Life after ditching my smart phone

Guest post by Jessica T. King
DUMB PHONE Pin from Etsy seller PsychoSwami

We were just like any other couple with smart phones: checked in on Facebook or Foursquare, had work emails set up so we looked at them way too often, shared funny photos and spent part of work surfing the internet. Then it all changed.

We had discussed dropping a phone or two numerous times because they were expensive. But I managed social media for a few companies and it was an essential part of me getting work done, or that’s what I convinced myself and my husband. My husband said he could do without but that I definitely needed it because I got lost in our big city too often.

After a job offer in a new city, we decided that we needed to cut all the excess to ensure we could live off his new base commission. So among other things, the smart phones went away. We dropped the unlimited data from AT&T, switched to Verizon and got “dumb phones” as our friends call them. They are *gasp* just phones that can also send text messages. Simple, basic and cheap.

Life hasn’t changed too much work-wise for me after moving, I still handle social media for two companies and am working on starting my own marketing and photography business. Needless to say, I am still knee-deep in social media. To get around that I take my laptop everywhere I go. And have found all the places in town with free wifi! My husband doesn’t mind much, he has internet at work and an iPad at home to keep him connected an entertained.

There are some things I desperately miss, like my Pandora while driving or GPS. But not having GPS in a new town means I have an instant conversation-starter, and it’s like being back in high school — exploring and getting lost and having to figure out your own way home again. It is really helpful that our new town is not huge, and everyone is especially nice and welcoming when I tell them we’re new.

The best experience I’ve had with getting lost was when I found an amazing furniture store downtown. It was totally unexpected in a small north Texas town and full of beautiful pieces the owner brings back from China every year. After looking around we started talking and she ended up giving me directions to the local coffee shop, the best BBQ in town and a couple of other places.

Everyone really is a gold mine of information here and they are all willing to talk to you! I never would have found half the things I have with a smart phone that I have found through talking to people!

Things that are awesome about no smart phone:

  • Making fun of everyone on them while out with friends
  • Having more conversations
  • Realizing how much more time you have and how much you can get done when not distracted by your phone.
  • I talk to my spouse more and we get more done each night after work
  • Getting lost

The tough things:

  • Getting lost
  • No music for long drives back home
  • No camera and instant photo sharing
  • No distraction when you’re bored, or in an awkward situation
  • No GPS

Overall, life without our smart phones is just as good and happy as with them, if not better. On a daily basis I don’t miss it, its only when we travel that I do. So to anyone who has wondered about life after smart phones; it is okay, life is great, and the world keeps turning!

Comments on Life after ditching my smart phone

  1. I LOVE this!

    I went back and forth about getting a smart phone when my last contract was up. They are nice to look up directions and things to do around you. But did I really need to pay that much more money a month to post pictures of my pets to facebook and be harassed by work emails? Nah. The internet has enough cats, and I need the mental break of being able to delay reading work emails until the appropriate time.

    I am also afraid that once I get a smart phone I will become dependent on it, as I’ve seen many other people do. It’s reassuring that people like you have come back from the dark side!

  2. Woo! Welcome to the club! I had a smartphone for a year then I realized it was a drain of my time and money. So I bartered it off, cancelled my contract, jumped to CREDO which does a contract buyout, and got a push phone. I’ll probably stick with it until no one supports them anymore.

    Oddly enough, I’ve become even more detached cells than I was pre-smartphone. People tell me that when you go car-less you become more social and eventually you adapt. The cell is a bit like that for me. I use it for carpool alerts and emergencies only. There’s a loss of convenience but I’m rediscovering tools much better suited to the tasks. My once neglected SLR and DSLR are my default cameras. Photos are slow to share but the results are amazing. When I’m bored I crochet, engage my host, or draw- creating rather than consuming! I suppose the lack of music is a serious sticking point, but I’m starting to appreciate moments of silence more.

    I haven’t had an experience as awesome as yours though!

  3. I completely hear ya on wanting to get away from your smart phone but for me, I don’t have a computer so my phone is my way online. I live in a small town in Maine where the library has random hours and I can’t seem to make it due to my work (I’m on call 6am-5pm). but I definitely agree that I can get sooo much more done when I hide my phone or put it down. plus it helps that I get such horrid cell signal that I end up chatting to people I come in contact with throughout my day.

    • Oh, if we didn’t have internet at the house, I would never have given mine up! Having internet is a requirement for both of us, not just because of work, so I totally understand! Good for you for putting it away though! That is what I had a hard time doing…

  4. I love this! I have sworn up and down to never get a smart phone and people look at me like I’m bonkers! It really is so much better without one, I feel so much more free to read or whatever without my phone buzzing because of a FB notification or some-such. Admittedly, my fiance has one, but he/I only use the GPS on it when we’re driving somewhere new but now that we’ve registered for a car GPS that’ll soon end too. To me, I don’t *need* a smart phone to be connected to people, that is what my laptop is for, and now when I get comments about how “weird” that is, I’m totally gonna link people to this post and say “SEE! Not just me folks!”

  5. I love my iPhone for music, Feedly and Pinterest, so I don’t know that I could give it up entirely. Especially because I rarely use my laptop. That being said, I make most evenings “phone free”, meaning that once I’m settled in at home for the evening, the phone goes away. I hate feeling “connected” from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed.

    • It took me months to realize I needed to put the phone down, and make phone free time. We were both just absorbed in our phones and once I realized, we also dedicated phone free time. It made a huge difference!

  6. My carrier is trying to tempt me with a cheap-o smartphone, but I know I would probably become addicted and I can’t justify the price. I wish I had a camera for photo sharing (my dumbphone’s camera isn’t that great), or double check the address of the place I am headed, and it would have been nice last weekend to be able to pull over and check to see if the sudden hail was being accompanied by a tornado warning.

    But, like you said, life goes on and it’s a good life. I find myself being forced to talk to people to get directions, and to slow down and take a look around when I’m waiting for the bus. But sometimes Instagram still looks like fun…

    • Yes! I feel like they are useful tools, but mostly they are being overused and end up not helping us. We are social beings and need face to face interaction. Sure its nice to know if there a tornado warning, but while checking for that I would end up checking facebook, email and a dozen other things. For me a lot of that is just distractions and self control, but I think other people fall into it as well.

  7. We did the same up until last year when I went to have my “outdated” phone replaced for a new one since I cracked the screen. Sprint worked with us and got us both Iphones that were refurbished for the same price as my “outdated” phone and then gave us a monthly discount for being loyal customers for three years and paying our payment on time. So in the end my year of my phone that only texted and called was worth it because now I have two iphones and unlimited everything for the same price ha!

  8. I will echo many of the other comments – neither I nor my partner have smartphones. I’ve never had one, and I’m quite happy with my inexpensive pay-as-you-go phone that I use very rarely. I have an old iPod touch (circa 2008) that works as a stand-in if free wifi is available for those times when I need to look at a map or am waiting for an important email. I also have ebooks on my iPod, so I usually read if I’m bored-waiting-somewhere. To the casual observer, it probably looks like I’m texting or reading email on an iPhone.

    I am always on my laptop when I’m at home, it’s true, so I’m also far from being disconnected – I should probably work on that.

    And I think for those who don’t pay for another internet service, as one of the comments indicates above, a smart phone can be a great lifeline (Barbara Kingsolver represents this really well in her recent book /Flight Behavior/, by the way)

  9. Just kill your data plan. Keep your smartphone, but only use wi-fi and phone, and you can still have offline apps and music. Switch to a prepaid plan (pay as you go) with no data, and you have the best of both worlds.

    • This is what I have, a smartphone on a prepaid plan. I love it b/c I can end whenever I like or just skip a month if my budget won’t allow for it.

    • Oh man, you have just made my day. I’ve often longed for the ease of portability a smart phone has (music, phone, calendar, camera all in one) but really am scared that I’ll get sucked into the ‘always looking at phone’ issue.

      Is there anyway you can do that from the get-go so you never have to have a data plan?

      • I also have a smartphone on a prepaid plan ($80 for 2000 minutes, good for a year = ~$7 per month, unless I talk more…). I have a Motorola Droid, which I use on PagePlus. The network is Verizon, which has the best reception in my small town in Maine (hi, Megan!). To answer Kess’s question, I don’t have data at all, and I turned it off at the carrier so that my apps won’t use it by accident. I just called them and asked them to turn off all data, and it’s worked great. Google Maps has a feature to “make map available offline”, so I pre-save certain areas when I know I’m going to be traveling. I love that having a smartphone lets me check email, use Soundhound, etc, without having to haul my laptop everywhere. With just a wifi connection, it’s basically like a tiny tablet that also makes phone calls.

    • I’d actually love to do this, but I’m kind of meek and shy, so when someone at x phone company tells me “well you can’t possibly have this phone without a data plan,” I just say “okay,” even if it doesn’t make any sense to me why I couldn’t.. My data plan is soooo expensive, and really, not all that worth it in the end. I don’t need to check my email everywhere!

  10. Save old smart phones that have cameras and micro SD chips, load them with music and you have a camera/MP3 player with speaker that will still go on WiFi. Load the free Flickr app and when you are in range of WiFi upload your pics to their full size (you can set files as private) and if you need to access them you can grab the original sized pictures off of Flickr. My phones camera is 13mp and the photos are huge and I can still access them in the original size.
    Also learn which fast food places have WiFi and you can pull into the parking lot, get on line and get a map then keep traveling.

    • This is exactly what I did. I still use my old blackberry for music and wifi on occasion, but canceled my plan. We use my husband’s cell for long distance and the home phone for calling and I have a GPS in my car. I have a smartphone for work so there’s no point in paying for a personal one as well. It’s been weird since I’ve been off on sick/mat leave not to be able to text, but it’s really not as big of a deal as I thought it would be.

  11. We also got Verizon text-and-talk “dumb phones” about a year ago when we were trying to cut back on expenses. I was really resistant at first but I don’t miss it at all now. I DO wish we had GPS, but that just involves getting one for my car. In terms of music – do you have a regular ipod or other mp3 player? when it’s fully loaded and put on shuffle, it’s still a pretty great source of music!

  12. I love my dumb phone. It’s an almost antique Nokia (the only person I know with an older mobile is my father, with a Nokia 3310 (or at least that’s what they were called in Germany when they still sold them)), and it is virtually indestructible. I have dropped it, stepped on it, sat on it, dropped it some more, and except for a tiny scratch on the screen, it works just fine. Simply buy a new battery every two years, and I am set. (The battery holds for at least 3 days, by the way.) And I have been told my father even dropped his phone from the seat of his truck (i.e. at least 2.5m high) and it still works.

    So – Dumb Phones! Yay!

  13. I’ve never taken the leap and gotten the smart phone – I’ve got a basic “dumb phone” with text messaging and a crappy camera, and my husband has a pay-as-you-go junky phone. I did get upgrades on my new car, so I have satellite radio and a GPS – so I have no need for that on my phone. It cost a bit more, but the GPS was a one-time cost, and the Satellite radio is much, much cheaper than a smart phone. My bill is 10 bucks a month because I’m still on my mother’s family plan!

    I really dislike when I get together with friends and people are constantly texting, surfing the web, and playing with their phones. I’m happy I do not have this particular distraction in my life.

    • This is part of why I’d never get a smart phone–I never want to be as rude as other people and be surfing facebook while I”m suppose to be sitting and having a conversation with somebody in person! It’s infuriating to me when my friends and I get together and one or more of them starts fiddling with their smart phones! Sometimes I let it go because I know we’re at school and they’re checking their email for professor emails or such, but a lot of times that isn’t what they’re doing. I took to saying “hey i get that you want to check your fb but I want to spend actual time with you here, do you mind waiting to do that until later?” At first my friends were a little off put but recently I had one say thank you for calling them out on it because they didn’t realize how disconnected they were from everybody and said they have actually started asking other friends to stop playing around on their smartphones when with them too!

      • This was and is a huge problem for a lot of my friends! Now that Im smart phone free, it makes me insane! I fear for the future generations ability to interact and communicate with others.

    • Cars have these things called… radios… and even without Satellite, you can often find music, news, commentary and all KINDS of fun stuff on them while you drive. My current (perhaps lifelong) obsession is NPR. Local stations are everywhere, and it is now where I get most of my news and a good deal of fun too. I live in rural Appalachia, so I understand that not every modern young person can subsist on radio alone. Cars also often have…. gasp… CD players, mp3 hookups and *shocker* tape decks.

  14. I also have a prepaid basic phone that makes calls, takes pictures, and texts. Not having the lingering stench of a contract hanging over my head makes me feel so much better financially. Sure, I love the idea of having mostly everything at my fingertips wherever I go, but do I really need it as a stay-at-home mom? Not really.

    It is so refreshing to read about others who are taking their own pace with technology rather than feeling the need to keep up with the Jones’.

  15. I have a smart phone that I only use moderately, but I am not planning on giving it up. One big reason for keeping it is that I’ve had a data plan with Verizon long enough to still have unlimited data for the cost of just few GB of data at their current prices (customers got to keep their data plans when they stopped offering unlimited data to new customers a few years ago). So, if I gave up having a smart phone but wanted one again later it would cost me a lot more.

  16. I’m in a similar situation in reverse – I can’t afford to get a smartphone, and as a result have never had one. If I get a much better job, maybe I’ll take the plunge. But I generally don’t feel like I’m missing out by not having one for the moment.

  17. This is totally how I feel. I got my smartphone when I started my social media assistant position over a year ago. I am now doing social media for three companies as well as starting up my own social media business. I’m trying to break away from the pull of it, but it is so darn hard. Thank you for saying out loud what many of us are thinking.

    • It is SO hard to get away! I would honestly love to ditch facebook and all that stuff, I think its a huge time suck even without having a smart phone! But realistically thats not possible since I am currently managing 6 FB pages for work related things. Having a device that is dedicated to work things can make a big difference. Best of luck!!

  18. I took an in-between route with my phone. I tend to keep my phones for a really long time so when I finally got a smartphone a couple years ago, I went with a lower cost phone with LIMITED and SLOW data. I don’t pay for it to be fast and that saves a considerable amount of money each month. So, I can still look up restaurant hours and use GPS if I’m lost and get on Facebook if I’m bored but it’s reined in just enough that I prefer to use my home computer for most things.

  19. Great article! I was a “stupid phone” user until just recently, mostly because I couldn’t justify paying the going rates for a smart phone plan. However, I do want to point out that there are new options on the market now- I recently got a Republic Wireless phone which is an android smart phone with all the trappings, and I pay only $20 per month! You have to buy the initial phone, which is an investment ($199), but the monthly rate can’t be beat. They keep costs down by not having physical stores, encouraging community support (online forums), and by using wifi for calls when possible (when there isn’t a wifi signal, you are automatically connected to Sprint’s towers). Just wanted to share this option for people who like the convenience of a smart phone but can’t afford the crazy bills!

    • Really good point, recently there have been a number of ways to compete with the prices of the big names in pricing! It is a great way to both worlds for sure! Alas for us, we now have a 2 year contract with Verizon, once that is up we are definitely going that route!

    • My boyfriend has had Republic for a few months now. Because of where he lives, the “switchover” from tower to wifi cuts us off on a regular basis, but his phone works well, and his pricing is very competitive with my “dumb” phone.

  20. I do have a smartphone. But, I am not the “why don’t you guys come over so we can stare at our phones while in the same room” type. My other half and I both work for T-Mobile, so the reason we have smartphones is the cost…. the employee plan is only 10.00, and we live in rural Maine where T-Mobs data speed is about as fast as dial up was back in 1999. We don’t hang around on our phones all the time. In fact the only time we use them when we’re together is if the other says “hey did you see… xyz” and then we tend to look up info and have a conversation about it. I know its not for everyone, but its how we roll…

  21. For the bad getting lost stuff, you can purchase an external GPS. You can also use maps. I haven’t done research on how accessable digital ones are for tablets, but you can get paper ones (really good ones) for reasonably little money. They make it fun to plan your next outing, and if something goes seriously wrong (my conversion experience happened on the east coast during Hurricane Irene), the ability to see the road pattern over a large area and plan a new alternate rout (even if your batteries are dead and the power is out!) can be very useful and possibly life saving.

  22. My husband and I just got rid of our smartphones last month. There are times when I miss my smart phone, but honestly, more often than not, I’m happy to be free of it! I now have a simple prepay phone so my kids’ schools can reach me when I’m out. And I’m REALLY loving getting rid of the huge bill my hubby and I were paying every month!!!

    On the other hand, for my business, I may end up getting a StraightTalk smartphone during the summer months when I go to art shows, but that will be temporary for the GPS and the ability to take credit/debit card payments. I like the idea of not being tied down by a contract.

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