Monday, January 25, 2016

Ditching smartphones

This is the first-hand account of someone who decided to get rid of their smartphone and replace it with just a regular cellphone that makes and receives calls and text messages.  It's a bit precious and naive in the same way as New York Times articles about supposedly widespread trends that really only apply to the cultural elite of Manhattan.  The author has to dig through all his drawers to find an old phone, only to learn that it doesn't work, and then buys a $200 not-smart-phone that itself is pitched not as a replacement for but rather a complement to one's smartphone.  If he had been more in touch with regular people, he probably would have thought to buy a replacement battery for her old phone, or pick up a $30 phone at any store. 

That said, I think the author's reflection on the value and peace one gains by not being constantly connected is a valid one.  It's one of the main reasons I don't want a smartphone--it's just easier not to be so addicted to something like that.  Another major reason I don't like smartphones is that they impinge on your liberty, not just the peace-of-mind-type liberty that the author describes, but the liberty of not signing a contract with a phone company, of not having a leased phone, of not paying more money for data and then feeling obliged to use that data.  I like the freedom of not worrying about having my phone stolen, since I'm not at all attached to it.  And I like that my phones rarely need servicing, and when they do there is no intellectual property protection that prevents a technician from working on them.  Dumb phones are difficult to trace; they have no GPS capability, and don't automatically synchronize with other devices.  Most of all, I value having an open-band phone that I can slip any SIM card into, without some nefarious service provider blocking me from freely using a device I paid for.  I have gone to great lengths to fix an old phone, lengths and costs in no way justified by the phone's market value, but rather by how much I value my own freedom.  And I'm not the only one.  In both the US and especially in the developing world, I know plenty of people who prefer "dumb" phones.  It's not as rare or far-out as the article would have you believe.  Some have never had a smart phone while some, like the author of this article, are returning to a normal, not-smart phone after a dalliance with smartphones.

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