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I recently switched from a Samsung Galaxy S8 to a refurbished iPhone SE. At first, the degraded experience in terms of screen real estate/resolution/brightness, processing power, camera quality and overall “shiny object” effect has made me feel far less compulsion to keep checking it. The lack of a notification LED, my habit of keeping it on silent mode at all times and finer-grained control offered by the OS have also contributed in fewer interruptions because of notifications.

This has led me to realise just how glued to this thing I used to be, and I want out. No more checking my work inbox at night, no more constantly refreshing RSS feeds just for the sake of novelty when I have 100 unread articles on my Instapaper, no more quickly replying to Slack while I’m on lunch break, no more pointlessly fiddling with a device just because it’s shiny and expensive.

For those of you who’ve felt remotely the same, have you taken the plunge and ditched your smartphone? If not, why? If so, how do you not lose touch with friends and family?


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    My approach to smartphones (and a lot of other technology) has been to hold off adoption as long as possible. I got my first smartphone around 2013 - it was an old iPhone 4S. I’m up to iPhone 5 at this point, and it still does most things I want. Since I haven’t used the fancy new phones, there’s nothing to miss! Sure, I’d like to try augmented reality apps, but I don’t think it’s worth buying a new phone just for that (especially since they’re unlikely to do anything particularly useful at this point).

    I keep in touch with family via WhatsApp, and I email those friends I can’t meet in person. I guess it helps that all of my friends are used to email.

    This year, I got rid of Facebook and stopped reading the Twitter timeline, realising that I hardly had any meaningful interactions there, I just wasted a lot of time. I don’t have notifications for anything, either on the phone or on the laptop (when I used Slack for work, I had notifications enabled, and I really disliked them). I also removed the badges with the number of emails etc. I still check my email too much.

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      I use a dumb phone.

      A phone is for urgent contact. Email is at the work desk. Chat is at the work desk. When I’m idling, I take out my e-reader and read a book. When I walk around, my eyes are scanning the environment to keep my situational awareness up. When I have dinner, I just eat.

      The only time my smartphone is online is when I am traveling and I need to check in via a wireless/cellular network.

      It is funny because when I was younger the ‘normals’ used to make fun of me for being on the computer a lot but now the table has turned, and they have now instead decided that not being in front of a computer all the time is a ‘weird’ thing. They were on mindless TV then and are on mindless social media now and they don’t like it when I don’t join them in this brain-melting process.

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        Excellent point about being constantly in front of a computer, haha

        I use a dumb phone

        The only time my smartphone is online…

        Do you mean you own two devices or that you mostly use your smartphone as a dumbphone?

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          now the table has turned

          Exactly. Same experience I had. Also like your characterization that they kept with the mindless stuff when they got on board. I was trying to sell them on what one could create and do before rather than consume.

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          I stopped carrying mine around, don’t really miss it at all.

          1. 5

            I’m addicted to my phone. But using my phone doesn’t make me happy. Even instant contact with my loved ones doesn’t bring joy; rather, it’s our shared experiences. My phone helps me coordinate and plan so I can live my real life.

            I’m using the smallest supported form-factor device supported by my manufacturer of choice. My policy:

            • Permanently in silent mode
            • No notifications
            • Uninstall all unnecessary apps

            I systematically delete every unnecessary app or not-in-use account. This includes manufacturer supplied apps like Mail or Music. This includes real-life accounts like bank accounts, phone numbers, loyalty cards, etc. What remains?

            1. Alarm Clock
            2. Calendar
            3. Camera
            4. Maps
            5. Notes
            6. Reminders
            7. Web Browser
            8. Password Manager
            9. Mandarin Dictionary
            10. Chat (third-party, as not everyone is in the same walled garden)

            For those of you who’ve felt remotely the same, have you taken the plunge and ditched your smartphone? If not, why? If so, how do you not lose touch with friends and family?

            I got this same question when I ditched social media. And I’ve ditched my smartphone multiple times— not always by choice. 😉

            I’ve gotten closer to my loved ones every time I’ve removed a form of intermediation. This is virtuous cycle. My relationship with my family— despite living on the other side of the planet from them— is the healthiest it has ever been in my adult life. I replaced watching them on the Internet with being in-person with them.

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              I curate things which might send notifications. It is, for all intents and purposes, calls, Signal/SMS, and alarms. I don’t check it compulsively because it would be a very busy day if I got a half-dozen notifications. There are no social media apps, IM apps or email on my phone. The most interesting thing on it is Mini Metro, which I’m probably going to remove because it’s not as mindless as I had hoped.

              I actually had email on my phone at one point, but I removed it for a reason orthogonal to distraction: my phone is almost certainly the least secure device I own, so as a matter of personal policy, I keep secrets such as email account passwords off of it. I don’t get that many interesting emails (security mailing lists are mostly boring and very rarely extremely exciting), so I never found it unduly distracting.

              I don’t really have advice other than to identify and cull distractions.

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                I upgraded from a “dumb phone” to an OpenMoko FreeRunner 10 years ago, and haven’t used any other phone since. It does calls and SMS, and I can browse the Web over WiFi if needed (it might support mobile data, but AFAIK my SIM only supports WAP). I often carry it around, but mostly don’t bother. It’s usually turned off, since I don’t like being tracked. It’s useful if someone wants to pre-arrange a call, or I know I’ll need to coordinate with someone.

                People keep trying to give me their “old” phones, but I don’t accept them as they’re downgrades in terms of privacy and freedom. I’m interested to see how the Purism phone works out, since I think that will have better isolation between the motherboard and the modem (the one component of the FreeRunner which has a binary blob driver). The hardware kill switches seem like a nice feature too (I hope the speaker has one, since malware can co-opt them into being microphones).

                I’ve never used Facebook, MySpace, Instagram, etc. so couldn’t comment on them. I did use Twitter for a while, since their terms used to be reasonable, and I could use an XMPP bridge rather than visiting their Web site. I quit after they met with the UK government in 2011 to discuss whether to shut down in ‘times of crisis’. It looks like they changed their terms of use soon after, banning a bunch of the third party apps which made it useful.

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                  I don’t have a smartphone. Never did. My dumbphone is almost always out of power.

                  As it turns out, if you never do the motion of going back, you’ll meet little resistance. E-mail still exists. I end up meeting people more often than others do, just because it’s the best remaining way to catch up and all. I, for one, like that state of affairs.

                  If the situation arises that I’ll have to get a smartphone, I’d probably go with Apple’s iPhone line. And that purely for having the better security track record than Android-based devices. I’m not looking forward to tossing it every couple of years for a newer model because Apple drops updates again, however.

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                    I don’t have a phone. I had a dumbphone for a while because a girlfriend wanted to contact me on it, but I stopped using it after I broke up with her.

                    I don’t want a phone again, and I definitely do not want a pocket computer. I manage just fine, although sometimes I have to manage people’s expectations about me and explain that I don’t have a phone. Thus, appointments are made and kept, no last-minute cancellations from either side without extenuating circumstances. One consequence of not having a pocket computer, I think, is that there are a lot less emergencies.

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                      Mid-2017 I realised I was super miserable from everything I was reading and went cold turkey on social media for a couple weeks. This helped me identify what I really missed, and what I was just addicted to.

                      For keeping in touch with family, I only have the Messenger app installed, no FB app. I end up only opening FB about once a week or so. I’ve also started agressively unfollowing stuff on social media. RSS feeds that don’t bring me that much useful stuff: gone. Only have good stuff left (that’s the theory at least). Political twitter in particular is almost never worth following, because most stuff will be summarised in the papers 12 hours later. Agressive unfollowing of people.

                      I try to identify things that feel like a chore. Scrolling through FB and muting stuff that I’m tired of seeing made me realise how much of my behaviour was just addictive. Turning off almost all notifications from apps is also helpful. Also agressively unsubscribing from mailing lists that are just kinda interesting. Not worth it. Admitting I won’t read the Obama interview from Jan 2017 in my Instapaper.

                      Basically getting rid of as much stuff as possible until you’re only left with what you really really care about. And fighting FOMO as hard as possible.

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                        I’m on iPhone and I’ve turned off all notifications except for messaging apps, which are allowed to display badges (I don’t get a whole lot of messages). My phone is always on mute. I believe my ability to focus for long periods has been negatively impacted by the constant temptation to check my favorite sites. I virtually never use FB or Instagram anymore. I like HN’s anti-procrastination features and I wish every site had that (they would hurt most of their business models, I guess) so I’m looking at apps (like Freedom?) which can help with that. It’s not just phone for me, I have the same problems on laptop - constantly checking Hipchat, for example. Though when I do get into a flow state I’m usually fine.

                        1. 3

                          My phone has 2-fa token apps, signal (for texting/calls with wife) and slack (for work)

                          1. I don’t trust the phone, don’t store anything important on it (passwords, gpg keys, ssh keys, email)
                          2. I don’t use it for anything except making calls, texting, making an occasional photo for later reference
                          3. I have no apps that could disturb me, slack is set to only send notifications on mentions and direct messages which rarely happens
                          4. It’s a cheap phone but rugged (so it can survive the dog walks and an occasional drop in the mud)

                          It’s not sexy, cool or anything so I almost never use it - only when needed and even then I still hate it. I started falling back more to reliable technology - to such a level that I often even forget to take the phone with me (which is liberating).

                          The biggest things that reduced my phone usage however are:

                          1. I started using a dead tree A5 daily calendar, my shopping lists go into it on post-it notes when I’m going out the house.
                          2. I bought a g-shock watch - try it (any watch) you will be amazed how many times you start using the phone when all you wanted initially was just checking the time…
                          1. 3

                            I’ve had a lot of luck making my phone progressively more boring over time: stopping notifications, then axing social apps, and deleting any other time-sucking apps.

                            The final boss of my iPhone is Safari. I’m not sure what to do about it; having an unrestricted web browser is handy sometimes. I don’t feel super bad about it; I read Reddit/Lobsters some, but also a lot of papers on it. I really like the fact that I can work my way through a paper with a device that fits in my pocket.

                            I just started using Moment as a way to track phone usage. Seems good!

                            1. 2

                              Over the last few months I had actually had a quite a lot of stuff going on with my phone, I had matrix notifications, email notifications as well as sms and calls. I also had notifications from facebook, my calendar and my various mastodon accounts and a few of the google apps.

                              This week I decided to cut down on a lot of these as part of lowering my mobile fees. So I got a jmp.chat account and switched my 60$/month mobile contract for a flex data only tablet plan (as low as 5$/month but probably will end up costing me more around 15$/month, they allow you to byod and the sim card worked out of the box on my phone). Now the 15$/month tier is 1GB a month compared to my old 3GB per month plan and the 5$ one is only a 100MB, so I want to lower the amount of use my phone has.

                              I removed email imap sync, facebook (had done that a while ago though), mastodon (still using my accounts, but only from my laptop). merged xmpp and sms (thanks to jmp.chat, kept matrix, shutdown the LED, prioritised reading from my kobo when I’m bored instead of web browsing and switched the stock os for a gapps less lineageos. The only thing I made more prominent was my calendar, by adding a widget to the home screen.

                              Another step was being more privacy conscious, so I installed orbot a few months ago, use orfox for most web browsing and tunnel most apps through tor. The only one I keep out of tor is the fdroid firefox browser, fennec.

                              1. 2

                                I recently became aware of this, too. I was always checking my phone even if there was nothing new to see.

                                In general, I try to manage the notifications I get very strictly. During focused work I have been using an app that blocks usage of all apps except some whitelisted ones I need for work (The apps we are developing, Gmail, Calendar and a few more are whitelisted). However I still find myself looking at the phone to check if the notification light is blinking. I guess my reasoning is that I could have missed some notifications and that it would be really bad to respond later?

                                Last month I also removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone because I was checking them constantly, too. I still use the mobile version of Facebook about once a day but for Twitter the change was more extreme. I went from checking it multiple times per day, to about two checks this month.

                                Since the app I’m using to block distractions does not affect the Firefox Mobile, I’m using LeechBlock with a whitelist of websites.

                                That is where I am right now. I’m starting to put my phone out of view during focused work so that I don’t check it every time I’m waiting for a build to finish or something is compiling. I found that once the phone is out of view, I check it much less frequently.

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                                  Silent mode at all times and finer-grained control offered by the OS

                                  What is finer grained on iOS? It was my (mis)understanding that this is one of the places Android was still fairly far ahead with multiple tiers of notification levels tweak-able by app or person.

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                                    maybe permissions? at least they used to be

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                                    I have been feeling some of this, and am considering going back to my BlackBerry Q10. There’s a couple of reasons I wouldn’t ditch smartphones outright:

                                    1. I can miss having most apps, but perhaps not having access to the mobile Internet.
                                    2. WhatsApp is the de facto standard communications and organization platform for my social circles. I probably couldn’t get by without it at this point.
                                    3. I consider having a camera on hand at all times valuable, even if I don’t use it all the time. I would consider the one on the Q10 borderline serviceable in 2018.
                                    4. I use a lot of two-factor auth services, and I don’t want to carry a dedicated device for this.

                                    I would like to be less tempted to pick up my phone to play a game, or check the news, or read a news article. The Android emulator on BlackBerry would run all the apps I need today, but perhaps not for long (emulation level is roughly Android 4.3 without Google services).

                                    Keeping an Android tablet at home and a limited smart phone to take with me might be a suitable solution.

                                    1. 1

                                      I use a Q10, and I’m happy enough with it. The physical keyboard is so much better than any screen keyboards I’ve tried, and I mostly use it for SMS. But it can support my other use cases when I need them: mobile maps, camera, alarm clock and timer, terminal, web browser. Mostly I just appreciate that it’s neither iOS nor Android. And of course I’m fond of QNX.

                                      Still, I’m thinking of ‘upgrading’ to a Q20 just for the physical cursor keys. Text editing is pretty annoying without them. Long term, I’m not sure where I’ll go. My previous phone was a (dumb) Nokia Asha 210, and when I had accomodated to the S40 OS quirks I really liked it… but then when the mic stopped working I couldn’t replace it: they had vanished from the market altogether. Not even eBay had them.

                                      1. 1

                                        I’m considering the same thing, for some of the same reasons. I’m mostly concerned I won’t be able to reach anybody in my circle (especially my family, who’s in a different continent) without WhatsApp. I’m thinking of getting a 4G tablet that stays mostly at home and runs WhatsApp and whatever else I may think I may miss, and upgrading from the iPhone to a feature phone (eg: Nokia, Blackberry) for being reachable for important things. That’ll probably require making sure my family knows how to use Skype for phone calls, etc, but I think it can work!

                                      2. 2

                                        In past year, I really realise that home much I have wasted on phone without any meaningful work.

                                        With that thing in mind I started to spend less time on my phone with following actions:

                                        1. Deactivated fb account and remove messager.
                                        2. Put mobile phone on silent mode - that remove effect of ringtone continue ringing in mind.
                                        3. But I still worried about the activity that Google savings on myactivity domain. Like, I have opened WhatsApp four times and so on.
                                        1. 2

                                          I have 2 phones.

                                          A Samsung Galaxy S8, paid for by my employer that I carry when I am on-call. GMail/Inbox aren’t installed there. So I don’t have access to work emails. I use it for calendar notifications though. Only pagerduty knows the phone’s number.

                                          My personal phone is the new Nokia 3310, which only can send texts and make phone calls (I don’t even have a data plan. So no MMS).

                                          When I’m on-call, I’ll be carrying both phones (usually one in my pocket, the other in my backpack). When I’m not on-call, I’ll only have my personal phone.

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                                            my usage habits stabilised years ago. I use my phone primarily for messaging (mostly via email, slack, and matrix nowadays, xmpp previously), gym music, and for filling spare moments by keeping up-to-date with RSS. I haven’t had a voice / SMS app installed in a decade. notifications are permanently turned to silent and vibration-free system wide; nothing is important enough to interrupt. I always get a device where the notification LED can flash a different colour for each protocol so I can glance at it and get metadata without looking at the screen. I can set up a new device to those specs in about an hour after installing the OS, as it is practically muscle memory at this point.

                                            1. 2

                                              I’ve written about it here.


                                              1. Watch as iPhone’s signal (as in worthiness) gatekeeper;
                                              2. Silent iOS notifications (texts, calls, apps;)
                                              3. No Lock Screen iOS notifications (but for a few exceptions;)
                                              4. Extremely conservative with allowing apps to send notifications.
                                              1. 2

                                                Work prevents me from bringing my phone into the building. Sometimes I forget about it and leave it in the car until I need to set my alarm clock. I don’t even bring it to the toilet.

                                                It’s an iPhone 4, running iOS 6, so a lot of recent apps are just out of the question. I think my friend is still waiting on me to install Venmo. Mint doesn’t work anymore. Safari is pretty good until the JS gets heavy. Twitter sort of works. I do not use Push notifications. I fetch once an hour, I think.

                                                I feel like your question is more about What’s your Notifications policy?, though. I don’t even keep up with all of my inboxes. Some email accounts only get checked once a week. Not out of some grand scheme, just out of lack-of-urgent-interest. The same thing happens at work: sometimes Outlook will just not-work for a whole day; I’ve got to carry things forward without email pretty regularly.

                                                Emails, texts, & infrequent phone calls are my cup of tea. God forbid you send me a FB message, or a voicemail.

                                                1. 2

                                                  I haven’t had a smartphone for a few years. I use Google Hangouts/Voice. My email, text, missed calls, and voicemail is all in one place which I like very much. I’m on my laptop nearly all the time so having a Gmail tab open to receive calls isn’t a big deal.

                                                  What I cherish is that when my laptop is closed or I’m out walking around, I am with myself. I don’t want to be “jacked in” to this real-time communication network every second I’m awake for the rest of my life. Computer usage and digital communication (including voice) is something I am happy to compartmentalize.

                                                  I have an extremely basic Nokia GSM dumb phone with a $4/month T-Mobile plan for situations where I must have mobile or emergency communications, which comes up about once every 4-5 months. At this rate I’ll need to charge it less than once a year.

                                                  I am interested in getting a Neo900, if I could ever afford one and it actually shipped. Having a sandboxed baseband makes me more comfortable with having a phone. Also the Dragonbox Pyra+4G, since I can put Debian and an SIP client on it I would feel more in control of the “phone”. Having a baseband with DMA coupled with these largely closed-source walled-garden smartphone OSes that are popular now is not attractive to me at all.

                                                  1. 1

                                                    I’ve fairly recently switched from using “regular” Android (albeit usually with a custom ROM) to LineageOS without Google Play Services (with microg instead so most things are still accessible if I want them). I turn off notifications for most everything other than messages from my wife. So I’ve almost got a device which serves me rather than the other way round: essentially just a pocket sized computer. I’m quite happy with this setup and don’t feel any more compulsion to check it than I do any of my other computers.

                                                    1. 1

                                                      I forgot my (smart)phone at home this morning. I missed it for a minute or two in the bus: nothing to read. Maybe I should borrow on of the e-ink things to see if they’re worth it.

                                                      Phones are mostly annoying.

                                                      1. 1

                                                        As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tended more and more towards mid-range phones which actually hold quite a lot of gems in my opinion. It also doesn’t give you that feeling of “This is a thing that I have to value because of my monetary investment”.

                                                        I picked up a Sony Xperia X, initially to try out Sailfish OS but I’ve enjoyed the Android ROM quite a surprising amount. It has some nice touches such as being able to set silent or alarm only mode, both indefinitely and also for a set amount of time which is a godsend for me as I always forget to un-silence my phone

                                                        I’ve also made a conscious effort to disable any notification badges, not to install any (“free”) games and to only put non-social icons on my home screen dock. I’ve found it works quite well. I don’t really struggle with checking Facebook because I really only have it as a formality. The newsfeed is rubbish and actively puts me to sleep so I actually find it hard to spend time in there. Messenger pops in and out but it’s just the same as if someone was texting me I suppose. The platform is all that’s different.

                                                        I try not to keep anything tethered to the phone itself. For example, I used to store my TOTP tokens on my device but I was fiddling with different ROMs for a while and would keep losing them so now I store them on a YubiKey NEO instead and can view them on any phone. I just wish I could view them on my laptop or something. I don’t think 2 factor ever explicitly implied it had to be a second device, did it?

                                                        Lastly, I’ve been taking a book with me to work and what not in an attempt to actually read more this year. It kinda relies on having one that you want to read in the first place but it works out well. If it’s a boring book, you’ll find yourself reaching for your phone but it’s kinda pointless continuing with it in the first place if it’s that bad.

                                                        I’ve considered picking up a flip phone or something instead in the past. They’re still popular, and in production, in places like Japan and South Korea. My only concern is support for a password manager. I’m going to assume that no non-Android/iOS phones support them (either proprietary or open source)