I imposed some constraints. Tim Ferris points out that you achieve more if you start the day by getting on with your work instead of reading your email. He suggests checking email twice a day, once at noon and again at 4pm.

It works.

Sometimes I forget, but on the days that I remember it's very effective. Twice a day is more than frequent enough to respond to an "urgent" request (if somebody has a truly urgent request, they'll call you).

Getting more out of Twitter

I also spend less time reading Twitter. I use Twitter as a personal news feed that keeps me up to date on what's going on in the development/design community.

My Twitter stream always contains plenty of brilliant articles, but absentmindedly flipping through tweets while queueing at a bar is a terrible way to find good content. These days I spend 15 minutes a day cherry picking the best links from my stream and save them all to Instapaper. If you have an iPad, Flipboard is a great app for this job – it can filter your tweets and hide all the tweets that don't contain a link.

I used to spend too much time reading about people's "current status" on Twitter (oooh, look, here's a crap picture of my lunch!). Now I'm getting a lot more out of it, and am able to share the best stuff with my followers.

In summary

Do I have more free time? No. If anything I'm busier than I was before, but there's no doubt that I'm achieving more. Using Instapaper and Things to act on the articles I read has a lot to do with that.

Many of the articles that I save to Instapaper from Twitter and Reeder are read during lunch or over coffee on the iPod. Making better use of that time was the whole point of the exercise, so I'm considering the experiment to be a massive success.

You're probably wondering whether I'd like to get an iPhone 4S. I would, but I think I'll only be happy with it now that I've spent the last nine months teaching myself how to get the most out of this kit.

When all's said and done, it's about self discipline.

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