I’m aware there is a lot of privilege in this post

My phone broke last year (I’m late writing up this post) and I’ve took the opportunity to try going low tech. I spent about £25 buying one of these from eBay with a charger and £10 credit. It’s effectively a burner phone and I feel very spy-like.

I’ve learned the following things.

  • I really miss Google Maps.
  • I miss almost nothing else. I don’t even have a way of telling the time on the device right now. That’s not been a problem.
  • I get to really think about what an ‘emergency’ is. I did a Facebook post when my phone broke that said “In an emergency, contact my partner” (we both work from home so I’m normally right next to her). My partner has my new phone number, and two people have it because they were at an event I was going to. That’s it. I also gave it to my mum. Broadly - unless it’s one of those people, it really can’t be an emergency. In theory, this places a significant burden on my partner - but in practice not really.
  • My average level of fear has dropped slightly: instead of walking around with £1,500 worth of visible tech (purchase price of phone and watch, although replacement cost is now probably closer to £700) that can be lost, broken, or stolen. I have a phone that is memically indestructable and remarkably cheap to replace.
  • I am present: there has been no time since I switched that I’ve been staring at my phone, lost to the internet. I’m been talking to people, writing, working, or paying attention. I could think of this as having regained two hours in the day, but realistically it’s probably that I’ll start a more active procrastination somehow.
  • the Nokia 3310 isn’t quite up to the myth. I’m returning my unit because the screen kept malfunctioning, and the call quality isn’t anything like as good as modern phones.
    • it also dates from a time that messages weren’t important - so there are odd user issues - it doesn’t save sent messages, which actually trips one up a lot.
  • the Nokia 3310 does get a bizarre amount of positive attention from people when you meet them. Very retro, but I would rather that the phone wasn’t my most interesting feature.
  • I kept locking and unlocking it and checking it. Which was strange. I think I just have far more of a habit of checking than I thought I did.
  • I’m deeply unhappy with the modern phone ecosystem. I hadn’t realised how much, but the experiment really brought it out. I can’t articulate it properly yet, but the potential for lifting all humankind has not matched the reality.

I’ve now got my phone repaired, and I’m wondering what the long term solution is: I don’t want to keep paying so much money for a device that doesn’t actually bring me that much happiness.

I’m feeling quite open to change. There is a real joy to a cheap burner phone, and I wonder if I can have the best of both worlds.