Social Media

Why This Technology Blogger Does Not Own a Smartphone [Opinion]

Justin Pot 31-01-2013

why i don't own a smartphone“Do you have a smartphone yet?”


It’s a question my friends ask often, and it’s a reasonable one to ask. I make my entire living writing about technology, explaining how to use software and interviewing people who create high-tech toys. I should be an early adopter – and sometimes I am.

But when it comes to smartphones I can’t bring myself to join the 21st century. Sure, I admire these phones from a technical standpoint – all that computing power in such a small space is made usable by elegant design. It’s amazing. Smartphones are way cooler than anything anyone in Star Trek ever owned, and that’s saying something.

But every time someone I know looks down to react to a ping during a face-to-face conversation I can’t help but think to myself that I don’t want one of those distraction machines in my life. I like having the ability to focus on one thing and only one thing. I have trouble doing that while working on my computer, and the last thing I want is to introduce that problem to the rest of my life.

It seems like smartphones are reprogramming people, making them respond to bells in a manner that would embarrass Pavlov’s dog. If you love that, great, but it’s not for me.

I love people, and want to focus on them when I’m with them. I love the mountains, and want to focus on them while I’m hiking with them. I love my wife, and want to focus on her when I’m with her.


I want to clearly define the line between the Internet and the rest of my life; smart phones seem designed to blur it.

Do I think everyone should think like me? No. Everyone should figure these things out on their own. Personally, however, I think that owning a smartphone would make me even less capable of focusing – a possibility that frightens me. It’s certainly not a possibility I’m willing to pay for.

I own a moderately intelligent phone. I can make calls, send SMS messages, and even (sort of) browse the web. I can’t run modern apps, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much – I’ve got my tablet for that if I want it.

When I explain this to people they often bring up push notifications, and man: I am not interested.


I Don’t Need To Know Now 

Notifications are evil. They’re the 21st century version of Clippy, interrupting you when you’re trying to do something.

why i don't own a smartphone

They interrupt you while you’re working, talking with a friend or otherwise trying to focus on something more important than whatever it is you’re being notified of. There are exceptions, sure, but I’m not a doctor so none of them matter. If someone has something time-sensitive to say to me I’m sure they’ll call, or at the very least text.

If they don’t, I don’t need to know now – it can wait until I get home or otherwise check my computer.


I had the privilege of interviewing author and activist Clay Johnson for a feature article about the information diet Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible [Feature] Email. Social networks. Blogs. Online video. People today consume more information than ever before, and typically only consume the things they really, really like. Clay Johnson compares this to a bad diet. "If you only... Read More last year, and one comment stood out:

“There is never anything you’re going to miss out on on Facebook,” he told me. “It’s just never going to happen. Nothing requires your immediate attention on Facebook.”

Replace “Facebook” with whatever you want – it’s basically true. Facebook can wait, Twitter can wait, even email can wait. My interaction with these services is better if I use them on my own schedule, giving myself time to be unplugged.

Notifications are the enemy – they interrupt my focus, diverting my attention to something I probably don’t need to look at yet. I understand why Facebook wants me to look at their app 20 times a day, but I don’t understand how doing so benefits me. So I schedule time for email, time for social networks and time for other online interactions. Life is a lot better when I stick to that.


Being Unplugged

Please don’t get me wrong: I love the Internet. Twitter, Reddit, I even tolerate Facebook. I’d hate to not have access to it.

But I also love being offline. Being bored. Having time to think about what it is I want to accomplish in life, how much I love the people around me and otherwise reflect on the things that matter in life. So while I could fill in moments spent sitting on the bus or waiting in line with social networks and blogs, I’d rather have a little space for my thoughts. A pause.

I’m plugged into the web while working; I don’t need to be the rest of the time. I fear getting a smart phone would make me less likely to reflect by filling in holes I currently use to reflect.

Basic Decency

i don't own a smartphone

Maybe I’m already a grumpy old curmudgeon, at 27. Maybe I’m out of touch with the way things are now. Maybe just saying this makes me the new Andy Rooney.

But come on: if you’re talking to someone, and your phone goes “bzzz”, don’t stop mid-sentence to look at it unless you’re expecting a message from the Nobel Prize Committee. Because when you do that you are immediately communicating that I don’t matter to you, that you’d rather be talking to someone else – anyone else – than me.

You might not mind being that guy. Good for you. But I don’t want to be that guy, and am afraid if I owned a smartphone I might become him. Quickly.

Data Plans Cost Money

A lot of what I’m saying boils down to discipline. I value being unplugged, and fear that if I had a smart phone I’d become so fascinated with it that I’d never be unplugged again. You could argue that I’m letting my lack of discipline prevent me from owning something nice.

i don't own a smartphone

And I’d agree with you, if these distractions machines didn’t also cost a lot of money. I’m not sure what data plans cost where you live, but here in the USA it’s hard to find one under $50 a month – and that’s on the low end of things. I don’t want to pay $600 a year for a device I’m convinced will distract me constantly.

Besides: I live in a town where WiFi access is plentiful and free. If I need web access I can get it.

I Can Make My Dumb Phone Smart

And it’s not as though I’m completely cut off from the world with my current phone. I’ve learned a few tricks to make my dumb phone more intelligent, and using them I get many of the advantages of a smart phone without the potential problem of information over consumption. I can make my dumb phone smarter with ifftt Make Your Dumb Phone Smart With ifttt With If This Then That (ifttt) and SMS I can teach my dumb phone all kinds of smart tricks, from updating social networks to adding events to my calendar. What makes ifttt so good at... Read More , allowing me see actually important email immediately and post messages to Facebook or Twitter.

why i don't own a smartphone

I can search Google by sending an SMS, which is perfect for quickly looking up any business’ phone number. I can even run Google Maps and Opera thanks to J2ME apps 5 Great J2ME Apps For Your Non-Smartphone Are you not using a smartphone, but still want access to a few apps? It might be possible - if your phone can use J2ME, there's a wide variety of apps out there for your... Read More .

It’s not as complete as a smartphone, sure, but for me it’s more than enough web access for when I’m on the go. I can’t think of a situation when I’ve wanted more.

Just to be clear: I am not trying to persuade you to think like me. I’m sure there are many valid reasons to own a smart phone, it’s just that none of them have convinced me yet. Am I absolutely insane? Probably, but feel free to tell me so in the comments below, or to engage with me in conversation about what you get from your smartphone and how it’s changed your habits.

Image Credit: Money picture by Ryabitskaya Elena via Shutterstock

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  1. Edward Helldane
    June 26, 2019 at 6:42 pm

    I have a OP5, and it's great, I have a free FreedomPop sim (500mb data allowance a month, and plenty of talk and text), and I have had Google Voice since they bought GrandCentral (maybe before, I can't recall anymore).

    I don't talk on my phone but maybe twice a year. And my phone spends 99% of its time in airplane mode, but with WiFi on, so I can text via Google Voice. I'll usually turn on the cell service when I'm out with people so they can reach me if we get seperated, or if I'm expecting an important call/msg.

    I also find having data access handy for about 5-25mb of use a month. Being able to use navigation or look up something on the fly while out and about is pretty cool.

    Only texting, calling, and non-nagging apps are allowed to push notifications (alarms, file browser, and weather, and basic stuff). No games, email, or any other non-system app has notification privileges. And I only have the 'old' free Andoku game installed anyway.

    I get like a week out of a full battery charge. But it would last longer if I didn't use my OP5 for reading the news for about an hour a day. And it only takes about 20min or something to charge. So when it needs to be recharged, I just plug it in and go take a shower or do the dishes or something, and come back to a fully charged phone.

    I've set everything up to be as little distracting and tedious as possible, but still allow for me to use the full features available as needed when the conditions call for it.

    I'm very techy, have been building my own PCs since '92, and run rooted Android ROMs, et cetera, but I've never understood the need to be 'always on' and 'always available'. We know it's not healthy, so we need to create systems that discourage it.

  2. Amber
    August 17, 2018 at 7:53 am

    Hi, I just read this and it was written 5 1/2 years ago. I still don't have a smartphone. People look at me like I have 3 heads when I tell them that. I look at them sucked into looking at their little screen and think they are addicted to it. Sometimes I am tempted to get one for GPS, camera, etc, but I have my garmen and my little camera and am getting by. What keeps me from getting a smartphone is seeing how addictive they can be and I want better for my life.

  3. Tim
    August 3, 2018 at 8:50 pm

    What I find interesting is how "the device in question" has taken away the use of one hand. Either because the device is too large to fit in a pocket, or because the user knows that even if the device is pocketed, it will be only a few seconds before it must be unpocketed once again, many (the majority, from my observation) users of this device carry it everywhere--walking, exercising, even driving. If someone had written, in 1980, that there would soon exist a device so compelling that users would willingly give up the use of a hand in order to more fully commune with the device, it would have been labeled science fiction, or preposterous.

  4. Melina
    July 25, 2018 at 7:52 am

    How great that someone (and someone tech-savvy, to the boot) has finally said all this aloud!! I've never liked smartphones, never had a "proper" one, and people often behave like I was some kind of old-fashioned, out-of-date weirdo for not using one... Everyone nowadays keeps saying things like "contact me on WhatsApp", "let me know your WhatsApp", etc. (replace WhatsApp with any other similar app), taking totally for granted that everyone is using them, too! If not, you're totally "out". I can only hope this kind of thinking as in this article will spread, and "dumb phones" will make a revival!!

  5. Bob
    May 2, 2018 at 7:41 am

    Flip phones can also receive texts and vibrate in case everyone forgot.

  6. GC
    July 22, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    This article has made me realise that smartphones are actually the dumb phones, or is it we that are just dumb for using them? (Not saying they cant be handy, but theres a line)Thanks for the well written words, I think youve just made me downgrade. I remember being happier and less paranoid when i didnt have one. Now I wonder if everytime someone doesnt answer me instantly on whats app, what their problem is!
    Its not healthy, and youre right... people need the attention, not these privacy stealing distraction boxes...
    Thanks for the final push I needed. Good luck with the next article!

  7. A
    April 4, 2017 at 2:59 am

    Gotta agree with you on many points... I'm already a grumpy old curmudgeon at 20. I don't even have facebook - whatsapp is annoying enough on its own.

  8. Katrin
    September 10, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    I don't think "we use the devices". They use us! We're constantly tracked and dependant. This things are like a drug just nobody seems to care what time we waste with staring at those things instead of into the faces around us, the world, in our own mind. When I'm surrounded I feel like in zombiland. The more connected world wide the less you connect with your own environment. Does today's life really ever satisfy us? Just running away from reality and not having to learn social skills..

  9. Anonymous
    July 9, 2016 at 4:36 am

    You Americans are lucky. Try getting 1 GB of data in Canada for under $50…

  10. Dhairyasheel
    May 13, 2015 at 5:31 am

    I am John Connor, leader of the human resistance. Skynet has been trying to kill me for ages and because of that i cannot use a smartphone.

    • Justin Pot
      May 13, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      On behalf of humanity, thanks for holding out.

  11. Andy
    March 26, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    As stated above, the mobile phone, whether smart, dumb or otherwise is a tool. You use it, it doesn't use you. Simple, right?

    • Justin Pot
      March 27, 2015 at 3:08 pm

      I've had a lot of time to think since this article, and I've written a few things about our tendency as a culture to blame our problems on tech (// Tech is just tools.

      Having said that, I still don't have a smartphone, mostly because I'm online all the time at home (where I also work) and when I'm not at home, I don't need to be online. Nothing I do away from the house – church, hockey, being with friends – would in any way be enhanced by a smart phone. I don't have a use for the tool.

      If I had a commute or other down time away from home things might be different, but right now I don't need it.

    • Anonymous
      July 3, 2015 at 12:52 am

      Agree 100%! I used a Nokia model 1994 from 2001 to 2011. A whole class of 20 people often borrowed it and many times it was dropped accidentally, but it endured a lot until it malfunctioned. So I bought a 2006 model which I still use for text messages and calls only. I got an android and a notepad from promos; my sister uses the android as a camera or video and I use the notepad also for note-taking and as a camera. We control and use these tools and we're not at their beck and call.

  12. Pravin
    July 22, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    The reason I still use a sideways flip phone is i prefer using manual keyboard in theflip and i like using the big numbers to dial on the front panel because I have a huge hand. Also ergonomically, old cell phones work better for me than smartphones. I also like to use regular ringtones because I want my phone to sound like a phone and I can tune out a ring, but a music or song ringtone wants me to hear the rest of the melody or shut the damn phone off based on the music. Also, I dont like navigating on a smartphone. I will get a miniIpad if I really want something like that on the go. If you are going hiking or someplace like that, a smartphone is handy. Other than that, I dont see a use for it for me.

  13. Pooky Joralyn
    May 3, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Me too actually. I bought a new laptop instead of a phone, it's way more useful!

  14. MadMonkey
    April 20, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    I completely agree with you. The constant barrage of data we have to contend with on a regular basis is mind blowing to say the least. And add to that a data hogging smart phone sounds like suicide to me. :)

    As for 'dumb phones' they are not as dumb as some people believe it is. Mine has facebook, Google Maps (like yours), twitter as well as good old Opera Mini (excellent!) and for me that's enough. One good thing about a feature phone (yes dumb phone) is that its naturally a 'pull' device, ie you need to manually refresh facebook, email and the like to find out if anything new happens which means that 1 you save on data charges and 2 you are not constantly inundated with new info every few minutes!

    I'm amazed that some people share the same view about smart phones as me! ( :) )

    Its interesting that you have Opera Mini (FREE) on your phone, its easily the best browser experience that I have ever had on a feature phone. Its also cool that you have Google Maps too.

    But do you have Notepad?

    I have found that having a notepad 'app' on my feature phone can be quite useful as you can see all your notes in one place and can keep codes and the like stored in them and make them available when you need them. You can check the internet for a free 'app' that can do that it should be around 100KB or less.

    One more useful app is an app about first aid!(FREE)

    I found it by accident but feel that anyone with a feature phone should have it installed. It just makes sense, you are most likely to have a phone when you are on the move and therefore having a first aid app sounds like a no-brainer! Also available for iPhone and Windows Mobile apparenlty.

    • Justin Pot
      April 21, 2013 at 1:34 pm

      My phone has restrictions when it comes to third-party programs opening and saving files, so I just send a text to Evernote when an idea strikes me. Thanks for the idea, though, and remember that lot sof people think the same way as you – they're just not well-represented online.

    • Justin Pot
      April 21, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      And I'll try out this first aid thing. Thanks!

      • Madmonkey
        April 21, 2013 at 6:52 pm

        I kind of guessed that lots of people do think like me but its nice to think i'm special :)

        While you're at it try Vikrant's Dictionary, it's free, offline and works on most feature phones.(its a J2ME 'app') (If you don't know about it already)

        [Broken URL Removed]

        Ahh the joys of feature phones ;)

  15. Digi
    March 2, 2013 at 4:59 am

    Wow. I have never thought like this, always tried to adopt the newest thing. Of course doesnt mean I could afford everything that comes out (lol) I have a nice smartphone does everything I need. This post made me realize how distracted I am... I check everything constantly and even text as I walk, or tweet, or even check my facebook while waiting for that M train here in NYC. Sadly it kills time of being bored and makes it less awkward to be stared at by the weirdo across from me. BUT nontheless when i'm working i'm will absolutely try to be focused 100% But yes, I have that "defect" of which you speak :( I shamelessly interrupt a conversation to check a text. Yes, I do it. So, good luck to you! I really don't know how you can, but I for one for tired of not having a smartphone. I guess its just discipline to have technology work for you as not to have YOU working for technology. Interested Topic really loved it.

  16. S.
    February 24, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    I had a smart phone and got rid of it. It was very distracting. Like you said, I missed the bored time. If I had nothing I had to do I just played with my phone instead of paying attention to what was going on around me (incidentally, that's how a lot of people are getting their phones snatched on public transportation in San Francisco). I like not having a smart phone and I like not always having the answers immediately because it turned me into a control freak. I like being able to talk to my sister uninterrupted. Although to be fair, people were addicted to texting way before smart phones and it was and still is annoying to be in the vicinity of them.

  17. Charles Rachor
    February 23, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    I used to think along these lines until I upgraded to a smartphone of my own (droid RAZR m). This entire article, IMO, is rendered moot by the "silent" feature that I use so much. It's more about using the silent mode with self-control. I can put my phone on silent, and start a conversation for hours without looking at my phone once.
    Just my two cents. Oh, and for those people who say "what about those phones with LED notification lights?"
    My reply is simple: turn the phone over, or put it in your pocket, or out of sight somehow.....exercise some self-control people.

  18. bgc
    February 17, 2013 at 5:15 am

    you must own an Octane--as i did before the IPhone 5 came out! I'm really not a person who gets many texts or phone calls--but having the iphone has changed so much for me! I can read newspapers-when waiting in a doctors office from all over the world--i have the most amazing apps (apps gone free) and upload more daily! When meeting or going out to lunch with a friend--i have no need to look at my phone! i can use my calculator at a restaurant-- for correct tipping-with my kids--i can check the weather in a sec-(i'm in my 70's)-so much more to say-- Its all what you make it- There is nothing like a smart phone--it was worth the wait!

  19. Anonymous
    February 8, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    I used to think a lot back then. When i set my alarm on my old dumbphone, i'd calculate how much time i had to sleep. Now ever since I got my droid, it shows me how many hours I've got to sleep. Not to mention all the distractions it comes bundled with.

  20. Dane Morgan
    February 7, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    My phone isn't a phone. It's a pocket computer and that's how I use it. I use it to take notes, take pictures, record ideas, search for things. The thing I do the least is synchronous communication, but on the rare occasion when i feel the need for that it is available to me.

    I use it for asynchronous communication quite a bit, but by the nature of that it means I look at the messages when it is convenient for me. That time is NEVER when I am talking with someone. If I were unable to resist looking at every notification as it came in, I would completely agree with you, but I am one of those people who never had a problem with letting the land line ring if I wasn't in the phone call answering mode. When I had a land line, anyways.

  21. Pavan Kumar
    February 7, 2013 at 5:41 am

    I’ve never really thought about how much my phone dominates my life, until i went on holiday abroad. Having my phone turned OFF gave the chance to properly relax and get away from the near constant buzzing and flashing of every notification, update and post that eminates from all my social feeds.
    This article has convinced me to turn off all my phone notifications and start using my phone AS A PHONE.
    I wouldn’t give up the apps (not games) i use the most but social networks can take a back seat and I’ll give this “real life” a try.

    • Justin Pot
      February 7, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      Let us know how your experiment turns out, okay?

  22. Louise
    February 7, 2013 at 4:02 am

    Fantastic article, thanks for sharing ;-)

  23. Elizabeth
    February 6, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Got you beat, J. I don't have a cell phone, period. Or a land line for that matter. :-)

    And there's no shame in any comparison to the late, great Andy Rooney. All hail the Luddite misanthropes, for we are the knights who say "no" and keep the Google-gaga socialites in check. Huzzah!

  24. Kieran Colfer
    February 6, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    I get the discipline thing, I used to have the same problem about being permanently attached to my iphone. What I started doing is I turned notifications off, and then I went further and turned off 3G and data. So, the only time I'm connected and can be "pinged" is when I'm in wifi range of one of the networks I'm connected to (i.e. home or work). So now, when I'm out and about and want to look up something, I can, but now I have to go to the effort of going into settings and turning 3G & data on before i do it, so it isn't as instinctive & easy as it was. It also saves on battery, life which is one of the main reasons not to have a smartphone :-P

  25. Me-High
    February 5, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    You are not alone. A lot of us never jumped the smartphone bandwgon. I never owned a pager either and those things are now forgotten. Skiping some technologies means just waiting for a better thing.

    • Elizabeth
      February 6, 2013 at 9:56 pm

      "Skipping some technologies means just waiting for a better thing."

      Or sticking with the tried-and-true. After all, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Otherwise you will be broke and it's a lot harder to fix that! :-)

  26. Andre Hutson
    February 5, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    I, also have not gotten on the smartphone wagon. I am not interested in being 'connected' all the time. I have my phone for the convenience turned necessity of being able to call or text folks when I need to, wherever I might be. The only other desire I have from my phone is that it doubles as a great music playing device.

    As long I have those I am fine.

  27. Ron Lister
    February 5, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    I know people who will stop mid sentence to answer a text or sms looking down and smilling and typing away with thumbs flying to look up and wondering why I've walked away. One person told me that I was rude for walking off while she texted, she wasn't finished talking, (lol go figure).

    • Justin Pot
      February 5, 2013 at 4:32 pm

      I can't believe you'd be that rude! :)

  28. Keith Gatling
    February 4, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    I'm pretty much with you there. I have a 64gb iPod Touch and an AT&T Z431 GoPhone. Why? Because as much as I'd love to have "one device to rule them all" and one less thing cluttering up my pocket, I'm lucky if I get two phone calls a day, and paying $50 or more for a data plan just isn't worth it to me. Right now I'm paying $25 every three months to use my GoPhone. Let me repeat that...$25 EVERY THREE MONTHS...and even then, I'm not going through all my minutes by then, it's just that AT&T makes you buy more minutes every 90 days.

    And as for all of the things that make a smartphone smart, with free wireless pretty much on every corner, my iPod Touch does the job quite nicely.

    I was actually happy with my much dumber flip phone (that never made "butt calls"), but it was near to impossible to text people on a standard telephone keypad. So I asked for the $50 Z431 for Christmas.

    Now...if I could only get the 64gb iPhone 5 and use it as a 64gb iPod Touch on a GoPhone plan, and not pay for cellular data, maybe I'd think about buying one.

    • Justin Pot
      February 5, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      Yeah, unfortunately it's hard to use an iPhone without a data plan – most networks have rules against it. Seems like you've got a system down, though.

      • Macrina
        February 10, 2013 at 6:25 am

        At Consumer Cellular one can choose to use an iPhone without turning on a data plan. It's a no-contract provider with great coverage nearly everywhere. I *do* have a small data plan, and even then I never top out on it. And my monthly bill for phone and data combined is never more than $30.

        No I don't work for Consumer Cellular (!) but I'm one of their millions of absolutely satisfied customers. It would benefit you to check them out, in my opinion.

        All this said, I do agree with the basic premise of your article and think it's very well written.

  29. Earl E. Adopter
    February 3, 2013 at 2:37 am

    Dude, it's not that complicated. Click the mute button, check your messages when you want to. Not much different than silencing a "dumb" phone when you are in the movie theater. Manners are not about what kind of device you have, but rather how you use said device.

    • Justin Pot
      February 5, 2013 at 4:34 pm

      Absolutely true. I just can't figure out much of an up side for my self, personally, so the downsides end up winning out in my mental logic.

  30. Ginny Newsom
    February 2, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    I'm 60 and have been a community activist all my adult life. When I was in my late 20's colleagues berated me for not being up to date on the news via all the daily papers. I knew then that I could either be up to date, or focus on what I was doing...not both. I love newspapers...I love the paper news where you can come across news I might not otherwise have known to follow...that is another thing about the info glut...great to choose which news to follow, lousy to limit exposure to other information, but internet just gluts it all no matter what. I have a smart phone with all the alerts turned off except the phone ringer. I like the convenience of multi media communication as long as I control the beeps. So - I'm with you . At least in spirit.

    • Elizabeth
      February 6, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      I like newspapers because you can't line a birdcage with an iPhone. :-)

  31. Patricia del Valle
    February 2, 2013 at 5:15 am

    Hi Justin,

    Love your article. Well said. I agree 100%
    And I admire you for realizing ... at such a young age ... that we all need reflection time. Seems most folks, young and old are overdoing it with the technology.

    Like you, I enjoy using all the technology I have access to, but my reflection time is precious. I don't believe in technology blitz 24/7 to my brain.

    And, yes, isn't interrupting a face-to-face conversation by answering a beep, so rude? Often, they don't even say, "excuse me," but just hold up a finger in your face.

    I fear people don't realize the control these things have over them ... and they'll forget who they are and lose their ability to create one original thought.

    Success to you,


    P.S. I'm a grandma, grew up with technology, but still respect my reflection time, special time for my loved ones, and focus for business.

  32. Robert Owens
    February 2, 2013 at 1:46 am

    I use a dumb (cell) phone, not because I want to avoid distractions, but because I'm so clumsy with portable devices that I'd be terrified of breaking or losing a smart phone! I must have gone through six or seven cell phones in the past three years! I drop them, scratch them up, get them dirty, etc. My previous phone got fritzed when I dropped it in a mud puddle.

    Fortunately, I'm not a Twitterer or Facebookaholic, and I hate texting, so a simple cell phone that I can talk with (and occasionally use as a calculator) is generally fine with me.

    But it sure would be nice to have a smarphone if I wasn't such a klutz. :-)

  33. cwsnyder
    February 2, 2013 at 12:24 am

    I have to agree on the data plan costs. About 2 1/2 years ago, I decided that since I used less than 1/5 of the time that I paid for each month on a minimal contract, I would purchase a pay-as-you-go cell phone, which dropped my cell phone costs in half. The unfortunate problem is that it is difficult if not impossible to buy a new 'smart' phone without signing for at least a monthly contract which is 1/2 again more than I had paid for my original cellphone contract! My Android 4.1 tablet is a fair substitute, but is sometimes awkward to carry with me all of the time to use WiFi, even with notifications turned off. What I want is the Android equivalent of an iPod Touch.

    • Elizabeth
      February 6, 2013 at 9:54 pm

      What I want is the pay-as-you-go version of a Jitterbug, for the sole purpose of calling 911 or Triple-A. Emergencies and nothing more.

      • Carl Snyder
        February 7, 2013 at 10:06 pm

        For the purposes of calling 911, you can use any cell phone in which the battery is charged. If you want the option to call AAA or some other agency of your choice, you will need at least a no contract phone (pay as you go) with a minimal amount of cash applied to an account. I use a Verizon no-contract feature phone which cost me $18. I am pay as you go for all calling except that I pay for an unlimited text account which costs me about $10/month. It costs 99 cents/day + 20 cents/minute to call any local area phone number or just 99 cents/day to call other Verizon cell phone customers, or at least that is my present agreement.

  34. Anonymous
    February 1, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    I don't want to have conversations interrupted, meals disorganised, only have part-attention. No doubt the craze will pass, and people will USE THE PHONE, not BE RULED BY THE PHONE at some point in the future, and them no doubt costs of using it will fall. Until then, like you, I stay aloof from the madness. Anyway, at 86 I am glad to be away from being at the beck and call of every bored person in my life!

  35. Shawn
    February 1, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    I agree 100%. The average person comes off as a real jerk when they can't manage to eke through a simple conversation without whipping out a phone and checking email or Facebook or Twitter.

    But, I carry a smart phone - my whole family does - and yes, the phone bill is outrageous as we all have data and text and voice and and and...

    However, the difference between what you've written and the reality for a lot of people comes down to a 1" square of plastic (OK... more like 1" x 1" x 1/2") and electronics with an audio jack on the bottom. Before the smart phone, I, as a small business owner, had to have a merchant account ($ out of pocket), and had to have a second phone line installed (more cha-ching out the window), and paid monthly minimums and fees and percentages until I was dizzy and disgusted. The smart phone and apps such as Square and PayPal Here and Intuit's GoPayment have really revolutionized the way I do business.

    Marketing is another reason for toting a smart phone. Facebook is free. I used to run ads in newspapers and on radio stations and pray. Now I am able to better reach a target market with spot on updates.

    Being in business for yourself, though, starts with a little discipline. Turning off notifications or configuring them so that only the important ones get through is not as difficult as you'd think.

    • Elizabeth
      February 6, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      I don't have a small business. I don't need a GPS because I mostly stay home. I was born in a small town, and I live in a small town; I'm going to die in a small town, and that's probably where they'll bury me.

      John Mellencamp notwithstanding, I wouldn't be a good candidate for all this hubbub of smart phones for stupid people. I don't bother with people too much, mostly keep to myself. I don't watch TV or go to the movies, and I don't really care what goes on in politics; all of it is too polarized and aggressive anyway, and I'm glad not to get nuisance calls from candidates. I am not married and have no intention of getting married or having any children. Maybe because I don't know any of the hypothetical Joneses is why I don't feel the pull to keep up with them or keep in touch with them.

  36. Chris Hoffman
    February 1, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    I actually really understand where you're coming from. I held off joining the smartphone revolution for a long time, too. And I still don't have a data plan -- I don't mind being unplugged when I'm out and about; I spend so much time on the Internet working from home anyway. Plus, Canada has the most expensive cellular service in the world. No thanks.

    But any type of phone can be distracting. Before smartphones, people texted on feature phones. I actually disable all notifications, too -- on my smartphone and computer. I don't care that I have a new email; I'll decide when it's time to do email.

    Smartphones are just more than distractions these days. It's a handheld GPS device, which comes in handy when you're wandering around a foreign city -- or even your home town -- or if you want to get somewhere and haven't been there yet. Google Maps has done so much for making people comfortable actually using transit.

    I can make a grocery list without wasting paper. I can have a foreign language dictionary in my pocket when I wander around a foreign country. If I need an address that came in an email, I can pull it out of my pocket. If I need to deposit a cheque, I can do it from home, without having to run down to the bank, freeing up time for stuff that's actually important.

    It's a tool, and like any tool, it depends how you use it. You have to discipline yourself, just as with other stuff in your life.

    This isn't an attack, just another perspective. I could've called this comment "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Smartphones."

    • Elizabeth
      February 6, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      I must be something of a paradox then, because I'm something of a homebody who doesn't venture out of my small-town much if at all (hence no need for GPS or foreign languages), and I don't "waste" paper when writing a grocery list -- the paper is already there; I just jot down on the market flyer. If you still live in the town where you grew up, and that town has fewer than 5,000 people and hasn't changed much in 50+ years, then you'd only need a GPS to get from point A to point B if you've got dementia and can't find the bathroom in your own house. People living in the suburbs and rural areas don't have subways other than the sandwich shop of same name. I'll wait for the Sunday paper to clip coupons rather than do the IQ code or whatever it's called. Most of the time I just stay home. I am not married and have no children, and don't celebrate the holidays either. So no Xmas shopping for me.

      And yet one would think that since I am such a homebody and don't know too many people, that I would want a smartphone to keep in touch with old family/friends and/or interact with new ones. Smartphones are for travelers, and I'm a "virtual" recluse. Why should I need a second device and an expensive data plan when being a homebody means I mostly just use the plugged-in computer with a dedicated line? I'm not even online much and I don't really care to make new contacts or bother with the old ones. Life is not high school, and fortunately, 99% of my closest relatives don't even own a computer (they're old). (They are pretty irked about Social Security payments going paperless, though.)

  37. Kbnmayo
    February 1, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Good for you! I wish I hadn't become addicted to my iPhone, although I use it less than most people. The novelty of surfing the web during kids' soccer practice costs me more each year than soccer dues, cleats, balls, and team pictures. You're smart to save your money for other things that you enjoy in life, and you probably enjoy a calmer day without all the distractions anyway.

    • Diane Cebula
      February 1, 2013 at 6:21 pm

      I do not need to be in touch 24/7/365 - when your attention is on your smart phone & not on your surroundings - that is just plain rude.
      We have become people who need instant gratification to make the endorphins give us a rush - we wait with bated breath for the next rush - courtesy has taken a back seat.
      Absolutely loved this article. People need to get back to being more social in person not just a click.
      Think of this - all the companies that had landline phones, they are now laughing because people pay much MORE for cell usage than the landline phones cost.

  38. Doug Hannah
    February 1, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    You know, this is not a choice I will be making, but this is very persuasively written.

    All of our choices have ramifications. We do not live in a vacuum. Good reminder.

    • Elizabeth
      February 6, 2013 at 9:38 pm

      "We do not live in a vacuum"

      Man... that sucks! ;-)

  39. Mac Witty
    February 1, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Good points. For myself I leave the smaprtphone in the office for the weekend - love it. Some friends do not like it as they can't reach me all the time but I like to take a walk or go to restaurant or friends without and just do that.

  40. Va Du
    February 1, 2013 at 5:29 am

    It's also called self control. You're essentially using multiple devices to mimic a smartphone when you can just get a smartphone to do what you need all in one place. It's tool, use it and stop trying to use it as the scapegoat when you know very well that it's the people that are the problem.

    • Justin Pot
      February 1, 2013 at 7:41 pm

      No scapegoat. People can do whatever they want. It's just not a tool I see a use for, personally – but I do see downsides.

      You're right: people are the problem. I am the problem. I think I need to become better before I can handle having another tool. Until then I'm not willing to pay for a data plan anyway.

  41. Sas
    February 1, 2013 at 3:48 am

    I'm not being angry with you or anything but it seems that the main problem you have with smartphones is distractions. I would sugest buy a cheap smart phone that is like a dumb phone like the samsung galaxy y (young) and then disable notifications. Then you will have a smartphone that does not distract you and plus, it's like a dumb phone.

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      February 5, 2013 at 11:27 am

      Then what's the point of having one?

  42. Melinda
    February 1, 2013 at 3:01 am

    Hi Justin,

    Agreed on many of your points. I regularly drive my friends and family crazy because I often don't take my phone out for dinner, to concerts or on road trips. Still, if you don't choose to adopt, you may want to adapt. I was unable to read this article on my iPhone, because this site isn't responsive for smaller screens.


    • Justin Pot
      February 1, 2013 at 7:30 pm

      Our mobile version's been breaking lately. Not my department, but I'm sure James will get it working again someday.

      • Lisa Santika Onggrid
        February 5, 2013 at 11:28 am

        You know, 'someday' might not be the best word choice here ;)

      • Muo TechGuy
        February 6, 2013 at 7:16 pm

        I highly doubt he will.

        • Justin Pot
          February 6, 2013 at 8:26 pm

          Guess not, then!

  43. Dave Parrack
    February 1, 2013 at 1:17 am

    I value my time off the grid, and make sure not to let it draw me back in. The problem is most people don't have the willpower to leave a notification unchecked in the same way that most people will answer a call purely because the phone is ringing.

    There's nothing inherently wrong with smartphones, but I wish people would try harder not to let them dominate their lives. In other words, get one, but let it serve you rather than you serve it.

    • Justin Pot
      February 1, 2013 at 7:29 pm

      I'd consider it if data plans didn't also cost so much. So many potential downsides, a few insignificant up sides and a good chunk of money for getting them.

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      February 5, 2013 at 11:33 am

      "I love people, and want to focus on them when I’m with them. I love the mountains, and want to focus on them while I’m hiking with them. I love my wife, and want to focus on her when I’m with her."

      My respect for you has just increased tenfold. At the end, being a technology blogger doesn't always mean the newest and shiniest-but rather how to use the technology to make your life better.
      My old SE is loaded with J2ME apps for everything I need. It's enough and I don't see myself changing to smartphone anytime soon. Tried using IFTTT to 'experience' smartphone for three months or so, and I don't like hearing constant notifications so I turned the recipe off. Dumb phone suits me well.

      • Elizabeth
        February 6, 2013 at 9:37 pm

        Unfortunately, sooner or later so-called dumb phones might no longer be an option as we move more and more in the direction of an all-digital society. The U.S. Postal Service just ended mail delivery on Saturdays, and no surprise, the reason given was that people would rather text, e-mail or social-network to keep in touch, and that more and more people are switching to online bill-paying and reading magazines online. There's still Monday-Friday delivery, and the USPS still delivers packages, but say goodbye to mail service altogether in the all-too-near future too.

        Which is especially sad when one thinks that many people who take civil-service jobs like mail delivery are veterans and people for whom jobs dealing with the public are just a no-go (even minimum-wage McJobs and retail positions). What are all these people supposed to do, go back to school and get degrees in IT so they can go work for Internet startups? Or just go on the dole?

        Photoshop and digital cameras took our Kodachrome away. The Internet took our Newsweek, our Borders/Waldenbooks (and soon Barnes & Noble), and soon, our beloved mail carriers and probably Hallmark too. Makes me think we're due for a "rise of the machines" and that any/all of the "Terminator" series should be moved to the Documentary section. On IMDB and Netflix of course, because the Internet took my Blockbuster nights away too.

        • Lisa Santika Onggrid
          February 7, 2013 at 4:10 am

          Yeah, it's just sad. I love technology, but that doesn't mean I want it in every aspect of my life. Some things are better when done manually (paperbacks, meaningful letters, etc). I think I can open a movie theatre sometimes in the next decade and market it as 'the real social movie watching experience!' or something like that.
          I don't remember the titles anymore, but this reminds me of two short stories I read long ago. One in which two kids found their great grandfather's book and remarked that the pictures were still and they had to move to the next page manually. They thought it's more fun than digital read along book. The second one, arguably darker, featured a middle aged man who was caught by robot guard in his midday stroll because since everything could be done from your house, going outside had became strange.
          Will our future be like that?

    • Elizabeth
      February 6, 2013 at 9:28 pm

      So-called smart phones are used for stupid things, like social media. I don't bother with any of them; commenting on intelligent blogs like this one rather than wasting time yapping about Beeb the Dweeb's underwear is a better use of my online time. But you know there's something wrong with society when, as with the aftermath of the Aurora and Newtown shootings, people are led to believe that anyone who doesn't have a social media account (a la the aforementioned killers) must be a dangerous isolationist and therefore someone to be wary of. Neither of them spent any time on Facebook, hence the line of thinking they must not have had any friends and therefore harbored a violent grudge against the world. As the kids today say, O RLY? Or the more elaborate equivalent, correlation does not equal causation.

      FWIW this seems like just a clever ploy on the part of FB/Twitter advertisers to get more people to sign up out of fear they'll be marked as antisocial potential murderers. Well, as the kids these days also say, I, like honey badgers, don't care. Being anti-social media doesn't necessarily mean one is anti-social. And even being anti-social doesn't necessarily mean one will become a serial killer. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I'd consider it more emblematic of psychological problems to actually give a rat's tail what people are doing in the toilet at any given moment. Which is why I don't use social media. Not because I've got a grudge against kindergarteners. Sheesh.

      • Dave Parrack
        February 6, 2013 at 9:35 pm

        You keep suggesting people use social media to tell the world they're using the toilet. That just doesn't happen. And no one I know talks about Justin Bieber either. The fundamental thing about social networking is that you only connect with the people you want to, so unless you actively want to discuss these topics they'll never appear in your conversations.

        You should try Facebook or Twitter sometime. Then you wouldn't have to guess what people use them for.

  44. dragonmouth
    January 31, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    The way you feel about smart phones I feel about cell phones. I feel no overwhelming need to be "in touch" 24/7/365. I especially do not feel an overwhelming need to be accessible 24/7/365. Call me a Luddite or out of touch (most definitely!) but I value my privacy.

    Yes, I do carry a cell phone but it stays off until I want to make call. There is no emergency big enough that I have to be notified RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND. In 99.99% of emergencies I am not able to do anything about them anyway. I'm either too far away to do anything, or the solution to the emergency is outside of my competency, or the emergency exists only in somebody else's mind. All I can do is panic but that can wait till I get home.

    The world survived for thousands of years without WiFi, cell phones and IMs. People still communicated, still kept in touch and much better than they do now. In spite of 24/7/365 accessibility and connectivity, people feel more isolated, more lonely than ever before.

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      February 5, 2013 at 11:36 am

      I do bring my phone when I'm out of house, but most of the time I'll let it sit on the table and just check it at night.
      Your comment says everything I've wanted to say.

  45. Anonymous
    January 31, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    While I have succumbed to the smart phone craze, it is only because of the mobility requirements of my job, and the fact that they handed me one the day I started. I have been saying for several years that eventually tablets will replace the functionality most people seek from smartphones and people will appreciate the kind of privacy that you are advocating. Also, phones are meant for your pocket; I want to see the pictures and videos and blueprints on a screen bigger than a postage stamp.

  46. Bumferry Hogart
    January 31, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    I've never really thought about how much my phone dominates my life, until i went on holiday abroad. Having my phone turned OFF gave the chance to properly relax and get away from the near constant buzzing and flashing of every notification, update and post that eminates from all my social feeds.
    This article has convinced me to turn off all my phone notifications and start using my phone AS A PHONE.
    I wouldn't give up the apps (not games) i use the most but social networks can take a back seat and I'll give this "real life" a try.

  47. rogerms
    January 31, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Re: notifications, turn them off and check for messages, etc. on your schedule. Optionally have the phone filter incoming stuff and have it issue a notification only when a message or other event is truly important. Smartphones are a useful tool, no need to become a slave to them!

  48. Grace
    January 31, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    Wow! I could have written this article myself. I thought I was the only one who was resistant to moving up to the smart (?) phone, and I am an Apple/Mac advocate. All I need my phone for is to talk to people when necessary. I had an iPod for all the rest. This way I can use my iPod when I'm alone, and when I'm with my friends they deserve my undivided attention. Unfortunately, I can't always say the same for them, but at least they are apologetic if we are interrupted by their phones. Then again, it could be the look on my face when they engage in their phone stuff.... :D