So it’s been 6 weeks since I last blogged about how I was going to survive without a smartphone and I return to you a few days after I received my iPhone 4 with disappointing news: I failed my little experiment. Listen, I’m not one that admits failure easily or even openly, but I failed this puppy miserably.
If you remember when I last checked in, after going a whole weekend without any kind of phone, my brother took pity on me and loaned me his first generation iPhone. Keep in mind that I really had no other alternative. My plan to get a cheap, basic phone from AT&T didn’t work out, and I needed something to make phone calls with. Besides, I had the best of intentions in the beginning, telling myself I would only use the phone for calls and texting, no apps. But, the temptation was too great. As painful as using the first generation iPhone is, when compared to the speed and GPS ability of the 3G and 3GS, it is far better than not having a smartphone at all.
So yes, I caved completely. It started with making my daily picks using ESPN’s Streak for the Cash app, then I began peeking at the forecast, then (aw heck), why not check my personal email too? But, I DID draw a line in the sand, albeit a faint, barely visible line at that; I refused to add my work email or calender to my phone – though I admit that is more of a lifestyle choice than one made out of scientific experimentation or deprivation.
Even with the limited use of the first gen iPhone, it’s been a tough two months, and it has certainly been an interesting experience. I think that despite our best intentions, many of us become addicted (though “reliant” sounds softer) on our smartphones. Smartphone users must admit that when we see someone pull out a flip phone or some small, plastic, inexpensive phone, we shudder and mutter to ourselves, “poor thing.” We consider that person less savvy than we are and behind the times. We don’t think or say these things because we are mean-spirited people, we just can’t help ourselves – we need our smartphones.
So, I apologize for giving in. I would like to have sat here a few months later a changed man, but alas, I have already gone for a run with my new phone, using my favorite app Runkeeper (who just launched their new website by the way), I am taking advantage of the one inbox and have set up all my email accounts (including work), I have shot a few photos and videos of my son, tweeted, posted to Facebook, and have sorted my apps into neat little folders. I am “reliant” on my iPhone and don’t mind admitting it. Now let’s just hope I don’t drop this one.
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Two weeks ago, I began what I called the great iPhone Experiment. You can read the details of this experiment here, but the general gist was that I decided to return my iPhone 3GS to wait for the iPhone 4 due out this summer after seeing the leaked details from Gizmodo. And of course, since that video was leaked, there have been all kinds of legal issues stemming from the “find” and “sale” of the prototype phone. A quick Google search will uncover countless articles bashing the dude who found the phone, but while people are pointing fingers at who did what and who was ultimately wrong, I was about to embark on throwing all smartphones out the window.
The first weekend began without a phone all together, which presented quite the challenge when I had friends in town that I was trying to sync up with. Let me tell you, relying on home email alone to coordinate meetings and activities is a pain in the rear. It turned out that all my numbers for my friends were in my phone which meant that I had no way to call them, and when I went into the city to pick them up from their hotel, I actually had to print a map before I left the house since I couldn’t look it up on my phone using my GPS position.
You see, I had forgotten to ensure that I had a phone to plug my SIM card into after I returned my phone… Fortunately, my brother came to my rescue. And here is where it gets tricky… the phone he had for me to use was the original iPhone. I seriously contemplated telling him no, that I had promised everyone I was going without a smartphone for 2 months, but when you have a 12 month old child, it’s irresponsible to not have a phone, right? I know this is so, my mom made sure to email me and tell me that now was a good time to finally get a landline for our house. Nope, not going to happen…
Anyway, I had to accept the phone from my brother, BUT… I have done so with a few restrictions in place to try and pursue my original intent:
- I am strictly using the phone to make calls and text message
- I am not using any of the applications on the phone
- I have not activated email
I am sure some of you are sitting there asking me what’s the point then? Well, as unnerving as it was to not have a phone for an entire weekend, it was extremely liberating. Likewise, first few days I had the iPhone without any applications or mail was just refreshing, so I wanted to keep that up as long as I could, especially with a family vacation to the Outer Banks about to start 36 hours from now.
And you may think that this is no longer really an experiment, but I will tell you that in the past two weeks, I’ve learned a few things:
- You don’t really need email on the go. Certainly, I reached for my pocket a few times at first while I’d wait for the elevator or be stopped at a traffic light, but you know what, there are actually people in the elevator to say hello to, and by God, the alone time you get in your car should be cherished given how crazy so many of our lives are these days.
- It’s a little challenging to get dressed in the morning without knowing exactly what the weather is going to be like. I’ve had to walk downstairs to the computer and actually look up the forecast before leaving the house. The exercise has been welcomed.
- Speaking of exercise, I DO miss the Runkeeper app as I figured I would. I’ve had to restrict my routes to streets that I can trace on the manual input application for Runkeeper on their website. By the way, have I told you how much I like that application?? Easily one of the best apps for people who like to exercise. Since using it, I’ve run more in the past 3 months than I have in previous years combined.
- There is more of a responsibility to remember when your meetings and appointments are… I used to rely on checking the calender on my iPhone or receiving a notification to remind me when I had an upcoming meeting. Not so anymore. I actually have to pull up my calendar in the morning and go through the schedule for the day so that I can plan accordingly.
- Finally, what I have missed the most is the ability to take pictures and videos. If we didn’t have a boy that was about to take his first steps, it might not be as challenging, but for those of you who have kids, you know how remarkable this time of a child’s life is, and how there is so much to capture. Fortunately, my wife still has her phone, and we do have the FlipCam always handy to capture these moments.
Have I missed my Twitter apps? Or Facebook? No, not really. I’m not really one to obsess over what my friends are doing, so Facebook has never been a draw for me in that way. Posting content or checking on things while I’m on my computer is enough. And as far as Twitter goes, I’ve still used the text feature when something strikes me as interesting… like seeing someone rear end another car yesterday afternoon on my run directly in front of the Association for Professional Insurance Agents in Old Town. Now that would have been something to take a picture of and post with my Tweet.
So far so good. If you all still feel that using the iPhone as just a text/call device is within the original intent of my experiment, I will continue to post how this has impacted my smartphone-enabled life. Personally, while the phone may be fancier than others, using it for text/phone only seems to fit the definition of a smartphone, though even Wikipedia lists varying definitions of a smartphone. Either way, I’m going to continue this email-free, more surroundings-aware approach over the next few weeks… oh, and probably have an even better time on the beach because of it. Now, did I put the sun block?
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I have a confession to make. I didn’t make it to the AT&T store yesterday at lunch like I had planned. I actually managed to convince myself that I had a few more days, and if I had a few more days, why not go for a run during the afternoon so I could use Runkeeper one last time. So alas, I went to bed one more time with the iPhone safely plugged in at my bedside.But, today at exactly high noon, I walked into the AT&T store at Potomac Yards, a good friend at my side (for moral support) and returned my iPhone 3GS. Yes, I felt nauseous, I won’t lie. And yes, I probably second-guessed myself about 4-5 times on the drive over to the store, but I’m doing this for YOU everyone… just to see what life is like WITHOUT a smartphone. Back to the story… Now, I’m not sure if this store is any different from other AT&T stores that you’ve been in, but I would have to say that based on the sales staff on hand, they could have handled the release of the new iPhone without any issues. That is to say, there were about 15 sales staff milling about, and only 3 customers in the store. This has been the case EVERY time I go into the store. Yet, when I drop in on a weekend, there are maybe 5 sales members and 20+ customers. Go figure. Anyway, the return process was pretty straightforward and quick. No questions asked about why I was returning the phone or if I had any interest in a different phone. In fact, there was really no question about what I was planning on using now that I was returning the phone. Instead, it was, “here is your SIM card, your upgrade credit has been returned to your account, have a great weekend.” So, I walked out of the store feeling a little lighter, and no phone at all in my possession. So, here I sit, about an hour away from my first weekend without a smartphone, and already I’ve reached for a phone I do not have to check my calendar to see what our family’s plans were for the evening. I imagine this is just the calm before the storm, and I will update you on Monday on how the weekend goes. But I will tell you right now, from a logistical standpoint, not having a phone at all has already created a myriad of problems, especially since my family falls into the “cord cutters” category. Mom, can you send me an email if you want to talk please? Or, figure out how to use AIM? God forbid we’re friends on Facebook… Have a great weekend everyone.
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First of all, thank you to all of you for your interest and concern. I can’t say that I’m really surprised by everyone’s shock or concern about giving up the iPhone – We all rely on smartphones, and the thought of going without is hard to bear.
Second of all, there seems to be some confusion about why I would put myself through all of this. So let me explain in a nutshell what the issue is:
- I dropped and shattered my iPhone 3G back in December.
- I qualified for an AT&T “upgrade credit” in January.
- I hoped to limp along on my shattered iPhone until the new iPhone 4 is released this summer.
- My shattered 3G stopped working all together despite every attempt I could make to revive it 3 weeks ago.
- I needed a phone ASAP so went to AT&T and used my upgrade credit to buy the 3GS.
- Earler this week, the whole Gizmodo stolen iPhone circus began and I watched the video about the iPhone 4.
- I immediately wanted said iPhone but cannot afford to pay full price for it this summer.
- If I return my 3GS within 30 days of purchase in “new”-ish condition, I get my money back and will save my upgrade credit.
- My 30 days expires on April 25.
- Once I return the 3GS I will need a functioning phone (see #4) and will be smartphone-less until the iPhone 4 comes out.
- I will cover how I am coping with no smartphone in this blog series.
Hopefully this explains the issue at hand and why I am going through this process. Giving back the iPhone will not only make me look forward to the iPhone 4 that much more, it will be an interesting social experiment (for those who know me well) on how I cope without having instant access to information.
Hit me up with comments or email if you have other questions!
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So, today is the big day when I will return my iPhone and use whatever free phone AT&T will offer me until the next iPhone comes out. I’ll be honest, I’ve lost sleep over this decision, even thinking about it now as I type this, my stomach is churning. A part of me thinks I would have been all talk had I not publicly declared my intent to return my iPhone. And, as someone who likes to publicly suffer (I’m sure there is a clinical name for that), I am almost looking forward to seeing how rough it will be returning to a land of no touchscreen, or easy texting. And again, this isn’t just giving up the iPhone, it’s giving up a smartphone period… so this goes out to all of you BlackBerry users too!That said, after spinning on this for a few days now, this is what I think I will miss the most: 1. Easy Texting – I’ve already warned a few of my friends who know what I’m doing that I will not be texting over the next 6-8 weeks. I refuse to struggle with 9 keys to type out a message. 2. FourSquare – Believe it or not, I almost gave up the idea of giving up my iPhone because I don’t want to lose my mayorships at a few of the local venues. But, I figure as easy as it was to gain them in the first place, I should be able to win them back in time. 3. No Video or Photos of My Son – Every week, I think my wife and I take 50-100 photos or videos of our growing boy, all thanks to the iPhone. Thankfully, she still has hers, and I will return to leaning on our almost obsolete FlipCam and digital camera. 4. No Email Access – Notice how this is #4 oh colleagues of mine? That’s right, when I am out of the office, you will have to CALL me to get a hold of me. It’s a crazy concept, even one that I am not that familiar with, but the timing could not be better with vacations around the corner. 5. Streak for the Cash – A great game created by the Fantasy gamers at ESPN that a few friends of mine have become obsessed with. There is a simple iPhone app that makes keeping up on your picks one touch away. Now I’ll have to use the computer to make my picks. 6. Runkeeper – One of my favorite apps on the iPhone today. Nothing motivates you more when you are on a run than hearing in your ears how off pace you are, how far you’ve run, and then uploading it to the web for the world to see. I will now have to manually time and measure my runs and workouts. *sigh* 7. The Tunes – I love the fact that the iPhone is a nice slim addition to your workout while listening to music. I have recently dug out my old school 16GB iPod that is about as thick as a deck of cards and will have to use that instead. (Am I sounding spoiled? As I read this, I sound spoiled… so maybe this IS a good thing for me). 8. Twitter – Seesmic, here I come. No more tweeting from my phone as it will take too long to use the “new” old phone. See #1. 9. Weather Reports – Like many of you, I plan my wardrobe around what the weather forecast holds. I may actually have to turn on the TV now for the weather report instead of rolling over in bed, and checking on the phone before I get up. I’m sure I could make a list at least 50 long, and instead of making it a top 10 list, I’ll stop at 9 because that’s about as irrational as I think giving up the iPhone is. So, think of me today as I shuffle into my local AT&T shop and hand over (hopefully) something that many of us (not just me) have come to rely on every day.
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As some of you know, I dropped my iPhone 3G back in December and limped along with a cracked phone until it finally crapped out at the end of March. My original plan had been to just bide my time until the new iPhone came out this summer, but when the 3G died, I had no choice but to pull the trigger on the 3GS. At first, I thought I talked myself into thinking that I wasn’t missing out on much, and surely in 2 years when I qualified for a new phone I would be much happier anyway.
BUT… When I saw the “leaked” photos of the new iphone the other day, I have been contemplating returning my 3GS while I am still within the 30 day refund window and going old school with a flip phone until the new iPhone comes out. I have 5 more days to make my decision and I have been asking myself, can I go without a smartphone for 6+ weeks?
Similar to ripping off a band-aid from a painful scab, I’m coming to the realization that I just need to return the phone and go cold turkey rather than trying to rationalize the pros and cons of the decision. If anything, I know it will be great blog material going from a life of instant access back to what my life was like 5 years ago, pre-BlackBerry and iPhone. I might even discover that I have a wife and child in the process… What? Where did they come from?
What do you think? Is it worth it? Is the NEW iPhone worth slumming around with an old school phone? Either way, I will keep you posted as I engage in what will surely be an interesting social experiment.
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