Six months ago, my second blog post in this series highlighted my experience giving up, then bringing back, the smart phone. It was a valuable learning experience which led me to better use the device, while increasing my appreciation for the features which are truly valuable to me. In order of importance to me (greatest to least), those features presently are:
- Timers, Reminders, Alarms
- Notes (syncs with computer)
Note that I do not use email or web browsing on my phone. I do not follow news at all personally, but if I did, I’d limit it to the computer. I do have YouTube installed for the times I’m away from my desk, and need to find a DIY tutorial for something. The web browser was also useful for that, but the amount of time it saved me from walking to my desk, versus time wasted in mindless browsing was in inverse proportion. For some reason, this mindlessness rarely occurs at my desk, and I have little patience for videos as entertainment nowadays. Oh, and SMS: I do have it active. I used to dislike it, but many entities are using it for notifications I want to get in real time (school bus delays, for example). If someone wants to engage in a two way conversation, I can simply interact from my laptop (phone and laptop are from the same company, and SMS works across both). I’ve discovered that my disdain for text messaging really boils down to me just not liking doing a lot of typing by touch screen. And group texts, which can usually be ignored anyway.
Now for the event which inspired this post. My septuagenarian mother is really open to trying new things; keeping up with the times. A couple of years back, at age 75, she purchased her first smartphone, a decision I was not enthusiastic about. My take is that if one makes it to that stage in life without one, and doesn’t really require one, why bother with it? Of course my view is colored by the fact that my own first smartphone was a mandatory work issued device, and I’ll always associate them (at least when running all the core apps such as email and IM) with work.
When Mom came to me recently with complaints of being overwhelmed by it all, boy did I have a solution for her! After a thoughtful examination of her needs and frustrations, I knew that a viable solution would be to strip down the features on the device to the bare minimum, letting her discover what she can live without, and what to bring back. But I took it a step further, and suggested she go back to a basic phone. Although this same solution wasn’t the answer for me, she had her share of technical issues (both real, and user-inflicted). So with that decided, I ordered one of the senior phones, as both the display and keypad were larger. She had a few issues with the device right off the bat. I didn’t know if it was her or the phone, but I thought (as the brand was unfamiliar to me) I would swap it for one of the well known Finnish phones which I’d used myself.
I’d already learned to appreciate just how user-friendly a modern smartphone is to even a modern regular phone (yes, they have advanced). That wasn’t a deal breaker for me, but for someone learning late in life, it can mean everything. So after a short but earnest trial with the second phone, she decided it wasn’t for her. Prior to returning the smartphone, I took the opportunity to remove most of the features and notifications. Now she can do what she needs to, on a familiar device, and not be bothered by news (that was the big one), spam, the potential to fall down “rabbit holes,” and the rest. So far I’ve heard nary a complaint.
Are you wondering if I slid my own SIM card into the second phone after my mom gave it back to me. You know, just to see if I really still want the smart phone? Why yes, I did! Let me state I’m confident in my decision that, used the way I do, the smartphone works for me. I did, however, consider keeping this as a second device to use in certain situations. I quickly decided against that, and sent it back. Aside from distraction, much of my desire to return to a basic phone was fueled by nostalgia, the novelty of which, has since passed. It took no time to realize this. Another reason was size. At the time of my initial experiment, I was using a contemporary (larger) phone. This phone is the one I returned to post-experiment, but upon getting new jeans, I found it wouldn’t fit comfortably in the front pocket. Since I care more about pants than portable electronics, I solved the problem by swapping to a smaller phone – the smallest name brand one (to my knowledge) which is still operable on the VoLTE 4G networks. It’s from the Obama administration, and I’m surprised the manufacturer still supports it by way of updates. Anyway, putting my present smartphone next to the modern candy bar phone revealed that there wasn’t an appreciable difference in size. The simple phone was a bit narrower, but height and thickness were about the same. So what I realized this time around, was that for me, there is no longer any convincing appeal for the dumb phone.
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