Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Upgrade to the Latest Stationary Phone

We came across an interesting story by Lane Wood, a San Franciscan who, after taking an impromptu dip in a lake, accidentally drowned his iPhone 5. Rather than immediately replace the uninsured phone, Lane decided to try a month phone free–no small feat for this hyper-connected freelancer.

Though Lane did go without his phone, he didn’t go offline. He still had his computer and carried around an iPad mini rather than his phone. He used Skype, iMessage, Google+ Hangouts and other tech to keep connected. He scheduled important calls for when he knew he’d be available.

The iPad may strike some as a big cheat, but he described how pulling the tablet out to text or web-browse was far more conspicuous than the constant sneak peeks he had previously given his phone. He also pointed to the fact that he couldn’t throw the iPad in his pocket, where his phone used to sit waiting to distract.

He writes at length about his phone’s vibrate mode, which he called “the secret killer of mental clarity.” For many of us (such as this author), we think we’re being pretty considerate leaving our phones on vibrate. But even though they are inaudible to all but us, Lane accurately described how his previous insistence to heed the vibration was almost as insidious as an audible ring. The constant “temper tantrum” of a phone’s vibrator begs us to divert our attention from the present moment to see who’s trying to contact us (it’s never that important, is it?). Lane replaced the persistent pocket vibration for the blissful unawareness of incoming texts, emails and calls on his iPad stowed in his bag.

He also noted that he used the iPad for taking photos. Once again, pulling out the ungainly device made him more judicious about what was and was not photo-worthy.

Lane’s experiment is more interesting to us because he didn’t go totally offline; that proposition is a bit extreme for most of us. What his experiment does is call into question the necessity for cell phones at all. Many of wake up near our tablets. We commute to be in front of our work computers. Maybe we travel with mobile hotspots. We come home and are near our computers once again. Every one of these pieces of tech have the ability to make and receive calls, texts and emails (through Skype, Google Voice, iMessage, Facetime, etc). What if we thought used these non-phone-devices as our “landline” phones?

We won’t minimize the need for some of us to have cellphones. They’re necessary hardware for many professions. But for the rest, what are the real consequences of being unreachable for a few hours a day?

Also, from a historic standpoint, Lane’s experiment is really no different than the way we all lived 30 years ago–a dark age when we had to be at home or at work to make and receive calls, when we made plans in advance, when our every waking moment wasn’t subject to a cellular invasion. Remember, James Joyce wrote Ulysses without a cellphone and Stanley Kubrick directed “2001: A Space Odyssey” without one too (we assume). Life wasn’t so bad or unproductive back then.

All this said, Lane did buy a new phone, calling his experiment a “disruption for [his] family, friends and clients.” This author, despite the questions Lane evokes, feels no urge to ditch my phone.

For those of us not ready to lose our phone, Lane did offer a few “discipline hacks” to curb MPU (mindless phone use) without giving up your phone:

  1. Turn your screen brightness all the way up when you go out at night. You will be very painfully aware of the fact that you’re using a phone and it will drain your battery. These consequences will help you use your phone only when necessary, and your friends will be more likely to call you out for having your phone out.
  2. Experiment with using Do Not Disturb functionality and turn your notifications off. Don’t reward your phone for throwing tantrums.
  3. Make an agreement with family and friends to call each other out for MPU.

What do you think? Would you, do you live without a cellphone? Would you, could you use your computer and/or tablet as your landline? Let us know what you think in our comments section below.

Screaming angry woman image via Shutterstock

  • Camilla Birch

    My smartphone left this world three months ago. At the time I didn’t have the time to drop everything and go phone shopping. So I fired up a 6-year-old not-so-smart Nokia from the drawer, thinking I could make do with it for a few days. Three months later, and I’m still using good old Nokia. Yes, as my business phone.

    I’ve found, that my iPad Mini is enough to cover my mobile online needs. Being on the go without the iPad I have yet to encounter a challenge that can’t be solved by either patience, cash or asking someone for help. (I’m ashamed to admit that the hardest part was in fact getting over the uncoolness of flashing an old phone…)

    It’s still an extra device, but the footprint is a lot prettier than with a new smartphone.

  • Sachi Wilson

    I’m deaf so I use an iPad mini constantly to stay connected. It’s great for that.

    I also have a cheap phone, which I carry with me on bike rides just in case I flat both tires 30 miles from home. I use that for texts only.

  • suzie

    This past year having my cell phone was absolutely necessary. Granted it is an older phone that just has texting (no surfing the internet). My 91 year old mother-in-law fell and broke her wrist while out of town. At the hospital they discovered a blood clot in her lungs. She was then moved to a nursing home for 3 months before she utimately passed away from complications. Just these past couple of weeks my 93 year old father was hospitalized with a-fib and has just been moved to a nursing homing (he has Alzheimer’s which has suddenly worsened as well). The busiest time of the year for my job has just started and I’ve had to work extra days and some evening hours. You can bet that my cell phone has been a god-send for me.

  • sourgrapes22

    I don’t really think cel phones are evil. It is about personal choice to attend to them at every moment. Most of the time I choose real life relationships in the here and now over paying attention to my device. Life is short and quality face time with loved ones is rare. Make the most of it.

  • Chris

    Given the virtual death of the pay phone, I think that some type of cell phone is almost an essential.

    The question then becomes what type; which will be determined by your life style.

    I have an Android smartphone and I use it mainly for email, maps and texting. It rarely gets used as a phone. I could get a basic phone and a Nexus 7 with a cell connection and meet all of my needs. Except that the Nexus 7 wouldn’t fit in my pocket.

    I use an app called Llama which I ‘train’ to know my location based on cell phone towers. Depending on my location, it automatically switches the profile of my phone from Loud to Silent. Which is great as I never have to remember to change modes and so I don’t get interrupted when I don’t want to be.

    Let’s not forget that all phones have an off switch and, smartphones, have airplane mode. If you don’t want to be interrupted.

    The bottom line is that people allow their devices to interrupt them because they want to be interrupted. The person is in charge of the device and not vice versa.

    • Pontifikate

      Yes. The death of the pay phone. They were supposed to be “public amenities”. Now, everyone HAS TO pay for a mobile phone, like it or not! Amazing, how anything public has become privatized.

  • Marrena

    I’m pretty old school. I have never owned a cellphone. I was involved in some of the early research on cellphones and brain tumors and that skeeved me enough to swear never to get one. People know to get in touch with me by email, or leave a message on my landline at home, or call me at my landline at work. I’ve never had a problem.

  • Elaine Axten

    I have my smart phone bundled in with my broadband. I have free minutes to land lines and use it to talk to my mother. I very rarely use the land line, in fact it only rings if it’s my dad or a cold caller, but there wasn’t an option to have broadband only, so, in a twist of bundling fate, it’s cheaper to call from my mobile than my land line. I only have a smart phone, moreover, because my very good older phone couldn’t ride the wifi and my flat is in a dead zone. I am 51, and from 10 years ago when everyone was texting all the time, now I communicate mainly online. I’m at home, so don’t even have internet enabled on my smart phone, and I rarely take it out with me, either. Phone technology is now pretty much to keep in touch with my parents. If I could figure out a way to downsize further I would, but the entire bundle only costs me £20 a month. I may move home in the next couple of months, so I will review the situation then – my provider has been bought out so there’s nothing to keep me with the new company unless they make moving house with them cheap and easy.

  • Jimbalaya!

    I would love to go mobile phone free but due to financial reasons it’s more affordable to have a mobile phone than a landline phone here in Australia, for plan, call, and initial connection costs. Added to that, if you’re deemed to be a ‘low’ user of internet you’re actually better of using a smartphone for affordability reasons, again something that I’m not fond of due to the size and the touchscreens (it’s difficult to find a non-touchscreen phone with hotspot which enables you to tether the available 3g data to your laptop.) So just as an example, I’m on a yearly prepaid plan which essentially means I’m paying $25 per month for unlimited calls to landlines and mobiles and unlimited text messages, and 6GB of data to use each month, which as mentioned, I tether to my laptop and use as my home internet. So all up for my communication needs – $25 per month. But I’d much prefer to not have a mobile and just have a home phone and then separate 3g mobile broadband, but that would cost around $50 per month, plus call costs! So it’s false economy here NOT to have a mobile phone, and a smartphone at that! :((

  • Alexander López

    Sorry to ask but, what’s an MPU? As in “Make an agreement with family and friends to call each other out for MPU.” Non-US native here.

    • “mindless phone use”. no language barrier. it’s a term he made up 😉

    • Julie Bestry

      The paragraph immediately above the numbered items defines MPU as “mindless phone use.” There’s nothing US-specific about it.

  • CW

    I’ve been leaving my cell phone at home more and more–I have one robo-caller that I’m trying to avoid. I went from Verizon to a TracFone almost 2 yrs. ago and haven’t looked back. We also gave up t.v. — not hard to do at all considering the quality of stuff that’s aired these days.