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Life without a cell phone (nbrogi.com)
21 points by nbrogi 1309 days ago | hide | past | web | 51 comments | favorite

Family and close friends get my cell number. Everyone else gets my Google Voice number.

If I don't want to be bothered by unimportant calls, I launch the Google Voice app and enable do not disturb.

If I permanently want certain numbers, or unknown numbers to go straight to voicemail permanently, I set it up. I don't hear a ring. I get a push notification if they leave a voicemail.

If Google Voice isn't your cup of tea and you have an iPhone, use iOS's Do Not Disturb feature. You can enable it either manually via a switch, or on a time period basis. You can set exceptions for no one, or for your favorites, or for specific contact groups.

The funny thing is, I willfully refrain from using my smartphone in public or when in groups of whenever possible. I'm commonly the only parent at a park that is playing with their kids and doesn't have their face buried in their smartphones doing god knows what. This is causing me to question whether a smartphone plan is worth it as I use so little data when out and about. So I'm pondering going with some cheapo prepaid options.

Edit: Check out the below reply from ericdykstra for a similar solution for Android.

To add to your post about other options for call management, if you have a rooted Android phone, I recommend Call Master ( https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=fahrbot.apps.b... )

You can whitelist everyone in your contacts, blacklist all restricted numbers, or go down to individual numbers and just never see calls from spam callers. You can even set up schedules (only accept calls from my close family between 10pm and 6am, for example).

Thanks, will check it out!

I skipped out on data plans ages ago, because the truth of the matter is I'm near a computer or at least WiFi nearly all the time, and when I'm not I specifically don't want access- e.g. at a park, in the forest, bicycling on a trail.

Exactly my point.

OMG! I remember looking into Google Voice and it was so awesome, but at the time it wasn't available in Italy.

Is it available everywhere now?

If it is not, I am sure there is a paid VOIP provider that has call screening like gvoice and will forward to your phone as needed. Try searching for "voip call screening" I just did and got a bunch of hits.

Yep, actually at the beginning I thought I'd do that. They call it "virtual office" here, there are reps pretending to be your secretary, who pick up and then send you an email with the transcript.

Then, email worked so surprisingly well that I just dropped the idea.

I'm a 31 y/o Software Engineer, and I have not had a cell phone since ~2004.

It's improved my work/life balance immensely, as my work can't call/email me whenever they like.

The only time it's annoying is (as the article says) when you're trying to meet up with friends and are not immediately and conveniently contactable.

Being that most people spend ~$60/mo on a plan, I've saved right on $6000 - which certainly helped finance my 2 year drive from Alaska to Argentina, and other periods of not working full time to do as I please.

It's crazy when I'm out with friends and they all turn into zombies looking through their smartphones, for up to 10 minutes at a time.

I don't ever want to have a cell phone again.

I own a cell phone but never use it for the same reasons as you. Never missed it, never will.

This month a video went viral about the subject: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OINa46HeWg8 (I Forgot My Phone). So true.

All right... So I'm not 100% crazy! :-)

I forget to mention the money! My plan was about 50€, too...

After a year, I regularly talk to my wife and other people via email or Messages.

Both are a lot less invasive than your cell phone ringing.

I don't think this is as easy as it was in the age before cell phones became common.

The infrastructure that dealt with people on the move trying to communicate (phone booths, equipped with directories) has diminished substantially. People are not going to borrow you their phone to make calls when you need to and when you break a leg in the basement at night you'll wish you had one no matter where the nearest functioning phone booth is located.

No phone, or wired phone is a world that has largely gone by.

I've stayed away from smartphones so far because of 2 things:

- battery life

- security

I like to be able to use my phone when I really need it (as a phone) and feature phones still beat smartphones handily in this department.

Second big issue, security is maybe a bit paranoid but I can't imagine that carrying what amounts to a full fledged linux machine in my pocket without even so much as a basic insight in what is going on under the hood or a sysadmin to go with it is responsible use of the data on the phone.

It helps that I know my way around and that in the car I have a tom-tom for navigation. Going without a cell phone is foregoing convenience without any upside. You could get all of the upside by simply buying a phone and keeping it charged and in your pocket, and in many countries even a 'dead' phone will allow you to call the emergency number. (I assume you can get one without a sim card from a friend for free).

My standing policy for phones is that I expect people to manage their own availability, and respect that I do the same.

If I don't want to answer a call, I don't answer it the first time they call; if it's really an emergency, they'll leave a message or keep calling back. I only give out my Google Voice number, so I get transcriptions of voicemail, and I can silence groups of people, or only permit certain groups of people to call me at a given time.

If I want to talk to someone, I call them, and trust that they won't answer if they don't want to talk. It's absurd for me to be expected to work out whether it's a good time for a call or not, as I don't know their schedule, just like it would be absurd for me to expect anyone else to know my schedule and try to make decisions for me on whether I want to be called or not.

I've had several friends who have quite a bit of anxiety about making and receiving phone calls, religiously answering every call and stressing about whether or not it's acceptable to call others. I might be a bit idealistic, but this seems like the simplest solution to me, with the people who have the most information making local decisions for themselves.

Life without a hammer...

I used to have a hammer and beat myself on the head with it. Now I don't have a hammer and everything is better.


When all you have is a cell phone, every problem looks like a phone call.


Couldn't you solve this problem by simply turning off your cellphone? Or using Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode?

Of course, the whole post is pointless and borderline luddite. I don't get calls every ten minutes, and don't play Ruzzle at dinner. Getting rid of his cell phone sounds like a substitute for not having any common sense or self control.

Yeah, that's just my personal experience.

Being a web developer, I used to get a lot of calls from clients, so much that it got to be hard to work for me.

That's the problem -- you use it for work. Get a phone and only give the number to close friends, if that. For clients, you coud use a Google Voice number which is not forwarded directly and just sends you e-mail alerts.

This is the correct answer. You're running a business - enforce business hours on your business contact number.

Does it work in Europe/Italy?

I remember looking into that and I'd have killed to get it, but it was only available in the U.S...

When an emergency does happen you're gonna wish you had one. Car accident, wife going into labor, you'll need it.

Other option is to keep two phones, one personal, one private.

I tried :-)

But then people started saying that I was either not reachable or I ignored them.

I didn't get rid of my cell phone on purpose, just used the fact that it broke to not get another one, and it just works great for me.

Without a cell phone you are still unreachable, so how exactly is this solving that issue?

The real problem here is that the people contacting you do not respect your desire to not be on-call 24/7. In my opinion, this lack of respect is good enough reason to not feel bad about ignoring them. Put your phone on mute and stop letting inconsiderate people push you around. Or just continue not having a phone because that works too.

I can't upvote this hard enough. If someone is calling me, their name pops up on the screen. What if I don't want to talk to them? I don't answer! If they leave a voicemail? I'll check it when I feel like it, and if it's not important, I won't bother with it. This article does hit one nail right on the head though, and it's the real source of the problems - when did people forget that cellphones serve them, and not the other way around?

The problem is that clients would get mad saying I ignored them.

I probably didn't care about them, but I do care about keeping good work relationships.

I'm totally reachable. I have email, and Messages. The thing is just that I can decide when to check them, and they're less invasive.

I'm surprised people (especially clients) react better to you not having a cell phone at all than to you not always answering.

I always make sure to disable the auto-away setting in all chat/IM programs so it always shows me as online, and then I explain to everyone that since the program is not smart enough to know for sure that I am available, I prefer to avoid the confusion.

With phones I follow a similar philosophy: I make sure to avoid answering it all the time, I let it run out of battery, or in Silent mode, or I leave it at home, etc. and I'm very vocal about having done so.

I don't know if this makes me antisocial, but it seems to work fairly well in removing other people's expectations (except with my dad heh).

This is the same approach I use. I set the expectation that my cellphone is NOT for you to reach me 24/7. You can sure try but I reserve the right to not answer for any reason. My phone is normally on vibrate or airplane mode.

I think that for them the situation improved.

If they called me to see if I knew their password and I didn't help them they'd feel stuck, now they just go in their inbox, find it themselves, and go on with their lives without emailing me, which ultimately doesn't piss them off.

Before, I just couldn't handle the amount of calls and sometimes I just wouldn't even call back if I thought it wasn't important, then people would have to call me back to finally try to solve their problem. Now, I always reply to my email, so in this case, too it's better for them.

That sounds like a business opportunity. If people want to call you for hand-holding then charge them money for it. On-call support contract - business hours or a more expensive 24-hour option. Make it a "best effort" contract so you aren't liable if you can't answer the phone.

"My phone is turned off and I normally check voicemail once a day around 5pm. The best way to reach me is ..."

Works for me. I use the standard iOS features to make sure important callers (eg. the children's school) can get through.

The trick to getting this to work is to be consistent. Don't tell people you are not reachable and then pick up their calls.

Hmm. I would think there's a way of setting reasonable expectations for return calls. I would think a client that requires a same-day response ought to be paying a lot of money for that privilege.

Returning family calls, on the other hand...

I absolutely agree, setting expectations is key. But I can also see the point of needing the extra push to modify your own behavior. I don't have a TV. It died and I didn't get a new one. I have found new ways to watch TV, but now I cannot idle away hours in front of HGTV. It sounds ridiculous, but the few mouse clicks it takes to watch a program versus the single click of a button is all it took to create a difference between mindless and mindful behavior.

I really believe it's also cultural.

I'm in Italy, and it wasn't just family and work, but all kind of random people... People don't like to use email, here, so they call you for anything (like your bank, landlord, whatever).

Also, then don't trust email: the thing that annoyed me the most was that the rare times they chose email, they would also call me to let me know they had sent me an email, to make sure I'd read it...

Go figure.

I got rid of my cell phone 3 years ago and just use Google Voice. It was awesome. People would bitch about how I wasn't available, but whatever. They can leave a voice mail and I'll get back to them on my schedule, not theirs.

Nobody calls me. It's great. They can, but they don't. I have everyone trained. Emails or texts.

I had a prepaid for awhile that I'd use only to make outgoing calls from. Now I have an iPhone that I mostly use for listening to music, no data plan. People can call me now, but they don't. GVoice is enough of a pain in the ass to them that they avoid it. I tell people I wish Apple would let me integrate it but secretly I wish they never do.

One thing I've been looking into doing is using Talkatone or other such app on my tablets and Google voice on my computer to handle voice calls. This way I only need to have one of my devices around rather than how I usually keep my phone and tablet nearby. As mentioned by others, the cost savings would be great. I already don't receive a lot of calls (most of my family contacts through IM or texts). The only thing I would hate is to lose the number I have through my carrier. It's easy to remember, and I'm already used to it. Wait, I can port it over. Nevermind.

Something which is becoming more and more common in messaging type systems is a level above this. Now on most common instant messaging platforms, a person can tell whether you actually read the message.

For instance in google hangouts, their icon shows where they last read in the conversation.

This puts an added level of responsibility as you can no longer use any excuses that you didn't see it etc

He didn't say if he also didn't have a land line, but it was implied by referring people to email and/or skype (although skype has an option to let you pay to have a phone number, doesn't it). One problem I can think of is sites that rely on sending a code to a phone as a second form of authentication, like banks.

The thing that kills me is people who reply to emails with a phone call. I actually quit putting my cell number in my email signature because of this. If I wanted to talk to you I would call you; if I emailed you for something then I expect a reply via email.

For the past 3 years I haven't had a cell phone, that is up until about 6 months ago when a friend gave me a Samsung Mesmerize. I don't have a line and only use Google Voice to receive texts, and I make calls through Talkatone.

"So, I told everybody that I didn’t have a cell phone anymore, and to send me an email instead."

Being able to send an email from a phone is common now, so I imagine this might be a possible 'free ride'.


His troubles could be solved by not sharing his private number to people he does not want him calling. Like his professional contacts. Just switch numbers and don't share the new one.

He mentions he can focus on a conversation rather than play on his cell - but owns an iPad. Not sure what his issue really is.

Life without a cell phone is awesom until you need it. Like when you have an emergency and need to call for help. Mobile phones have saved countless of lives. Be it to call for help for yourself or for someone else in need - without leaving them alone to find a goddam phone.

Next up: Life without arms.

You're probably right.

I looked into having a private number, but from other people's experience your number always gets shared. You might give it to 1 person for some reason and you end up with everyone knowing your number.

Also, if someone asks for your number how can you say you don't want to give it to him?

You could try whitelisting only numbers that are in your contact list.

Yep tried that, too :-)

I've long had this prob. with getting interrupted by calls.

Again, people would get mad that I ignored them, or that I wasn't available.

Somehow, since you don't have a cell phone they don't get offended or complain (I'm talking about clients in particular).

"Again, people would get mad that I ignored them, or that I wasn't available."

I find this interesting.. I don't have an expectation that someone is always going to answer their phone... that's what voicemail is for. I also don't give the expectation that I will answer my phone on every ring the first time.

My clients were much worse I guess...

Do you need a web app? :-)

It's not personal if you don't have a cell, whereas if you do it makes it look like a decision not to talk to them in particular.

That's one of the reasons my voicemail makes excuse for not picking up.

"Hi, I'm probably in a meeting or driving at the moment. If you call back between X and Y, then I should be available, or, if you prefer, you can send a text or email. Else, leave a message after the beep. Thanks! ^_^"

Yep, totally agree :-)

Am I that lame? I still have a cellphone.

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