Ditching a Smart Phone was a Smart Idea

I’m not a big fan of cell phones in general, as weird as this may sound. I’m not particularly comfortable with “always accessible” always reachable attitude of our society. Some people goes to bed and wake up with a cellphone, not me. I very much enjoy my space and peace.

That being said, I do not wish to generalize. I understand that different people, have different needs, desires and lifestyle.

For me it’s now about three months since I went back to good old dumb phone, and I couldn’t be happier. Here’s why…

Price

Low end smart phones start at about EUR 200. Such phones, however, right now, are rather useless, slow and outdated to begin with.

For one third of this price I’ve bought a regular cell phone which is fast, reliable and does calling and texting better than a low end smart phone.

Privacy

Having a cell phone is privacy concern in general, as Richard Stallman said, “cell phones are tracking and surveillance devices.”

This is even more true for smart phones, which are gold mine for all the companies (and governments) which are hungry for users’ personal information. Just check my post about Facebook application.

I do not wish to support companies and products which are invading my privacy. I’m voting with my wallet here; the next cell phone I’ll buy will be even cheaper and dumber than the one I currently own.

Freedom

Restrictions on smart phones are severe, and go so far that you hardly even feel like an owner of a device. When a company which produces a device, has more access to it than you, common sense must trigger feelings of despise and resistance in you.

Rooting a phone to get real access to it, feels like breaking into your own house.

Having a cheap and dumb cell phone, is a compromise, out of convenience. Regular cell phones are not as much restricted as they’re technologically limited.

Convenience

Smart phones are quite big and inconvenient to carry around. They get quickly damaged, hence many people buy ridiculous protective cases, which make device even bigger, uglier and more inconvenient to carry around and interact with.

Battery life is mostly terrible, especially if a smart phone is put to its full potential. Daily charging is nothing strange, as its nothing strange to have an empty battery when you’d need it the most.

Functionality

For devices having smart in their name, smart phones are relatively dumb. I’ve been missing some essential functionalities which even my regular cell phone have right now, for example ability to set ring once for incoming calls.

Smart devices are also more prone to bugs, which may cripple essential functionalities of a device.

Many applications initially installed are useless, they’re eating system resources and shortening already poor battery life. And there’s often no ability to remove them.

There’s a lot of free applications available to install, majority of them being useless, raise privacy concerns and are full of ads.

If you’re ready to pay couple of EUR, there are some decent things available. Of course, you should always be careful when entering credit card information into your device.

There’s a limit of what can you do on a phone (or better say, what’s comfortable doing). Most of the production will happening on a PC, phones and tablets are used above all for consumption.

Upgrading means Downgrading

When you buy low end smart phone (don’t do it!), the device will be outdated and slow to begin with, and then you’ll be able to observe, how with each software upgrade it’s getting slower and slower.

After about six months, you’ll realize, that couple more months, and you won’t have any other chance, but to throw it to the garbage and buy a new one.

High end devices are a bit more time resistant, despite this fact, people mostly switch them when a new model comes out. That’s in about a year. Because having model 4, when model 5 is available, it’s just somehow painful, and having model 3 it’s quite shameful.

UX

Majority of the touch screen devices have poor UX. Sure, there are some exceptions where touch might be a good option, but for the most of the tasks, the experience is not very good.

That’s especially true for devices with a small screen. To this day I still don’t understand how products which offer such a terrible UX can be so successful. Marketing department in this field, as I see, is doing magic.

Conclusion

I don’t see myself buying another smart phone in a near future. Paying more to have worst experience, less privacy and convenience, makes no sense to me.

Smart phones certainly will be cheaper as the time goes on, and I’m sure some of the usability problems will be resolved. Privacy and freedom aspect, though, seems to be getting worst and worst. And those are the two most important things.


Update, Oct. 2017

While I do own a smartphone now, I must say that sadly all the above points still holds true. Let me reiterate them real quick:

Prices went up for flagship devices, just see iPhone X. For low end devices, prices dropped slightly.

Privacy is even a bigger concern now than it was back then, and it’s getting worst.

Freedom aspect has not changed much. I still feel frustratingly helpless when dealing with a smartphone. I cannot seize full control, I cannot remove or replace Samsung/Google/Apple pre-installed (spyware) applications.

Convenience did not get better either. Actually standard phone size got bigger. Materials got more fragile and people are buying protective cases more than ever.

Functionality is a complex matter. Of course there’s lots of apps available for smartphones, many of them are smartphone/platform exclusives, which is part of the problem. As we’re migrating bigger and bigger parts of our life into smartphone devices, we’re sacrificing privacy, freedom and security. We’re being locked into particular way of doing things or sometimes, we’re being locked into a particular ecosystem (I’m looking at you Apple).

Upgrading means Downgrading, not so much anymore. Modern phones have plenty of power. If you buy high-end device, you might be able to hold on to it for couple of years. If you’re not a trender of course.

UX got a little bit better with new technologies.

Security something I neglected to mention in my original post. There’s tremendous amount of very personal information, all concentrated in once single device, and there’s no such thing as a total security.