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Dumber phone (nomasters.io)
895 points by jstanley 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 343 comments



There are a lot of "hacks" in this thread (put your phone in grayscale, put variable reward apps in a folder, turn off fingerprint sensor) but in my experience the mindset is by far the most important part.

What's worked for me (and the article talks about this too) is viewing my phone as a tool with a limited set of functionality. For me, that functionality is: calls, texts, Google maps, Spotify, Audible, podcasts, Uber, and a camera.

That's it, no email (technically have the ability to send an email if i need to, but no notifications and no checking) and no random internet browsing and twitter etc consumption. There are some blocking apps that might help with this, but the biggest thing is the attitude. Twitter in line at the grocery store is no longer what my phone is for. Not that reading tabloid headlines is any better, but the main point is stretching out your focus muscles, getting rid of the urge to immediately grab your phone anytime there's a lull or hint of boredom in your life.

Overall, it's nice. Almost like being back in the 90's pre smart phone but also with a super powerful computer that can play any song you want/give you directions to anywhere you need to go.


When my dad decided to quit smoking, he didn't throw out the pack of cigarettes he was currently in the middle of. Instead, he put them up on the shelf next to his work desk. The pack wasn't totally in his face, nor was it out of sight. Despite the visual reminder being present, he broke his years' long pack-a-day habit.

Eventually - long after he stopped smoking - he threw the pack out, as part of his usual housekeeping.

I thought of this when I decided to quit social medias over the past two years. I bring it up now because it's something I think about in regard to how centrally important mindset is when trying to break a habit, or work on something of deeper value.

I wonder now too about the asymmetry in the ease of adoption vs. difficulty of opting out with smart phones and social media. Anecdotally, it just seems that you can nearly unconsciously start using a smartphone or say, sign up for instagram. But after a relatively quick onboarding, the effort required to opt out of these things feels akin to doing actual, hard work.


I've never smoked, but I did the same thing with snacks when I deliberately quit years ago (I don't avoid it now, but I'm more healthy about it).

I kept a pint of ice cream in the freezer and a bag of chips in the cupboard. The reasoning for me was: I'll never impulse buy snacks while at the store, because I already have it at home.

And if I haven't eaten out of my pint of ice cream, then I haven't eaten any ice cream.

It's like knowing you have these traps to avoid, but if you just keep one very close, that's the only one you need to consider, and then all the other ones disappear. It's definitely a focus thing for me, don't know if it was the same for your dad.


> It's like knowing you have these traps to avoid, but if you just keep one very close, that's the only one you need to consider

Love that roundup of this technique. Coincidentally enough my dad also used this same aid to quit smoking. I saw some slight sense but never enough to unpack it myself.


I've done this as well. I actually have a pack sitting around somewhere. Quitting never felt possible when I told myself I'd never have a cigarette again. I'm pretty sure I'll have one again, but not today. This is what I tell myself every day, and other than really crazy bar nights, I've been pretty good at perpetually procrastinating on smoking.


> the asymmetry in the ease of adoption vs. difficulty of opting out

A term related to this idea is dark pattern.

This is a good overview of the idea. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxkrdLI6e6M


Wow - thanks for this. Hadn't heard this term before, but certainly covers problems that are brought up by design ethicists. Literally laughed out loud at how hard it is to close an amazon account. And I thought it was bad that the New York Times made me call them to cancel my digital subscription.


Makes sense. Getting rid of something doesn't teach you not to use it when it's there.

If you can not use it when it is there, you've really won.


This is perhaps the best reason why, unlike a very large proportion of my family, I've never had a problem with alcohol.

It's always around. I can have a drink whenever I want (and I mean, I have drinks socially, I usually end up playing bartender at parties, that sort of thing). But it is, and always has been, something that happens on my terms.


I've heard good results from restricting the time you can use something, but not the amount. Don't smoke before 8am. Push that you 8:30. Push it to 9. Eventually you quit.


I wouldn't be strong enough to make this work. Quitting smoking was exactly opposite for me. After several unsuccessful attempts to quit, my frustration grew bigger and bigger and I finally had to say to myself "I WILL NEVER EVER SMOKE AGAIN", and threw away remaining cigarettes. Everything was easy after that. My brain switched mode to "NEVER EVER" and cravings stopped completely. That was back in 1995.


Haha. I'm not your dad (I'm older). But I did nearly the same thing to stop smoking. I tried several times after finishing a pack. It didn't work. I had success when I tossed half a pack on a high shelf. When I got the urge I'd have to climb a chair to get them. That required enough time and effort to cause me to reconsider.


My grandfather did the same thing. Carried a half-empty pack around in his jacket for weeks after he decided to stop. I always thought that was the hard way to do it, but maybe not.


"they're there if I want them, but I don't - and that's OK."

Those first few weeks are the most difficult part of the process.


The best mindset change for me has been realizing on a fundamental and emotional level just how garbage most of the internet actually is, and how much happier I am to get an extra hour of sleep, reading a book instead of Reddit, or letting myself get bored enough to stimulate serious creativity.


> letting myself get bored enough to stimulate serious creativity.

I think this is another key takeaway. We're so scared of being bored that we instantly reach for our phone as a means to fill this seemingly unwanted void. As if boredom has this negative connotation attached to it.


It is shockingly unpleasant.

But our lives should contain some unpleasantness, I think. Some difficulty.


We fear death and we overvalue productivity. This is a cycle for never-ending anxiety -- the itch to always do something. We value productivity almost to the point where it is considered virtuous. We look at someone who is productive and think, "wow what a great person, must really have their life together".


I'm older than most of you here. I'm constantly amazed at the lack of self control related to phones. I do exactly as you said, use my phone as a tool. Walking to work and think of something I don't want to forget? Whip out the phone and write myself an email. At home on a weekend and I'm in offline mode? DnD turned on until the alarm on my phone the next morning. I never feel like my phone is controlling my behavior or that I am a slave to it. Perhaps it's because I was able to grow up in a world without it. Dunno.


The age discrepancy in phone addiction probably has a lot to do with younger folks getting more value of social media on average, though I don't want to discount the idea that older people have more self mastery. Brain development is pretty much done by age 26, but I know way more 30-35 year olds with smartphone addictions than 50-55 year olds.


I'm under 30 and I don't get it either. I use my phone to communicate and perhaps read the news if I'm waiting at the pharmacy or something, but I don't understand a lot of the comments here regarding addiction to their phones. Not saying it isn't a real struggle for some people, but it's a foreign concept to me.


Old dude here. I have a mobile phone but I totally disable anything from it that can disturb me. I use it as a glorified answering machine. If it wasn't for the occasional picture I may take and my kids' games, I'd throw it away.

(but well, I love the web, so I'm not completely out of the world :) )


If you want to understand, see it as an addiction, especially a slot-machine/pachinko-like addiction. It just shows how widespread it is. When we're free from one, it is easy to say it is =only= a matter of self control.

Like other types of addiction, some of us may be weak to those generated by the smartphone era (associated with a certain socio-cultural mindset based on fame, social validation/gratification).

http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/smartphone-add...


Same. I have email, sms, Signal etc. on my phone. I use it for som utility stuff like banking (getting around a braindead token-based two factor thing in the web-version). Even HN, if I'm far away from home and bored. And all that really only amounts to 15-20 minutes in a day. And then navgation, and the occasional book I read on it. And snaphot photos. It's all nicely under control.

Like the parent poster, I'm an old fart. But my daughter, in her early twenties, have much the same pattern, and most definitely no addiction to either phone or social media. For what it's worth, she's had pc and phone for about as long as she can remember. With internet and no control, but a lot of guidance.


For me, one of the big advantages of email (which makes it my preferred electronic communication medium) is that it does not assume immediate reaction. I can read my mail once a day, reply to the messages that need to be replied to, and forget about it until tomorrow. Having email on a phone (especially with notifications enabled) would undermine that advantage.


I have trained most of the members of my social circle to expect a similar level of response to most text messages. No one has given me crap about it and still get invited to plenty of functions. I'm 33 and the level of convincing/training necessary did seem to be very inversely related to age, but eventually everyone got it.


I need to do this as well. I use most messengers out there and it serves a purpose to separate them into groups of different friends. The problem is that some of them still use the shitty fb messenger, and the inability to switch off 'last seen' makes them keep track of my online behavior. I have unpredictable, sporadic behavior and just don't log in to fb messenger for days sometimes, and that makes them think I had an accident or something. Is there a hack to disable 'Last Seen' on fb messenger?


While I’m not sure if it’s possible to turn of fb ‘last seen’ the attitude of friends using that or similar info (ie read receipts in iMessage) to jump to conclusions was precisely what I had to “train” my friends on. Personally the big reason for me is that I like to be in control of engaging in a conversation depending on what I’m doing, how I’m feeling, how much thought I have to put into it, etc. At first I made a lot of excuses (I was riding my bike and saw your message pop up but couldn’t respond, sorry!) but eventuallly just explained that my level of social media/communication engagement was just fundamentally different.

Of course I completely except that this means sometimes I miss out on something or that I can’t be the one to re-negotiate plans last minute, but overall it’s a good trade off. My close friends also know to just add a “need answer today” or “..now”. And also that I will still respond to messages that are truly of a critical time sensitive nature “car broke down! Can you pick me up?”

I do really wish most connunications apps cane with more status options (unavailable, busy, do not disturb, response may be delayed, etc) or customizable auto responses.


Conversely I use phone-based e-mail as the primary form of communication on my phone because (1) SMS messages are expensive on PAYG plans and (2) the other party doesn't have yo consider where I am and what channel they need to reach me


Best way to start shifting mindset that I've found, is aggressively removing things that I miss & hurt a little. Switch to a flip phone for two weeks. Uninstall Chrome frequently. No email at all.

I always cave & go back; maybe I'm on the road and I need to look up information so I turn Chrome back on. Maybe texting with the flip phone is just getting too painful. But I feel like it makes me more aware of what I'm doing.


I read this waiting at a bus stop, going to put it away now and enjoy the weather.


huzzah! Witness granted; reward++


Newport talk about the same approach in the book DeepWork. It has really opened my eyes, I have removed all my social media apps from the phone. I do not use it as an entertainment object.


> There are a lot of "hacks" in this thread but in my experience the mindset is by far the most important part

it's not easy changing your mindset, that's why hacks are here.


I have mobile plan from 12 years ago that includes calls and sms but no data in the modern sense - there's internet access but tailored to 2006 tech (WAP, early mobile web for dumbphones), it's billed per 100kB and really expensive. So no internet use when not connected to home WiFi and I like it this way. I even own dual-sim smartphone and actually have a sim card with 5GB data plan I could use, but it stays in a 4G mobile router we only take for long trips/holidays to use navigation and have some emergency internet connectivity.


I started something like this 4 months ago:

- I only removed social media

- and turned off every notification, leaving badges for company email.

This made already a huge difference. Some of the points are also not relevant for me (never had games or so...)


Personally, I find my smartphone addiction gets worse when I turn off all notifications. Because then FOMO takes over and I spend tons of time digging into apps to make sure I didn't "miss anything". For me, it works much better to intentionally choose the notifications I get to be the things I really want to be interrupted by. I wish there were an AI or human secretary who could make those judgements on a per-notification basis with my best interests in mind, but that doesn't seem to be a realistic option at my income level.

Another thing I do to limit my phone's dopamine rush is to delete all of the social media apps from my phone and only access them via a browser. mbasic.facebook.com is significantly less addictive that the app, while still being useful. Sometimes when I really need a break, I'll create a block list in the "Restrictions" settings on my iPhone and block Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and HN completely. I wish that there was a way for someone else to be able to remotely manage those restrictions for me, so I could uninstall all of the time-suck apps from my phone and only re-install them by getting permission from a friend who could help me honor my intentions.


> Because then FOMO takes over

This is the real problem, not the phone or its apps. You need to eliminate FOMO from your life. You'll be much happier for it.

I don't have a recommendation on how to do that. For me I came to the realization and acceptance that there is always more. More work, more knowledge, more news, more parties, more potential friends, more opportunities, etc. It never ends and it's impossible to know or participate in it all.

If you find yourself having anxiety from that thought you might want to see a psychologist.


You'll be much happier for it, but can you afford it?

If you've got the kind of social life and communication you need, great. And I agree that many people who are in an accidental too-much-FOMO situation probably didn't need all the extra tweets and whatnot flung their way and it's mostly junk. In that case, just turning most of it off is a reasonable idea.

But if you're in a position where the communities you need to be making more of an effort with use fast-moving, presenceless platforms for most of their socialization (Telegram, Twitter, etc.—maybe even, say, Slack?), good luck snagging those limited opportunities to learn which people to get to know better or get a word in on something important without constantly checking everything. (This might be a good argument to not do that for your next community!)

The idea of more closely regulating the feeling so that it's not overdriven and occupying your whole mindset is still relevant, but it takes on quite a different form if you can't actually afford to check out of the fast side; you have to do a trickier balancing act.


Maybe you need to find different communities. Being part of something isn't a need, it's a want, and you either accept that you want to be there and take the good with the bad, or you accept that you don't like the bad and give up on the good.


Ask any psychologist wether being part of something is a need.


Being part of something is a need, but being part of a specific community is a want.


I'll grant that as a theoretical rule, but most communities are not tech communities. Suppose that you're able to pick one which is not dependent on any undesired proprietary/attention-sucking/etc. medium but is still interested in the things you're looking for. (Many communities are not very fungible.) One day:

“Hey, I like what we're doing, we should set up a group for it to make it easier to keep up with events and stuff.”

“Telegram? That's what everyone else seems to use.” “Yeah, I've already got that on my phone.” “Me too.” “Yup! And I've got this great sticker pack I want to show you…” “Hey, can you show me how to install it?” “Sure, it's easy, just…”

“Awesome, I'll set it up.” (tap, tap, tap)

(Substitute Facebook, or Discord, or whatever else.)

Gradually people just kinda forget to post things anywhere else, because it's convenient and lets them post from their phone and they get all the encouraging responses they wanted there, and so it gradually becomes common knowledge that that's the place. The choice of platform isn't in their community identity, so the default is whatever people gravitate to that doesn't require doing something unusual.

If you don't integrate psychologically with the popular platforms, you're not really choosing to not be part of a specific community, because that's what “popular” means: you're choosing that the set of communities you can explore in the first place is whittled way down, and your membership in any you do find is now precarious. “Pick a community that doesn't do that” not only raises the difficulty at the beginning, but it also doesn't save you later.


I was also kind of thinking about _FOMO_, but just in terms of messaging apps. For instance, if I were supposed to be getting a ride with someone and my notifications were off, wouldn't I have to be checking my phone more since i'm now manually checking for messages about the lift, instead of being pushed them as they come in.

It seems to me that message notifications, at least, do keep me from checking my phone.


Are these some sorts of business communities where you're actually working for a tangible reward to further your career? Even if they are, this sounds really crazy and wrapped around an axle to me, if this is your steady state level of interaction, especially if this is multiple communities you're talking about. If you're bootstrapping yourself as part of a marketing or sales push, you can dedicate a time slot to working it, or consider this level of intensity as a short-term effort until you've established a more self-perpetuating network.

If that's not the case, are you really sure that you need to be doing any of that? Especially "get a word in on something important" is awfully similar to https://www.xkcd.com/386/ .


Ignoring the “business” part of your comment, because that's far from the only reason to want to have broad social ties:

Dedicating a time slot in the usual sense is very socially costly if they've gravitated to a presenceless, fast-moving platform, because psychological consensus and topic closure operates more on the perceived speed of communication of the group. If 90% of the other people respond within an hour, and you get there eight hours later, the conversation's moved on, so if everyone else is in the habit of checking their phone every fifteen minutes, there's pressure for you to be too. So, yes, you can “dedicate a time slot” at the end of every pomodoro, if that's what you meant.

This is more true in “channel”-based environments where “new in thread” is inconvenient or unavailable. If you're not careful, you can even be disruptive. Even on slow-moving, old-style Web forums, “necroposting” is considered rude; a chat-like medium with little to no threading support can just lower the threshold for it from weeks to hours if there's enough activity.

For the other part, I'll grant that “get a word in on something important” was badly worded, though I can't think of a better phrase this instant. I was imagining things like “we've changed the meetup location because someone raised a problem, is this okay with everyone or does someone need a ride” or “I'd like comments on which direction I should go with the next part of this piece” or “I'm going to see if some of us can do X together tomorrow, I want three more people, who's with me”. All of these can easily render your participation irrelevant if you show up too late, and “too late” is by default defined by what's usual and convenient, not by abstract considerations of what's good for people's habit formation.


This assumes that only things worth any value in life are those with "tangible reward to further your career". I dont really agree.


No, I'm simply saying that if they're killing themselves by maintaining such a high-stress & rigorous involvement, they should at least be getting something out of it and should ensure that that extreme level is short term, because it's not healthy.

If they're doing it only because they kind of fell into it as baseline socialization shifted, they need to step back and reconsider things because it's not healthy.


Meditation is good for this. Being aware of those thoughts and understanding why you feel it can help lessen the addiction. You may even find out you don’t care but you’ve trained yourself to. Everyone’s different but I think meditation can help some aspect of their life.


This similar mindset helped me break away from playing League of Legends all of the time. Just understanding that I've been through it all and nothing new or different would happen helped me to just move on. I didn't have to accept the toxic community.


I don't know what it is about league, but it seems to attract the absolute worst of people. Most of the gaming communities I am a part of are very welcoming and friendly. I went to a tournament for league once and the team that beat us came over to gloat and remind us of every mistake immediately afterwards. They only stopped once my wife started actually crying from the verbal abuse.

Needless to say, I cut my losses with that community.


Limiting FOMO was a large part of the appeal for a smartwatch to me. I could easily triage notification and dismiss from my wrist without the ability to get lost in an infinite scrolling list of whatever. The few times when it was an actionable notification, the phone came out to respond, but for most notifications, they are read and ignored.

Now that I don't wear my android watch daily, I find myself with my phone on my desk or table more. The fear of missing important notifications makes me more obsessed with all notifications.


The key thing is to break the cycle where Facebook (or other attention generating machines) is the personal personal equivalent of O365 or GSuite at home. Never, ever, never use the app and you've solved 80% of your problem, because you don't have this external force trying to corrupt your decisionmaking.

Not only will you not be dealing with their stalking draining your battery, but you'll get rid of the FOMO thing. Visit the site every couple of days for the events or whatever other excuse keeps you on there. You'll figure out that you're missing nothing, although Facebook in particular will get increasingly desperate and try to hook you in via bullshit emails, etc.

Once you get bad/abusive actors away from you, you'll find that your phone has robust notification and other mechanisms to help you get productive notifications.


I find it helps to access Facebook purely through their website, and just use their Messenger Lite app for messaging. This solves a lot of issues.


You stopped half way. when you put your phone off notification, you have to make that final step to put your mind too.

I consider this (I have it too) to be almost full fledged clinical addiction. It toys with your mind and distort your life in unhealthy ways.


> Because then FOMO takes over

Others have mentioned this is a separate issue from the smartphone (although smartphones to make it easier for us to enable FOMO).

In my experience (most, if not all) FOMO disappeared in my early thirties and once I gained a more settled life. And while I do still check HN, twitter-lists daily (usually more than once a day when commuting, or having a break) I have noticed how on a busy day (or a weekend day), I completely forget about that.

Maybe age, and changes in lifestyle have been most responsible for this, but I also find that I'm less impressed by new stuff now than I used to be, so I'm much less likely to feel that I'm missing something out.


Not for me. However I seem to differ from may orhers who agree with you that I am not curious enough to miss the kitten posted next door nor the fancy meal plate of random strangers, intermingled by advertisment or is it already the other way round?

Without these notifications I stay more focused and get less stressed.


Once I started turning application notifications off, I began to see much more clearly how manipulative they are. For instance, Facebook started emailing me, something I didn't realize I had to disable (up until then, I don't remember them mailing me anything). Twitter would pointlessly send a notification for "Person X and 42 others liked this tweet" and so on, clearly because I was opening their application less.


The intrusiveness and desperation only escalate. For me the last straw was when Facebook started sending me notifications over SMS.

If I hadn't deleted my profile, I'm pretty convinced they'd be calling me on the phone or showing up at my house with printed-out notifications by now.


Same here. I don't need a notification for every single "like" I get on Twitter/Instagram. In fact, it's similarly rewarding when I come back to the app and see a bunch of notifications waiting, knowing that they didn't distract me.


even in terms of sheer dopamine, i find it rewarding to see a bunch of new notifications at once. to me push notifications feel more like an annoyance than a dopamine hit. i keep them turned on for sms because it's useful as a way to contact me immediately, but they're off for everything else, including email. (i never turned them on for twitter or facebook because i discovered back in the 90s that i was happier turning them off for email)


> even in terms of sheer dopamine, i find it rewarding to see a bunch of new notifications at once. to me push notifications feel more like an annoyance than a dopamine hit.

The social networks understand this. I've read that they have algorithms that will batch and spread out your dopamine hits for maximum re-enforcement effect.


>i find it rewarding to see a bunch of new notifications at once

My wife wonders why I scan all my groceries at the store and then enter my loyalty card instead of doing it up-front as the system asks for. It's because if I see the price read $130 and then I enter the card and it drops to $110, it feels like I came out ahead. Even though it's going to be the same number.


My local grocery store does that automatically—the register rings items up at the full price and then applies all the discounts at the very end while you're waiting for the card reader to be ready. And it seems to do it intentionally slowly, about two line items per second, so that it takes exactly the right amount of time to be sure you notice it without getting annoyed at having to wait.


There are various apps to try and promote healthy levels of smartphone engagement. Eg in Forest (iOS and Android, no affiliation)[0] you plant a tree and it will grow with time, but will wither away the more you play with Facebook. It will occasionally notify in case you get lost in facebooklandia.

If you object to that particular implementation, the point is there's a usage API in case you'd like to write your own app.

[0] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=cc.forestapp


I don't have the facebook app, will this detect if I use it in the browser?


From the app's site:

"Whenever you want to focus, plant a tree.

The tree will grow in the following time.

The tree will be killed if you leave this app."

So probably, yeah. I assume there is some point at which the tree won't be killed since it goes on to talk about keeping a forest of trees representing stretches of time not using your phone to do anything other than run this app - hitting up its app store page describes it as a pomodoro timer, so about 25min gets you a tree.

My inner paranoid says "wow, what a great way to get people to help you mine cryptocurrency" but I will choose to assume that they're happy with the money they're making by selling it for two bucks, plus the occasional "sunshine elixir" IAP.


Let me ask the crowd. Would you use a browser plugin that eliminates newsfeeds?

One of the things I struggle with is the endless novelty of a newsfeed. I can always scroll and get more. And then I can reload for another chance at finding something interesting.

There are extensions that do this for Facebook alone, but I was thinking something more general. And something that's also clever about eliminating the way companies use notifications to for similar novelty-injection, rather than true notifications.

I suspect I also need a "please temporarily show me the newsfeed" mode, possibly on some sort of time restriction, with mandatory delay, or requiring some boring work, so as to raise it from "compulsive response" to "considered choice", but still keeps people from removing the extension on the occasions they really need to see the feeds.

Would you use it? And what services would be required?


You might like the chrome extension "Delayed Gratification"[0]. I also use xTab[1] to limit my tab count to about 6 to prevent opening every link I come across. (The interesting ones go into my OneTab[2] to alleviate FOMO and so I know I can find them later, although I rarely need to.)

[0] https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/delayed-gratificat...

[1] https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/xtab/amddgdnlkmoha...

[2] https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/onetab/chphlpgkkbo...


Sure I'm interested in such an extension!

I like the delay idea. A minute delay to reflect upon your actions, or yourself or something.

Of course one can simply disable the extension. I guess you'll need testing to see what kind of delay makes the target audience not jump to disable the extension. If you're serious about this, I can send you my mail address and see if I can help with parsing feedback or something!


I would absolutely use this, and I've even thought of creating it. I've hacked together parts of that functionality several times. I think the problem would be that if anything like this caught on, companies would adapt their platforms to get around it. Tricksy hobbitses!


HabitLab for Chrome has this as a nudge.


Ooh! I was not aware of this. Very interesting! Much more impressive than what I would have built. Thanks!


My problem is being bothered to check notifications over the course of hours when I'm programming.

Snapchat, twitter, text message, facebook message.

All while I'm trying to figure out why my middle-wear isnt working. I catch myself shitposting on instagram instead of running my app.


Try Pomodoro time management approach


That isnt the issue. Its that I need my phone on, and Im getting slammed with notifications.


Try to view to it every 25 minutes (or whatever your preferred time slot is)?


Have you tried setting up silent notifications for the things you actually care about, and muting the rest? E.g. I get silent notifications for my personal email, which means I'm never tempted to refresh my inbox but I'm also not interrupted.

It's important though to tightly control the notifications such that you get them only for things you actually care about. E.g., unsubscribe from any & all mailing lists you don't care about.


I started on this path recently with email by using the Astro app, and only getting notifications for "Priority Emails" which are intelligently chosen.


Inbox by Gmail does this, too. It's fantastic.


Yeah, same.

One other thing I do is have physically separate devices for work versus entertainment. A spare phone is my Twitter/Facebook phone. I have a separate laptop for watching videos, playing games, social media, and HN. (I also have a tablet for long-form reading: Kindle, Instapaper, The Economist etc.) It helps establish that there are separate modes, which limits FOMO for me.


I've got a burner Nokia phone that I refer to as my "ground phone". Whenever I need a break from the cloud, I swap my SIM card into it. All it really has is texting and calling. It kind of works, but using it also means I have to give up some things that I consider essential practical tools like Google Maps, my full contacts list, my reminders, and my calendar. I really think there'd be a market for some kind of smartphone that has full utilitarian functionality but doesn't support and kind of distractions.


Checkout our phone www.blloc.com .

I think its exactly what we thought of, dumbing down the smartphone to the bare essentials without missing out too much. we don't have it perfectly communicated (working on it), but we're trying to find the middle between a "smartphone" and full blown detox. We got inspired from some of our friends who went "dark" and didn't work out; we were as product designers sick of snapchat, gaming and the addicting viscous cycle however we still wanted to be in touch with some news, use uber and be sometimes reachable on whatsapp, messenger or telegram. We re-designed notifications to make it less distracting easy to turn off per app and most important functionalities reachable. Mainly theres no lock, you can lock some apps, but its ready to use (I was about to throw my iphone everytime it showed me 4 popups before i can use it).

check it out let me know if it would make sense if we create the possibility for people (or you) to extend it and build their own integrations / functionalities.


I am in love with this.

The home screen design is so obvious it hurts -- flip phone UX for a smartphone. "Open and dial".

What's the story with the display? Do you have an actual proof of concept where you have a black and white mode that largely decreases battery life? Is there anything special about it, or does it just play into how OLED displays are locally lit?


yes we initially used OLED and our phones after testing managed to use on average around 65% of the energy with our ui. We're dropping it unfortunately as its a supply-chain nightmare.. (for now). Black and white mainly increases your focus sharply, but u can always disable it to colours.


Your website plays up the greyscale reducing battery consumption. If that's not currently the case you really should to remove that info.


FYI: Without third party JS, your site loads completely blank.

Edit: Even allowing jquery, it still shows blank complaining about stripe. Your page should not be so completely reliant on stripe.


oh thanks for the heads up. Sticking to minimalism we wanted the checkout to be a one-stop checkout on the landing page experience. we should build a plan B


Looks very cool, but your 10px font-size on the site is punishing.


I want this with an e-ink display. I'm honestly not kidding, if this had an e-ink display I would buy it this second.


Yes! Imagine a smartphone with an e-ink display, with a custom built interface and apps that focus on text. Basically phone (4G mobile internet, apps) meets reader (e-ink, text as main screen content, long battery life)


There appears to be a list of 'sanctioned' apps. I like everything else about the design except this (finger print to show colour is awesome).

Why Uber and not Lyft? Why Google Maps and not CityMapper? Why spotify and not google play music? Why FB messenger and Whatsapp, why not just one or the other (or neither!).

Are the apps actually locked down, or are there just examples? If I end up using a different map tool can I install that one from the play store and use that instead of google maps for example?


I have the same question! I have a very different set of productivity tools. Does this have the Play Store?


I really like what y'all are working on. I echo some other comments about the legibility of your body copy, I'd increase the contrast.

Will your phone be available for purchase/use in the US?


thanks a lot! yeah we have to fix that. US is pretty complicated with different bands & carrier restrictions we're focusing on EU this year.


This is an amazing idea!

Are the actual apps it runs just Android apps with their default interfaces, or is each one something you've custom-built internally, or what?


yes just Android apps. We used a lot of the widget-interface functionalities most famous apps already did to build this simplified UI, it was a lot straight forward than we thought.


The problem is I would never use Uber, but I use Lyft all the time. Other people probably have other limitiations and that's why a generic smartphone works better for the general use case.


They're just android apps so I doubt you'll have any issue adding your own apps when this thing gets through to release


neat phone.

website is totally disjointed at non-standard resolutions, making it very difficult to read.

(i'm using 1200x1920, portrait)


What does the percentage figure visible on the app tiles convey?


energy impact


It's been about a month since I pulled the SIM from my iPhone, snipped it in half, sync'd the latest photos (mostly my daughter, or cats), ran a factory reset, and stuck it on a shelf. I bought an LG flip phone the next morning.

Since then, I've felt like parts of my brain are growing back. While I'd cut down significantly on smartphone usage over the prior year, I'd started to realize that the mere act of exercising "don't use it" discipline was in itself distracting. That's all gone now. My flip phone is not fun. It's boring. In fact, it's immensely frustrating when I do need to carry on a texting conversation. And that's perfectly alright.

When I need to get someplace new, there's no Maps to save the day. Instead I look at the route beforehand and write (by hand, with a pen) a few notes on a Post-It. In the process, I've learned more about parts of two cities than I had in a year or more of mindless reliance on Maps.

The biggest thing I miss and haven't found a satisfying workaround for is the camera. Flip phones seem to be stuck in about 2001, camera-wise. Even under the best of conditions, the results are barely passable. It's my patient hope that if enough people reject smartphones, there may one day be higher end functionality available in a flip.


Do you drive rather than use public transport?

When I've headed out somewhere new with friends and ended up in a strange place at 1am, Google Maps public transit directions are my lifeline. If I drove I could just head in the rough direction or use a streetmap, though transit maps aren't usually complete with all routes and times. There is nothing worse than standing at a bus stop for an hour hoping a bus will come, and that bus will take you home. Train stations are alright if the trains are still running, but usually I need to rely on a late night, barely functioning bus network.

I would love an e-paper/ink phone that did maps, texts, calls, photos and nothing else.


This is also the killer feature of a smartphone for me as well. As someone who exclusively uses public transport, I feel my life would be so much harder without the route planning feature of Google maps. Just activate Google assistant, "Bus route to X arrive by Y". It can plan a route with connections that are from different public transport departments, so it is not a trivial amount of work to do manually.

I've already taken some of the steps outlined in this article to normalize my smartphone use. I might be biased because I have fought other difficult addictions like smoking, but smartphone addiction does not seem especially difficult to manage to me. The crucial step is realizing it's existence because it's so ubiquitous it seems normal and benign.



I did the whole flip phone thing for awhile and you can load a version of google maps onto most phones that run Java applets.

Also, I worked on an epaper feature phone startup. But as a company we never got it to take off. I open sourced it to an extent but havent worked on it as much as I would have hoped. http://woodstead.org/epaper.html


Pretty much my experience. Been like this on and off though. On a dumb phone for about a year, then got a smart phone for a year, realized it's a distraction, back to the dumb phone. And yes, the only dissatisfaction is not having a camera with me all the time. So what I ended up doing is actually carrying the smart phone (with very few apps and no SIM card) around whenever I think like I might want a camera. Sure, it's harder with 2 phones than with one, but it's still lighter than phone + camera. This seems to work best. I sometimes still check instagram when I'm on wifi, or listen to music, but really not much else. The addiction seems to be gone when I decide that the phone is really just a camera that also lets you post to IG when you have a nice picture and you're on wifi.


> I bought an LG flip phone the next morning.

Why did you get a new phone though? If it's not a smartphone can you only do phone calls and SMS on it? Do many people use phone calls or SMS any more? You may as well just not carry anything.


Yes, of course many people still use phone calls and SMS.

You can also email via SMS if you so desire, both sending and receiving works, although finding out your SMS email address usually involves sending yourself an email from the phone first.


Have you considered carrying a compact, dedicated digital camera, like the Cyber-shot WX220?


You should grab a high quality compact camera - something like a Sony RX100.


Me? Is that you? Did you write this in your sleep?


For me it's the browser. What I did yesterday on Firefox for Android:

- installed uBlock Origin (also First Party Isolation and HTTPS Everywhere),

- disabled JavaScript via about:config javascript.enabled,

- and added .css| rule to uBlock Origin (I would still like to disable CSS entirely, this only half works).

Basically I would like to have "links2 -g" [0] for Android. There is also an extension for Firefox to automatically enable reader mode [1]. It waits for additional WebExtensions API. I want to omit CSS, because of:

- too small or too big font size,

- no proper text wrapping,

- wrong contrast, too big margins,

- position:fixed bars that are so trendy right now.

Basically I want to bail out of modern web. However I would probably use modern web apps on proper browser when I want an app, but just not when I want to read some information.

I know that there are sites with good content that will be broken because of it. But it will be only a minor collateral damage.

I added to my long todo-list a modern pure HTML browser for Android and Linux. What would also help is a different search engine. Of course I also have one in my todo-list. A search engine that would _not_ index ad serving sites. Also as an option it could not show JavaScript enabled sites.

I know about Million Short, but it does not cut it.

Such a pair of a browser and a search engine is, or rather will be, my answer.

Also it's sad a smartphone with it's array of sensors is not a proper tricorder...

[0] https://www.google.com/search?q=%22links2+-g%22&tbm=isch

[1] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/automatic-rea...


The browser is the time-sink for me too. Unfortunately, iOS makes it difficult to get Safari out of your life. My dream is a content blocker that requires you to unlock it in order to browse the time-sink sites you choose to greylist; and each time you unlock it, unlocking gets more arduous.


I have leechblock for some sites, alows 20 minutes every four hours or so and then it just redirects to a work/education forum I like instead.


You can use Configurator to disable Safari among other things. Had a pared down 5c a while back that I made distration free :)


Thing is, I don't want to block it entirely. Sometimes you just need to look stuff up. Just limit time spent on time suck sites. The real problem is that there's no way to tell the OS to open links from other apps into a different browser that you can add better controls to.


Get an iPhone, use Safari, and turn on automatic "reader" mode . You'll get everything you actually want.


I think you can have links on Android using something like Termux [https://termux.com] (but you probably won't enjoy it that much on a small screen with a touch keyboard).


Maybe I will try it if the font can be set to something big, but I'm one of those bastards that prefer proportional fonts even for source code. However it's still not "links -g" - this one supports images. Images are mostly useless on most pages, but with uBlock Origin I also limit images bigger than 50kB, that filters out most junk, but probably also have a lot of false positives.


elinks actually kind of supports touch input in Termux. I tend to use it when I'm in a spot with very bad data coverage and need to check something. It's surprisingly usable.


When the first Motorola Droid came out, I found a "tricorder" app with a lot of the sensor data output with a LCARSish UI. It may have since been lawyered out of existence.


Trycorder. It is still around, I think I most recently installed it from F-Droid


It's not in the store, but apk's are around.


Is there demand for a tricorder app? Sounds like a cool weekend project


I also use Firefox but did not know about the Automatic reader mode, thanks! I used Dark background with White text extension which loads images. I can't get Automatic reader mode to work on Firefox Beta from Play Store, any ideas? I turned on all pages in the extension settings. BTW Termux has w3m and Links2 on the repo.


On the extension's page there is a mention about missing API in Firefox. I don't know when it will be added.

Links may be in Termux, but it's not the graphical one. But I will check it out.


Have you already seen this?

https://surf.suckless.org/

It's webkit, not firefox-based, but works great with tiling windowmanagers.


I've seen it. Sadly it's just a nice thin interface over WebKit. I guess I could customize it to do somewhat what I want, but it would still run on WebKit. On Linux I can use alternative browsers like links -g, WebSurf or Dillo, but on mobile there are no such luxuries.

I would just like to have the target experience (and lightness) out of the box, but on all platforms.


Netsurf, you meant. BTW, install trickle (a bandwitdh limiter) and then:

trickle -s -t 1 -d 16 -u 8 netsurf-gtk

You'll enjoy the delays.


I use startpage.com on night mode, it's minimal on css and does not track.


But doesn't it have the same index as Google? I would probably prefer to have my idea of a search engine implemented before the browser one. Because then not only the search interface would be light and serving me instead of corporate interests, but also all the found sites. Also I could use it on regular browser.


duckduckgo ?


I just got a Pixel the other day after being phone-less for about 3 months. I only need it to do ARCore development, so I keep it powered-off.

* I had to print out directions to get to new places, which had me learn my way around.

* People were much less flaky since they couldn't text me at the last minute to cancel our plans.

* I no longer had a crutch in difficult social situations, which helped me actually get to know strangers and form new relationships.

I might still use it as a GPS when traveling, but I otherwise can't see why it's necessary for people/machines to be able to steal your attention at a moment's notice.

Of course, this isn't do-able for a lot of people, as their work/life depends on it. And it's possible to reap the above benefits without going fully phone-less. But for those interested, it's not as bad as it seems to drop the phone altogether.


I respect what you're doing, but I noticed it's the friends like you (off Facebook, never answers texts) that stopped getting invited to stuff.

Scenario 1: housewarming party 3 weeks away. My phoneless friend doesn't get the Facebook invite used to corrall the other 30 people coming. She also doesn't get the group FB message (nobody uses group SMS anymore in my friend group). A fluke of busyness means I don't see her for those 3 weeks and she thus misses the party.

Scenario 2: my roommate and I just got home from work, and decide to go out. We text phoneless friend and other friend. Other friend shows up. Three hours later we close our tabs, and get a text from phoneless friend. "I just saw this!! Are you guys still out??"

It's a core value of mine that people should be allowed to live however the hell they very well please as long as it doesn't hurt others, but I genuinely feel like without a minimum level of connectedness (at the very least relatively easy access via SMS), they're kinda hurting themselves. As close as a friend as they may be, if the barrier to entry to hanging out with them is providing them step by step directions to the bar we're at as well as making sure all plans are 48 hours ahead and by the way I have to trade voicemails to even inform them... Eeeh...

Standard replies to this kind of post:

>If lack of connectedness is an obstacle to people hanging out with you, they weren't worth your time / that good of friends anyway.

I counter with the idea mass culture movements require participation to, well, participate. My bestest friend ever doesn't have to participate to remain in that state, sure, but I guess if all you want in life is a tiny circle of three of your besties then power to you.

> People were more genuine and less flaky before cellphones

I lived before and after cellphones and in my experience, people were just as flaky back then, it just didn't seem that way because we were all hanging out less. Either way, cut flaky people out o your life homey. It's not as big of a deal to flake out of impromptu Wednesday trivia night at a random bar, only possible at the drop of the hat as my friends like to do, with cellphones. It also allows us to avoid the "fuck I don't wanna be here, normally I do but today was exhausting" aspect of cyclical plans (say regular DND night) because we can all communicate those feelings early and quickly make new plans with the smaller group.


Agree on all of your points. I am a hermit that deleted FB and only responds to a few people via text. It's a decision I made that I'm still currently happy with. If something were to happen to my existing core friends though, it might be a pain finding new ones.


Agreed, 100%, on live and let live.

I'll never force anyone to get a phone, smartphone, use texts, or whatever, but for the people who are that disconnected, well, they add a friction to social interaction that ends up excluding them.

At the end of the day they're outside my own set of social norms, which now, in 2018, include "must be relatively easy to connect with".

Times have changed.


I'm having the weird experience of being the first grade level through a new high school.

One nice thing about that is there's no one older than us already using Facebook. Everything that needs to be organized is done through email, which is boring to some, but at least everyone has it.

At the start of the school year I got a few friends to switch over to Telegram (for group chats). I would have prefered something end to end encrypted and decentralized, but at least it's not Facebook Messenger. Some people do use Instagram (Facebook-for-Pictures) and Snapchat, but it's not anywhere near universal.

So I'm set on my phone with only my self hosted email and Telegram. Not sure how I'm going to deal with things after school, but hopefully people switch off Facebook by then.


I use my phone as utility only, I put the details on how in another post here. I would also miss out on scenario 1, because while I don't have FB on my phone, I do have an account, opened only in a Firefox Container on my desktop. I also don't receive emails from invites/messages or anything FB related. It waits for me.

I wouldn't miss out on scenario 2, because my phone notifies me of texts and calls (and nothing else).

I dislike the 1st scenario just off the basis of giving FB so much credit, friends should reach out via traditional methods that most of us have like SMS. Then you're not benefiting Facebook Corp so much by designing your life around it. Just distasteful, in my view. It also allows people to communicate & live a modern life with just a basic phone, which should be more than enough.


Sure, it requires more effort to stay connected. Like I said, I know a lot of people need their phone/FB for their day-to-day business. But it can be done without you ending up as a recluse.

I didn't drop off the map with my friends, and I made a few friends that I otherwise never would have met. I still had a PC, so it's not like I couldn't be contacted. Most people that I hang out with use Discord/Telegram, anyways. If your friends all use SMS/MMS/FB to communicate, then you probably can't do it.

I think the key is to make it clear that you -do- want to be invited to things. People will let you know. It's also a plus to be a fun person to hang out with, and don't talk about how great it is to not have a phone.


This is already being built from a company with a similar vision : Lite Phone https://www.thelightphone.com/

Lite Phone 2: Campaign https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/light-phone-2-design#/


Check out Siempo (www.getsiempo.com) - it's basically a software version of the Light Phone 2 (for Android only now).

We believe the launcher approach is the most effective way to solve the problem b/c it actually gets at the root cause, which is that the smartphone interface has no protections against the persuasive techniques of addictive apps. So we made a new interface that is less distracting and more intentional.

We just launched in the Play Store and would love your thoughts and feedback!


I love the idea but it needs way too many permissions. How do you guys make money?


We know :( Our next release (<2 weeks, with new onboarding flow) will only ask for one permission on first launch.

The app is currently free while in beta. We are in the process of building the UI for a Pay What You Can subscription model, which we feel aligns well with the movement away from an attention economy towards a user value economy, makes it more accessible, etc.


Will there possibly be a way to just buy the app?


I would def feel more comfortable paying for it and having an ironclad guarantee you wouldn't use my data to stay solvent / pay for bankruptcy down the line.


That's the idea :) We welcome your feedback on our privacy policy: http://www.getsiempo.com/app/pp.html


I really like the Lite Phone idea; browsers and the vast majority of apps are distractions. But an integrated camera is not a distraction; it's a tremendously convenient feature!


$150 for a device that only makes calls seems pretty inconvenient too. It should be <$50. The one that does texting should be <$75. Not $300-$400...

Edit: I say should; I should clarify that I think the pricepoint is waaay to hipster for me.




One huge distraction-enabler is the fingerprint sensor. It makes things too easy for me - I put my hand in my pocket, put my finger on the sensor, and by the time it's in front of my face I can be mindlessly browsing reddit.

So I would add the following tip: disable the fingerprint sensor if you have one (also face recognition, etc), and replace it with an inconveniently long password. This way you really need to think about whether it's worth the time to open your phone.


You can always set your fingerprints for the other hand instead. This will force you to switch hands which requires more complexity.


Interesting. I'm gonna try this and see.


Reddit, the serial time-killer. Removing it from my phone was a tangible life improvement. And on desktop, I've moved everything to multis so that my reddit homepage is empty like a desert, so that I have to choose what to see purposefully from the sidebar. Thus I don't compulsively go to reddit and get lured by a sea of interesting links. This has helped cut the time I spend on reddit by, well IDK, I don't spend more than about an hour or two a week on it anymore.


I have been using protopage.com, which is basically what iGoogle was back in the day. I just drop in the RSS feeds for the top posts from subs I want to check out and have it limit the number of posts. I do that with HN and a few other sites as well. Although would be nice to be able to set a minimum refresh rate so newer stuff wouldn't pop up on refresh.


Delete the reddit app and logout. Have a really long password so you're too lazy to type it in. That's my trick. Used to spend hours and hours on reddit... now I'm just stuck on HN :(


That's what I did a while ago and haven't wanted to look for it again - the app was always terrible anyway. On my desktop/laptop, I now log out more as well to not have the orange notification show up if I 'accidentally' browse to the front page.

For Twitter (which I think is more 'addictive' due to the greater pool of talent about compared to hivemind posts), I need to open up my password manager and it's quite a process to log in again compared to a saved browser password (especially with two factor authentication) - quite often that hurdle is enough to have me reconsider idling away.

By the way, did you know the Twitter app requires about 5 taps or strokes before you can log out? They really try to hide that one from users.


I have a small velvet bag that I use to keep my cell phone safe from scratches in my pocket. You can keep the fingerprint sensor on, but drop it in a similar bag with the sensor at the bottom; that way, you keep the fingerprint security, but there's an extra step involved before you can use it.


I installed space recently and I use it just for Twitter. I don't have any other distractions. I think it has been useful so far. http://youjustneedspace.com/


I have one on 5" phone. I lately think that I would gladly go back to my old Moto G 1st gen that actually works better now on LineageOS [0] than before on original ROMs. It's smaller - it fits my pocket. It is a bit less convenient to stare at the screen, but now I think that's good. But sadly it has broken SIM slot. Maybe I will sell my phone and just buy something smaller, used with good LineageOS support. Or maybe something even more inconvenient - at most 10" 3g laptop.

[0] But last April Fools' "joke" was really testing my nerves and I'm still not settled on this.


this is a cool tip, especially considering the security implications! afaik, police can coerce you to unlock with fingerprint, but not to give up your password


I adhere to a lot of these rules myself and have recently noticed peers doing the same.

Another I'd add that really makes the phone boring is putting it in grayscale mode. On iOS: Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters > Grayscale. Then you can set the Accessibility Shortcut to Color Filters, and when you triple click the home button your phone goes grayscale.

I don't have it on 24/7, but do enable it any time I feel myself getting sucked in too frequently.


I set my Android device to grayscale for a while. I liked it but for the video player and one photo app I would like to have colors.

Does anyone know how to do this? I have tried to do something with Tasker but couldn't figure it out.


I figured it out after a few minutes poking around.

You'll need some way to set "secure" settings – if you're not rooted, the easiest way is via a Tasker plugin called AutoTools. Once you've set that up, create a task with an action of "AutoTools Secure Settings", then configure it as follows (under "Custom Setting" in the AutoTools menu):

    - setting type: secure
    - name: accessibility_display_daltonizer_enabled
    - input type: toggle
    - value: 3
That task then toggles greyscale mode, so you can hook it up to an application context or whatever. (Switch the value to 1 if you want a task that always enables greyscale, or 2 to always disable.)

If it doesn't work, diff the output of `adb shell settings list secure` from a PC with greyscale mode enabled and disabled, and use whatever name you get there.


I recently saw an app (Android only) that apparently is capable of setting your phone to grayscale, with the exception of certain apps.

Unfortunately I can't find it anymore. I've been trying hard.

I too would love to live on a black and white phone with certain exceptions (in my case mainly camera and maps).

If anyone knows/remembers this app, you'd make my day :)


Choose the "color tint" color filter, set it to full-strength red, and you have a really good Night Mode as well, if you use your phone/tablet for reading in bed.


I've been using this for a while now.

I haven't had any social media on my phone except for aggregate websites and forums, but often I'm pointed from there to more substantial reading. I am still guilty of mindlessly thumbing through comments sometimes, though.

I have a few games and other things on there, but I haven't had a problem with getting hooked.


The yearning for fewer options for distraction is curious to me. I can understand the desire for fewer interruptions, but me choosing to kill a few minutes here and there playing Threes or Fire Emblem Heroes or perusing a Quora feed isn't the grand evil people seem to think it is.

After all, it's not like my brain just stops. Particularly when I play Threes, only a portion of my mental energy is devoted to playing the game, while the rest considers deeper musings. I consider it akin to music in that it 'patterns' my mental energy, reducing the total amount of chaos my mind has to deal with all by itself.

It's a shortcut to a meditative calm. Without the shortcuts I ultimately get less meditative focus and not more, like how you're more likely to exercise if you keep a pair of dumbbells handy.

If you're so mentally disorganized that phone apps destroy your peaceful calm rather than give you ways to create more of it, I'd suggest a daily 30 minute walk. It's my go-to solution for centering.


> If you're so mentally disorganized that phone apps destroy your peaceful calm...

This is an incredibly arrogant and uncharitable statement.

You'd be well served to make less assumptions about other people.


Brains are different. Are you a visual thinker?

I think in words, and so anything with words heavily blocks background thinking. You may have a type of brain that is particularly compatible with doing secondary phone activities.

(By contrast, I can think while tidying, cooking, etc. They're all non-verbal)


I really recommend unplugging for a few days. It helps you notice how you are interacting with technology.

I spent 4 days on a tiny island (population 11) a few years ago. I was there with one friend and we decided that there would be no screens and no watches/clocks for the whole time.

You very quickly adjust to not having it. Easily within a day. We ate when we got up, and then again later on. We went to sleep soon after it got dark. We barely even thought about things that weren't directly around us.

The most surprising thing about the trip was the return. We caught a small covered ferry that had a little TV hooked up. The TV was showing the preparation for some sports event, basially nothing was happening. I was utterly transfixed by it. The movement, the colors, the cuts every few seconds was way more stimulation than I had had over the past 4 days. Smartphones add interactivity and take this even further.


I tried to google which island you could have been visiting. google didn't cut it, but Wolfram Alpha understood what I was looking for and found four islands. care to share which one you visited to see whether WA had a hit?

Ahhh, what a fabulous waste of time and resources. So... what was the thread about again?


> You very quickly adjust to not having it. Easily within a day. We ate when we got up, and then again later on. We went to sleep soon after it got dark.

Not sure why do you need adjusting to eat when you wake up and sleep after dark, and how technology prevents you from doing that in your usual life?


Habit. Especially in the winter, there are several hours of darkness before most adults' bedtimes, which is typically filled with screen time, whether TV/videogames, computer, phone.

If you have young kids, it's even more pronounced, because you end the day physically and emotionally drained, and you feel like you need that time to "unwind" before going to bed yourself.

This isn't to say it can't be changed by willpower alone, but I can see how an unplugged vacation would help kickstart the process.


I think most people live life based on a schedule, to a greater or lesser degree. The schedule is informed by clock time. I get up at this time, I eat lunch at that time and so on.

When I was on the island I felt like I was much more in tune with my internal needs. I was trying to paint a picture of the experience with my comment, rather than give a prescriptive handbook of what to do.


Like some others in this thread, I keep my phone permanently in grayscale to make it less visually stimulating.

In those extremely rare cases where I turn on color—when it's needed because a UI is color-based—I find the colors absolutely garish and want to turn them off immediately.

It's like eliminating refined sugar and artificial sweeteners from your diet and then eating a cupcake. It's too intense, and therefore offputting.


It doesn't even have to be that extreme. Go camping, or even for a hike for a few hours.

Just take some time on the reg to disconnect.


I agree there's benefit in smaller disconnections. But taking a full week off from something produces a qualitatively different change for me. A month, even more.

I'm a life-long atheist, but in the last few years I've really come to understand why Sabbaths and Lent are things that have been sustained over millennia. There's a lot of introspective value in giving things up.


I prefer disconnected by default. I connect when I want/need to.


Personally, I would love a flip phone with a removable battery and a physical button on the side to turn WiFi hotspot functionality on/off -- with OFF being the default. Having a phone that you only need to charge once a week is a great feature!


You are describing new Nokia 8110 4G (aka "the matrix phone" reincarnated)

* 25 days on standby, 8.5 hours LTE voice calls

* removable battery

* WiFi hotspot functionality

* 4G network connectivity

* KaiOS will have basic apps (Google maps, FB, Google assistant and reportetly WhatsApp in near future)

https://www.nokia.com/en_in/phones/nokia-8110-4g


I was very excited by this phone but KaiOS seems worrying though hopefully I just misread: they seem to be quite closed-source even though they are based on FirefoxOS [1], the app store is closed and carrier controlled [2], and the hotspot functionality also seems to come with carrier control [3], which given the lack of openness and root capability, means that it may very well be disabled if you buy the phone through the wrong carrier.

As a basic phone with features, it still seems exciting (priced at $99USD I think) but after LineageOS, this feels like a step back in terms of openness and control.

[1] https://www.kaiostech.com/faq/#question-14

[2] https://www.kaiostech.com/faq/#question-6 - to me, this means outdated apps or ones that will eventually die (such as the YouTube app on Sony DVD players a couple of years ago.)

[3] https://www.kaiostech.com/faq/#question-16


If you want a dumb phone, why would you even care about locked app store? You aren't getting it to use the apps.

Same for root capability; either WiFi hotspot works with your carrier out of the box, or you don't buy the phone. If you have to fight your carrier on that, hacking every device you use on the network is not a solution anyway.

And a closed-source OS doesn't mean it's not hackable. Back in the day, you could mess a lot with Symbian.


True. The thing is that under the covers, this thing is kind of a smart phone and as such, the lack of control bothers me a bit. Your other points are valid though - one could just get this device for hotspot/call functionality and be happy.


LOL - of course it has Facebook. In the video, there's an icon for Twitter too.


Pretty cool. I was seriously looking at the new 3310 but it doesn't have GPS. Ideally would like maps/navigation. A phone with SMS, maps, and email is all I would ever need.


I would love this to work with the same phone/carrier technology that allows Apple Watch LTE and iPhone share a phone number.


I'm sold, when is it coming out?


Thanks! This looks awesome


A coworker of mine recently picked up a Nokia 3310[1] for that exact same reason/purpose.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_3310_(2017)


I used one of these for six months and it was definitely enlightening. Maybe there are firmware updates that make it less crashy now?


Just ordered one! "Smartphone" going in the bin.


Possibly too late but make sure you buy the latest 3G-enabled version. The 2017 initial release could only connect to 2G networks.


They assured me it wouldn't be any problem to make calls and send messages because of that.


My iPhone 5s (still my favourite iPhone design) died a couple of years ago (well, the battery did) and since then I use an iPod touch for apps and a cheap (£30 IIRC) dual-SIM little Nokia for telephony. The latter keeps its charge for days and I don't worry about losing it.

I confess as a news junkie I enjoy twitter, youtube, podcasts and reddit etc on my iPod but as it is wifi-only of course there are built in constraints in its use. I also have taken to going out without iPod or phone after work hours... very liberating and almost revolutionary! Nice to have an untracked-feeling if nothing else.


Darn, I was about to suggest that you get the iPhone SE but I think you made a better choice sticking with the iPod Touch.


Get a 3310 and a mobile hotspot with a data-only sim? The Huawei E5770 has 500h standby 20h activity, an ethernet port and USB power output (to act as a powerbank).


The problem with portable routers is that it requires a different plan and you always have the phone with you, so you're not in danger of forgetting it home.


> The problem with portable routers is that it requires a different plan

So? You can get a voice-only plan for the dumbphone and a data-only plan for the AP.

> and you always have the phone with you

Given the AP is useless on its own, you can just leave it in your laptop/tablet bag (whichever you're using).


The same is true for a camera. Dang.


I moved to a Sonim XP5 two months ago. It has bluetooth, wifi, LTE, removable battery, media player, expandable storage, and can function as a hotspot. It uses a stripped down version of android for its OS


I changed my phone's language to Japanese (which I don't speak very well).

Instead of mindless tapping buttons, now I have to think about every action I take. It makes using my phone tiring, so I don't use it very often.


I've tried the same with German (which I don't speak very well) but I switched it back when it kept taking me to the German language version of every site I visited.


Good point. I had this problem too, but there is a setting ...somewhere, to fix it.


I am learning German at school, a couple classmates changed their phone to German and they said it helped learning new words, I should try it out.


Uhhhh, that’s an awesome idea.


This is one of the advantages of using a Windows Phone these days: fewer apps to tempt me into letting distractions creep onto my phone :-)


I didn't see this mentioned in a quick scan of the comments: no data plan.

I originally did this with my wife to save money: 2 AT&T grandfathered unlimited data plans for $160 down to $15 for 2 phones on an MVNO talk+text family plan (both plans had limited minutes, but the MVNO is cheaper for add'l minutes).

We use wifi at home and at work, though since I have computers there, I don't find myself connecting on the phone that much. Also, neither of us use facebook through the app or the browser on the phone. We just use home computers or an ipad for that. That feels much safer for being physically tracked and advertised to.

So our phones have our calendar and reminders, notes, and photos, and voice and text of course (just not imessage unless on wifi). It really makes them boring and functional, and not a distraction.

The ONLY thing that we miss that is critical is maps when traveling. My wife once switched to a $40 data plan for a month, I tried to check maps with the hotel wifi so they are cached on the phone. But now we found a Garmin GPS at a yard sale for $20 and use that.


For anyone else looking to save money on their phone plan, check out Project Fi.

My wife and I pay $20 for the first unlimited talk/text line and $15 for the second (all of them after the first line cost $15), plus 10 dollars for each gigabyte of data used.

It's rare for us to use more than 2 gigs of data in a month so our bill is usually between $45 and $55 dollars.

If you are so inclined, phone protection plans cost $5 dollars a month and have reasonable replacement prices ($79 to replace my Pixel 2 that I paid $650 for). They also offer interest free financing over 24 months on all of their phones.

As long as you don't mind the small selection of phones (at the moment the only phones they sell are the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, and Moto X4 I think), it's a very good deal.


I have a tablet that does not have a data plan, I have Maps.me and OSMAnd+ with offline maps, road suggestions and a bunch of other stuff for when we're out of town and our phones are dead.


Maps are the biggest reason I still have a data plan. We even already have a GPS with a giant screen, but when I'm in the middle of nowhere and need to find the nearest gas station/restaurant/whatever, the dedicated GPS is useless.

Even the mere act of inputting an address can be so painful on these GPS models that are so slow, especially because most don't have touch-capacitive screens but rather pressure sensitive ones. Leaning forward to reach it across the dash, it usually registers about 70% of my "key presses".


Assuming you are on Android - you can download maps for offline viewing when you are on wifi, just select an area and that portion of the map will be stored for offline use.


That works on Google Maps for iOS too and I do it for all devices.

On android the reminders are super annoying: Your offline maps will expire in x days, please update! You can disable it, but it took me a while. Totally useless. Just update them when it's time and STFU.


There are a lot of technical ways to get around this but here's a simpler approach. I just don't own a smart phone. I own an old flip phone and use it primarily to communicate with my immediate family through texts and calls. I have the advantage of not being required to have a smart phone for work and I'm quite happy with that situation.

I generally don't use facebook or pretty much any other social media sites (hacker news is probably the most social I get) and whenever I need to I just do it from home, I like my time.


A feature phone would be fine, but I'm too attached to always having a camera on me. And as far as I know, feature phones generally have crap cameras.


You are correct, yes. I don't generally take many pictures which may be an advantage for me not having a smart phone.


This approach does require a lot of sacrifices. Smartphones have a lot of utility that dumb phones don't have.

In particular, I wouldn't want to go without Google maps, Spotify, Uber, and Google Authenticator. Aside from that I don't have many apps installed on my phone.


While %s/drug/phone/g makes for an easy rhetorical trick, it also destroys a lot of essential context. It's also a bit on the offensive side if you or someone you know has dealt with actual drug addiction; as in, it cheapens it.

Picking some offenders from their list..

* You keep using your phone after it’s no longer needed to solve a problem. (Because nobody uses smartphones for fun?)

* You feel strange when you don’t have your phone. (I also feel strange when I don't have my watch, lighter, and multitool on me. This applies to all every day carry items.)

* You’ve begun having trouble doing normal daily things without your phone. (Normal daily things include responding to alerts, taking phone calls, and sending messages. I could not do my job without a smartphone, let alone a great deal of plain old human socializing. Further, IMs and SMSes are more respectful of my friends' time than phone calls which demand everybody drops what they're doing)

* You borrow money to pay for your phone. (Given the industry move to carrier financing rather than contract lock-in, I think most people now borrow money to pay for their phone)

* You drive or do other dangerous things (like use heavy machines) while you are on your phone. (People yammering on their phones in traffic has a lot more to do with a poor understanding of attention than it does this increasingly tenuous drug analogy. Besides, phone use while driving was a safety issue long before smartphones proliferated.)

* You hide some phone use or the effect it is having on you from others. (Only when the specter of Ludditism creeps through and I'd rather not be moralized to about my use of technology.)

----

Let's not even talk about the bare equation of all games to addiction (seriously?).

If you feel you're addicted to your smartphone, by all means, do whatever works for you, but if you intend on presenting that to the world, please keep the crappy logic to a minimum.


Any behavior can end up being "addictive" if you keep doing it even as it has negative consequences for your life and are unable to stop, right?


I see so many recommendations to get rid of a smartphone. Here is a different view. I didn't have a smartphone till 2014, I used to think that it was a scam by phone service companies and manufacturers to make you spend more. And then I almost missed my kid's team event due to change of location and missed the messages from other parents. I would have messed months' long preparation by all these kids by my kid's absence. That was the first and last straw and got a smartphone. I also want a phone handy to take pictures. A phone is essential, I just would like android and ios to care more about distractions and develop features to limit these distractions. I am also looking forward to robust, foolproof apps like Space by Boundless etc.


To me, uninstalling all Social Media did wonders on my productivity. I replaced them with instapaper (for articles I saved before hand) and Kindle. Now, I can't mindlessly loose track of time on twitter or something, and if I am truly using my phone to fill some in-between time waiting for a doctors appointment or something, I am doing something I already previously decided to do, not something I come up with (an article/book I already picked out), so I am no susceptible to temptation.

One thing I would add to this, is either disable, or put in the same folder as the other distracting apps, the web browser. You really need it for a surprisingly little things on your phone, and I found it as an alternate route to my time wasting websites.


Anybody remember this?

http://www.dumbsto.re/

Simple, sms-based "apps" you can use to smarten up your dumbphone.


About a year or so ago, I changed the launcher app on my Android phone to the Linux CLI Launcher (then called t-ui Launcher) [1]. This was a revolutionary step towards changing my interaction behavior with my phone. Now, I had to _type in the names of the apps_ that I wanted to open. There was _zero_ visual candy that attracted me and prompted me to needlessly open Instagram. I stopped compulsively checking these apps, moved to using Chrome only in the bus during commute. Every month I'd run "ls -apps" to see what apps I have installed. The first time I ran it, I did not even recognize most of the apps on the list. I have a much happier (and snappier) phone now free of bloat apps, and as a result a much happier and more productive version of me (at least no reduction in productivity due to phone distraction).

[1]: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ohi.andre.cons...

edit: grammar, reframe


This is great, I was trying to modify termux as a launcher just to accomplish the same thing.


This launcher is great, thanks for sharing.


> What if we could make our phones so boring we just look at them we we have to? What if we could strip out most, if not all of the dopamine inducing features and leave the phone in a state that is useful but boring.

I did just this to my Facebook feed. It may seem silly, but I signed up for a bunch of non-interesting Facebook groups which pollute my feed with noise. After a couple weeks, I deleted the app from my phone and resorted to using the website through my mobile browser when needed. So far I usually check about once every day or two, mostly just to see if I have any notifications. I find the feed so uninteresting that I rarely just browse it anymore. Before, I would spend a 15 minute here and there, adding up to probably 2 or more hours per day. One thing I noticed is how less often I find myself getting upset at stupid things. Before, I was reading local news stories that were being passed around, and finding myself upset at some of the comments. For what? I wasn't even really interested in the subject of the story anyway!


I might try this. I've been exclusively using a Nokia 2G dumbphone for 2 years now. Just calls and texts (and snake, oh and it also has a flashlight)

There are obviously times when I would benefit from Google Maps or being able to listen to music on my phone though. Not having a camera in my pocket all the time has been the only thing i've truly missed though. Being able to take a photo of something and maybe instantly send it to someone is useful. "Hey can you pick me up some X"... "Sure i'm in the shop now, are these the right ones?" That kind of interaction is just useful.

I fell like now I've well and truly broken my smartphone addiction that it might be safe for me to reintroduce a smart phone into my life. I feel as though I would now have sufficient will power not to just install Facebook one night and start mindlessly scrolling again. I don't believe I could have achieved that without transitioning first to a completely dumb phone. I imagine that's true of a lot of other people


This might be a good place to modestly self-promote my side project app, Time Guard, that lets you block services like Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/HN by default and only unblock them for a limited span at once (much like HN's "noprocrast" feature). https://timeguard.io


Another more extreme step I've heard others take is to put their device in one of those locking cookie jars:

https://www.thekitchensafe.com


That is indeed extreme.. obviously it would be preferable to have the proper motivation to stop this type of behaviour on your own but a detox period is required for that.


I like this, but I don't $50 like this.


I don't own a smartphone, simply because it's not convenient. I've had one from my previous job, it was Iphone 4 IIRC. It was bulky, I had to charge it every day, and when I enabled maps or a browser it got hot quickly.

Now I'm using Nokia 106. It lasts 2 weeks on one charge (1 week if I'm listening to radio/podcasts a lot), it's much smaller than iphone, never gets hot, and I'm not afraid to drop it. I dropped it several times, and even washed it once by mistake in my jeans. It works still, I just had to dry it and buy a new battery.

It's much more convenient to use as a phone than a smartphone, and when I'm going somewhere for longer than 10 minutes usually I take a backpack and a tablet, so I can use browser and I have gps anyway (and much more convenient than on a smartphone), but there's this small hurdle of taking it out so I don't waste as much time on it as I would otherwise.

I think this combo (dumbphone+tablet) beats a smartphone on almost every front.


I am glad this works for you, but for example the only function I could use on a dumbphone is alarm. I never call anybody and I send SMS messages only when the network coverage is too poor so it falls back.

I use GPS all the time for public transport, I doubt a standalone GPS does that. What about photos, tablets can have decent cameras but phones are usually 2-3 generations ahead.


Smart wake-up alarms that detect when you're entering light sleep in the morning are the only way to be happy.

I used to have a Jawbone bracelet that did that by slowly increasing vibration. It was even better. But the setup I have today with my phone under the pillow works.


When I set alarm clock to 6 after a few days I wake up by myself at 5:55


I meant gps in tablet. It has everything smartphone has, but with reasonably sized screen.


I actually would rather have a phone that I have to charge every night. If it's only once a week then I'll forget but if it's every day it becomes a habit and therefore automatic.


I made a simple tool to help me break my bad social media habits: https://quit.social/

I uninstalled Twitter and Facebook from my phone, and replaced them on my home screen with Safari bookmarks that looked like those apps (using favicons).

Any time I would try to open those apps, it would deliver a "mild shock" in the form of a big red shame warning telling me how many times I've recently failed to stop using the apps.

I kicked the habit in about a week.

The fake Twitter app still sits on my home screen, but I only ever tap it by accident. As soon as I come up with something to put in its place, it'll be gone too.

Feel free to use it if you find it useful, it's pretty ugly but it worked for me. If it works for you, consider making it prettier: https://github.com/imjasonh/quit.social


The discussions on successfully quitting social media pop up weekly on HN.

The irony is, of course, that HN is social media. Personally, I clock more time here than on FB and IG taken together.


Even better, try not taking your phone with you at all. They're essentially ankle bracelets that use the carrot instead of the stick. At least in the US your location is recorded and stored for at a minimum of 2 and usually more towards 5 years depending on telco.


I've done what's described in the article for years. In fact, I've never once installed Facebook or Twitter on my iPhone. My general rules-

- No social media, at all. News only for entertainment, and news sources (fed through Feedly) have to be new sources, not politics-masquerading-as-news. Things happening, not things people are saying.

- No notifications enabled other than texts and calls.

- Do not disturb set for 10PM-6AM, allowing favorites to call through (wife & family).

- Single page homescreen to keep it clean, tidy & organized.

Mine is used for utility, and like most things in modern society, there's enough power if you aren't very intelligent to get controlled by the technology. You have to be capable of seeing through the tech, and not become its slave. Eternal vigilance is the cost of freedom I suppose.

I rarely look at my phone, I do have games, but they are opened less than once every 12 months. Looking at what I have installed now, I have Super Mario Run, Breakout & "Faby Bird" (a Flappy Bird remake). I see no need to remove them when I don't find them to be a problem or damaging like social media is.

Why do I have a smartphone then?

ApplePay, remote home & PC controls, GPS maps, online banking, Lyft, Exxon Mobile SpeedPass+, Find My iPhone to know where my family is if they need me, are all invaluable. Those are the things I use a smartphone for.


I think it may be healthy to reset dopamine by doing this occasionally for a week or so at a time, but I like the cheap dopamine and connectedness of my social media connections.


I disable most notifications, and even the ones that are turned on are silent ones. I keep the phone aside on the table almost all the time, and consider myself a relatively mild user of the smartphone. Where I really miss the phone and feel handicapped without it is when I have to quickly look something up on google/dictionary. e.g, if I have a quick random question about why something is the way it is, what causes some symptoms etc. I can't imagine going back to childhood (90s) when we had to go to libraries or ask poorly knowledgeable people about stuff.

In a way, I feel this is the future. Human beings are supposed to become one with the machine at some point. People who dislike that or choose to stay away might actually be likely to be outcast and be considered weird. I already see that happening, for example when I tell people I don't have a facebook account. It boils down to, "Do I value personal privacy, or being connected to the world's information flow ecosystem?". And I am not sure that choosing to be private is the obvious right answer at this point. And it might not even be possible in the near future.



Does anyone with an Apple watch (or other smartwatch) feel it helps them leave their smartphone behind and/or reduce their smartphone usage?


I do. I have an Apple Watch with a SIM chip in it and I leave my phone at home all the time. I still get text messages and emails, so I know if something urgent is going on, but it is also a bit of a pain to reply, so I find, more often than not, I don't. It helps me to plan my responses to specific times during the day.


Thanks for this. We're considering smartphones for our soon-to-be "tween" children, however I've considered pairing them with a smartwatch, in an attempt to keep them from developing this same "dependence". I doubt it will work for them (Snapchat/Instagram etc.) however it might work for me/us.


I second this. The Apple Watch lasts all day for me while on LTE. It's all I need and want.


I’ve been thinking of doing the same. Are you able to do google maps and uber?


Mine hasn't, as there were too many things which didn't quite work. (Uber, lack of podcasts, difficult to play language lessons as MP3s, etc.)

Instead I made my smartphone much dumber, and it isn't really distracting now. But, I'm hoping a future watch os will have a better third party app development framework and allow it to be truly phone independent. I bought the watch hoping for phone independence.


Sort of. My pebble lets me reply to many types of messages, but not all. It also does support music controls which is also useful.

So there are more times I can just leave it either on a charger or somewhere in the house and not worry about where it is exactly. Until I get an MMS or a phone call.


I have found it to help.

It's not a perfect solution, but I find part of the process of being less involved with my phone is acceptance of the fact that I might not be able to be able to address every need at every moment and that's ok.


Yes. When I'm doing stuff I never look at my phone cuz I already know what notifications I have and whether or not I care

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