Tag Archives: Smartphones

The Upside of a Dumb Phone

My smartphone is back. That is a good thing–I think. But there were some blessings in being without it.

The latest automatic software update had blown its mind. The phone developed some kind of electronic neurosis, insisting I could not make calls without a software update, but insisting at the same time that the software was already up to date. After three weeks of struggle, I had to send it away for repair.

Living with a dumb old flip phone for three weeks or more underscored some valuable lessons. One is that I can do without a lot of the fun apps that I have loaded onto my smartphone. Another is that I’ve been missing out on some interesting experiences while my eyeballs have been glued to that small screen.

During the time that I was unable to check the news, Facebook, or email several times a day, I had a number of interesting conversations with my wife or others that would not have occurred otherwise. I enjoyed my surroundings more, both indoors and out. I had more time to think and ponder ideas and spiritual concepts. I found more time for writing. The thinking—meditating—part was especially enjoyable.

I don’t want to give those things up. Now that I have my smartphone back, I haven’t reinstalled some of those apps, including social media. There are some new rules I try to observe, like keeping the phone in my pocket while I’m at the dinner table. I carry around a notepad when I go to the doctor’s office, or some other place where I might have to wait, so I can spend the time writing instead of idly browsing news sites or the Internet.

The idea of giving up the smartphone entirely and sticking with the flip phone is attractive. The main reason I don’t do it is that texting is so hard on that tiny keyboard. It’s much more difficult to respond to family and friends. Secondarily, a smartphone is often the fastest and most efficient—and sometimes the only practical—way to do business these days.

But I think I’m through buying the newest, shiniest, most gosh-golly-awesome smartphone on the market. The device is great for communicating, but too demanding and too addicting. If you run your life using your smartphone, soon you may find that the phone is running you. As I’ve begun using my smartphone again, I’ve turned off as many alerts and notifications as I can.

I enjoyed being able to give attention to the life being lived around me. I enjoyed laying the phone aside to talk with others. I enjoyed writing the old-fashioned way—just me and my thoughts, pen and paper. Sure, I’m using my tablet to type this. But it was written on my notepad while I was waiting to see the doctor.

Some days I’m still not sure about this smartphone. I’m still tempted to dig that cheap flip phone out of the bottom of the drawer in my desk.