Rethinking my relationship with my phone

I’m addicted to my phone, it is a device that I use to distract from emotions. I thought when buying an iPhone it’d be this media creation powerhouse and it is, the camera is insane for the size, but what it turned into for me was a media consumption addiction machine.

I’m addicted to my phone, it is a device that I use to distract from emotions whether that be nerves or boredom. I thought when buying an iPhone it’d be this media creation powerhouse and it is, the camera is insane for the size, but what it turned into for me was a media consumption addiction machine. To solve this I felt I needed to separate the two functions, media creation/dissemination, versus communication.

I tried switching to the Kyocera DuraXV Extreme flip phone and a Unihertz  Titan Pocket as my main communication devices. First the Kyocera:

The Kyocera changed my habits in a positive way: it forced me to call more. There is such a satisfying experience with calling on a flip phone that a candybar just doesn’t have. I loved that phone because of its durability and battery life. It is completely waterproof, and drop proof (within a reasonable amount). It is a work-site phone and if I was going camping it would be something to have as a dedicated phone. The user experience and dopamine hit of just flipping it up and down is something I have come to love again and miss now that I've moved on from it. The device also forced me to just not use my phone as much, because the user experience of everything else was so bad, like the camera. The camera is straight from 2007 like the form-factor, it is so bad that it couldn’t read the high destiny QR code from the side loaded Google Authenticator application when I tried to transfer my accounts to the device (it runs a very stripped down version of Android). Lesson gained: a user interface can shape your habits by changing the user experience. If the screen is bad, there is no incentive to consume on it. This has greatly effected how I would design a perfect smart phone.

I stopped using it because I needed to send a message to 5 different people and check my calendar at the same time. There is no multi-tasking. In addition the flip phone number pad is bad for texting (how did I used to do this?), 4 clicks for “p” is just too slow. Now there is a predictive text function but it leaves a lot to be desired if you come from Google Keyboard or even Apples’. Also the lack of Uber/Lyft/transport apps would become a concern as travel increased.

So I returned the device and moved on, this time to the Unihertz Titan Pocket.

I knew it had a poor screen (a 1:1 aspect ratio doesn't work well nowadays) so that would limit media consumption but it was touch sensitive and had at least an ok enough camera that it could transfer my accounts. It also had a notification LED which is something I have greatly been missing; why buy a computerized wrist strap when this little dot tells me everything at a glance. The Titan Pocket is essentially a Blackberry Classic clone, something that I never used but figured if the form factor of a physical keyboard stuck around for so many years it must be good at that…. the keys are just too small and compact. I don’t have abnormally large hands but this device hurt my thumbs, the ergonomics just aren’t there for this smushed qwerty form. Even in 2008 this form factor was being called into question, ran an article titled “The Agony of 'BlackBerry Thumb’”. There are other physical key form factors that are more horizontal than vertical like on the Fxtec phone or Planet Computer devices, I can not comment on the ergonomics of these devices. The security of it also made me concerned, it was still on Android 11 and security updates were not guaranteed.

The form factor in this case influenced me to just not use it. It was hard to type on, and had no dopamine incentive to call. While I don’t want to be attached to my phone, I still need it to do work.

I returned this as well.

I think my perfect phone would be durable flip phone form factor, large battery (think 4000 mAh), a decent camera but the screens are EInk. So a bit like a Microsoft Surface folding phone but Eink, The Eink would achieve my 2 requirments:

  • Good battery life.
  • Bad for media consumption.  

Before you say why not get a Light Phone then, it just doesn’t do what I want and has has a smaller battery than the Kyocera and it can’t be repaired. I wish I could use a HiSense A9, even just to see if Eink in the practice of texting works well, but it does not support US cellular bands. Companies like HiSense, Boox and SuperNote have shown that it is possible to increase the Eink panel refresh rate and minimize ghosting so it seems very possible that this could be achieved.

I’m interested in pursuing this idea further and will be sideloading Telegram onto my SuperNote, but till that happens I will just do a few tricks to decrease it's interest:

  • Charge the phone outside of my room
  • Change the screen to black and white using the Accessabilty settings
  • Uninstall social apps and just use the website versions.
  • Keep a physical planner and notebook with me.

If you would like to discuss this further, sign up for the mailing list and then you can comment on articles.