just a dude abiding

My 2011 Quest


I got a PDA (A Sharp Zaurus, running Linux to be exact) in 2001. By 2003, I was on my third PDA, my cell-phone could act as a bluetooth modem, and it had a camera. Skip forward a few years, and there’s Palm’s, Blackberry’s, and Android devices. In 10 years I’ve gone through a dozen PDAs and cell-phones, each with more features and capabilities than the last. But in 2011, I’m moving backwards, I traded my Android phone in for a $20 nearly-disposable flip phone.

This wasn’t a spur of the moment decision, I’ve been plotting, and thinking, and planning this for months. I started telling folks in December that I would ditch my smartphone in 2011. They almost uniformly had the same response, disbelief. How was I going to go back to not having internet access with me all the time. I wouldn’t have automatic syncing with my google calendar, or contacts. No email, no web sites, no camera, nothing, just phone calls and sms.


That’s the question everyone wants to know. Why on earth would I give up all the benefits of a smartphone? I don’t know. Part of me says this is crazy, stupid, and I’ll be clamoring for a new phone within a month. The other part of me says this is a valid personal study, and might provide worthwhile insight. I’m listening to the latter part, and trying to answer two questions in the process:

  1. Does a smart phone actually make my life easier or better in some appreciable way?
  2. How do my daily routines, and general habits change when I don’t have constant hand-held access to the internet?

I’m hoping that at bare minimum this experience provides me with better knowledge about what features I actually need in a smartphone, so my next purchase can be more about function than form.

How’s it going?

I took the plunge right before New Years. I went to Wal-Mart and bought the absolute cheapest T-Mobile compatible phone I could find, it was a $19.99 Samsung flip-phone of some sort. It’s small, light, and absolutely mediocre at all of it’s basic functions. Which makes it pretty prime for this kind of experiment.

I’m now a couple of weeks into my little experiment, and I can tell you that I’m a bit twitchy everytime I open my email. Did i get 5 emails or 500 since I last checked? Did I miss an email from the boss? There is some noticable apprehension when I open my email. But it does seem to be subsiding.

I’ve also become hyper-aware of other people using smartphones. Sitting at a restaurant I noticed an entire table playing with iPhones, and completely ignoring each other. I hope I wasn’t one of those oblivious people when I was using mine, but I probably was.

As to how I’m progressing on answering my two big questions? Well, I can’t say that I’ve really missed having a smart phone with me all the time. If anything, the week-long (yes, I charge this thing once a week) battery life of my phone, means that I’m even less aware that I even have a phone with me.

The second question is probably harder for me to answer directly, but I have noticed some small things. I have no idea what the weather is supposed to be like today, or tomorrow, or a week from now. None. I think I’m actually organizing my email better. Since I’m not skimming a lot of email on my phone, I’m actually doing a better job of sorting and filing email as I see it come in. I need a small camera I can actually stick in a bag and have with me most of the time.


I’ll post another follow up to this later, once this change has really sunk in. In the meantime, wish me luck, I feel like I’m going to need it.