When I ditched my iPhone 11 months ago, I promised a follow-up post about the experience. So here it is.

Quitting

Only one thing really surprised me about going back to a “dumbphone.” The idle moments. The habit of pulling out my phone to fill them was deeply ingrained, even more than I’d realised. Every time my brain hit a pause, there would be a moment of agitation: “I’m here and I have nothing to do for a few moments, what do I think about? Where’d my phone go? What else can I do with my hands?” That feeling (“disconnect anxiety”? withdrawal symptom?) lasted for a couple of weeks.

The other interesting thing was how many people sympathised with me (either here on the blog, or in person.) A few people openly told me I was crazy or self-obsessed (both legitimate charges, in all honesty), but a lot of people also really seemed to relate. Most of them had iPhones or other smartphones that they didn’t intend to give up, but they seemed to relate to me wanting to. That phenomenon interests me a lot.

Relapse

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p>So why did I decide to get back on the smartphone wagon, after all my self-righteous abandonment last year? There are a few reasons:

Hypocrisy. Honestly, on the few occasions when I’m out and I really want to google something or look an address up on a map, I just rely on Jess having an iPhone. Smartphone cheating. Similarly, when I’m at home I’ll just pull my laptop out. Less convenient than a phone, but the same end result.

LastPass. I’ve started using the LastPass password manager, which basically means that without my own computer or phone at hand I’m locked out of nearly all my online services. I can’t just go to an internet kiosk and check my email when I’m in a foreign city or an airport, any more.

IOIO. Android has some really cool new stuff in it for tinkerers. Can’t wait to have a play.

Hackerspace tunes. Sounds stupid, but I want an mp3 player to plug in at the Hackerspace. Pretty much all non-iPod MP3 players seem kinda sucky or ridiculously expensive. Everyone else just uses their phone, so I figured I should too!

Price. I’ve gone with a $180 Huawei Android phone (will write a review.) This both appeals to my inner skeapskate, and the idea of cheap/commoditised smartphones really interests me (boutique to commodity tech in 4 years!?!)

As for the other behaviours I disliked myself for in the past, I’m hoping I can rely on self-control. Time will tell.

This post is about how I became a self-loathing iPhone owner, and decided to switch to a device that noone has ever described as “revolutionary”, “amazing” or “magical”.

Separated at birth? iPhone 3GS & Nokia 2323

I’ve replaced my iPhone 3GS with a Nokia 2323 Classic. A $70AU ($63US) phone based on eight year old technology.

Why?

First, the obvious reasons. I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable with Apple’s monoculture. I’ve never liked their closed approach to device ownership. Even though my two iPhones have been jailbroken, I’ve bought apps – contributing money to the App Store economy. I’ve also contributed to Apple’s iPhone bottom line. All rewarding a business model that I don’t agree with at all.

Pushing matters to a head, three months ago I replaced my Macbook Pro with a PC running Ubuntu. I discovered that iPhone ownership is a lot less seamless when you don’t have OS X to coordinate everything.1

Given all this, and my general love of gadgets and technology, you would expect that I would choose an Android phone. One of the more open models. I thought very hard about picking up a Samsung Galaxy S (especially now Cyanogenmod supports it) or even a Nokia N900, the ultimate geek pocket gadget.

That isn’t really it, though…

It’s psychology & culture

I don’t like the person that the iPhone encourages me to be. I don’t like reaching for it over and over, checking Twitter or scanning my email boxes with every idle moment. I don’t like how quiet moments of reflection get replaced with boredom that there’s nothing new on the Real Time Web. I don’t like that most days I spend more than ten hours in front of a computer, but I still feel the need to carry one around in my pocket. I don’t like taking my iPhone out during meetings or conversations. I don’t like “the iphone effect”.

These kind of phenomenons have been written about over, and over, and over. In pieces ironically intended for online consumption, a variation on the standard “moral panic” and “technology shock” opinion genres. Nevertheless, parts of the articles ring very true for me. My personal favourite writing is from the blog Tweetage Wasteland. Go read it (really, do!)

In fact, reading comments about a Tweetage Wasteland post on HN was when this really struck home to me:


HN screenshot... click for the full comment thread

(angusgr is me, BTW.)

The underlying assumption is that idleness is necessarily wasteful, and why would anyone want it? Consequently, consuming information is a more fulfilling form of activity than just being inside your own head. I don’t think I agree.

Since getting an iPhone I don’t read books nearly as often as I used to. I don’t sit and stare into space quietly, thinking about whatever happens to be on my mind. I don’t pay as much attention to the world around me. I miss all those things.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Of course none of this is the iPhone’s fault. Smartphones are just tools, plenty of people don’t have this problem at all. If I had better self control then I’d just curb my use. In my case, I think the problem is smartphone ownership combined with N.A.D.D. (Nerd Attention Deficit Disorder.) An iPhone is like a “New Tab” browser menu, for your life.

Observations on going Classic

Some observations about being back with a Classic Nokia after 2 years in iPhone land:

  • The Nokia is tiny, and light. It doesn’t need its own reserved pocket in my jeans any more.
  • Sound quality and volume are both better, when you’re actually using it as a phone.
  • Standby time up to 17 days. Days. No more having to charge every night.
  • My muscle memory for typing quickly on T9 keypads is gone, but I think it will come back.
  • Syncing calendars and contacts was not overly painful, even from Linux. Being able to automatically sync via Bluetooth is neat.
  • No more need for phone insurance.
  • No more need for a data plan.2

Things I Will Miss

There are some things that I expect to miss about having an iPhone:

  • Never having to look up an address or a map before leaving the house.
  • Always having a camera to substitute for remembering or writing down details.3
  • Instapaper. Although I don’t use it much now that I don’t have a regular commute.
  • The “Notes” application. Will need to make a habit of carrying a notebook more often.

Do I need a mobile (“cell”) phone at all?

I think so. Even though I no longer have a job that requires me to be available on-phone at weird hours (another plus for ditching the iPhone), mobile phones are embedded in my generation. My partner, friends, and colleagues would all be put out if I ditched it entirely. Besides, they’re pretty useful devices to have.

Experiment

I’m terming this an experiment because in a month I might decide that I’m an idiot, and I’ll go buy a Galaxy S. Expect a follow up blog post if that’s the case. My partner certainly looked at me in total disbelief when I told her this plan. “Just get the Android one, you’ll be happier that way.” She may well be right.



  1. Please don’t misread this post as either pro- or anti-Apple. I like Apple’s products, I think the iPhone & OS X both offer a great user experience. I really don’t like the things mentioned above. []
  2. Nokia are marketing the 2323 as “fully connected” and it has the Ovi app store and email and a miniature web browser and blah blah blah, but I don’t want a part of that. []
  3. Although I now have enough room in my pockets to carry my Canon S90 camera more often! []