Smartphone vs Dumbphone - where’s the middle ground?

Is going “full dumbphone” really necessary? Here’s my thoughts on dumbing down the smartphone

Ben W recently wrote a post about the relaunched Nokia 3310{:target="_blank"}. He’s not alone in the Clearleft HQ to approve of the reboot and there’s a general consensus that this is the start of the “backlash” against device addiction.

Kicking about in the bottom of our household’s tech graveyard – we all have one right? – is a Nokia 3100 and I’ve been temped on a few occations to fire it up for a dummy run. But as much as I’d love to permenantly ditch the smartphone there’s a few things that would make the daily grind a little rougher without one.

  1. Maps - The freedom that a GPS signal and reliably mapped cities and towns offers is liberating to say the least.
  2. Monzo - Monzo, the ‘bank as smart as your phone’, has turned out to be an increadibly joyous experience for the few months I’ve been using it. Howerver, much like Instagram used to be, there is no web account interface at present so all admin is via your smartphone. Carrying a smartphone is core it it’s value.
  3. Digital Bus Tickets - The thought of having to use a topup card, cornershop wwekly ticket or paying on the bus feels like too much of a step backward to me.

But what about that “backlash”? Do we need to take such drastic measures as diching all the smartness? Where’s the middle gound?

A few people have mentioned Glued app{:target="_blank"} but I can’t help but feel cynical about installing an app that tells me when enough is enough. To coin a phrase: Less is more.

Around the summer of 2016 I read Jake Knapp’s article The distraction-free iPhone (or ‘Why I’m happier since I disabled Safari’){:target="_blank"} and tried out his suggestions.

His article explains the week long experiment of removing/disabling the following apps from his phone;

  • Social media
  • Email
  • Web browser (via Restrictions on an iPhone)
  • Anything installed to whittle away time

I also moved all home entertainment apps like Netflix and iPlayer to the family iPad, having this seperate device for entertainment lessens the tempation to interact with your phone.

After a week or so of fighting the muscle memory of turning my phone on for no apparent reason, I began to pay it less attention. It no longer had to be within an arm’s length at all times, the battery lasted longer, I started reading books on public transport, and most importantly I had no reason to take it into the loo anymore!

I also devised a method of managing apps that remained on the phone. I created three folders in the iPhone homescreen dock; Frequent, Occasional and Seldom. If I used an app everyday it went into Frequent, infrequently used apps went into Occasional, everything else went into Seldom and probable contenders for being removed completely.

Since starting at Clearleft I’ve installed Slack to drop a message to the team if I’m running late. But with any app with a feed or messages that can be affixed with reations, it soons becomes an addiction.

… hang on a sec, that gives me an idea for a kaizen!