Why living without a smartphone isn’t really that bad

Bright lights of SapporoThere was a time around 30 years ago when talking into a large brick was the hallmark of a sophisticated businessman. The mobile phones of the 1980s were barely worthy of the ‘mobile’ tag and must have been an ordeal to hold up to your ears for more than a few moments. Thankfully the cost of calls in those days meant that you didn’t talk for long.

Phones have of course become a lot smaller since then and now weigh very little. They are smarter too, so much so that we can use our phones to take photos, tell us where we are, provide us with instant guidebook information for our immediate location and even track the whereabouts of our friends and family. The world is embracing smartphone technology and much of the innovation going into online communication is focussed on the latest crop of smartphones.

I don’t have a smartphone. My contract is up for renewal in a couple of months and I’m thinking hard whether I should get one. I’m currently the proud owner of a Sony Ericsson antique. It handles calls and texts quite well although I do understand that a good phone these days should not be judged on these peripheral functions. I can browse a handful of pages on my phone (latest scores, Twitter stream, train timetable) but can’t actually do anything much other than look. I can even pick up my emails as long as no images or attachments are involved. Replying to emails is a complicated affair and attempted only in the case of emergency.

While I’m in the UK the phone’s basic functions are enough. I’m normally only a few hours from logging on at home and there is usually access to a PC somewhere if I need it urgently.

When travelling abroad I find my crappy phone really comes into its own. Not for me the battles with trying to get onto a dodgy wi-fi network, worrying about data charges or buying an international SIM card. I’ll sit back and sip my coffee in peace while others attempt desperately to get themselves connected to the wider world.

So what would I gain from a smartphone? I’ll be more connected to the web, that’s for sure. Is that such a good thing? I’m yet to be convinced.

On the one hand I would love to be able to rely on my phone to help me when I get lost on a hike. It would be great to be able to access an Ordinance Survey Map that could locate me accurately and allow me to plot my way home.

On the other hand I quite like the fact that all that information isn’t at my fingertips, especially when we travel to new places. It means I have to find stuff out for myself by trying it and not taking anyone else’s word for it. And that might just mean that I find something that I didn’t expect to discover; surely one of the delights of travelling in the first place.

Perhaps in this day and age I’m missing out in ways I don’t appreciate and even showing my age in not embracing the latest technology. But the more I hear and read about how others rely on their smartphone for so many things on their travels, the more tempted I am to stick with my sorry excuse for a mobile phone a little bit longer.

Author Information

Freelance travel writer

8 Responses to “Why living without a smartphone isn’t really that bad”

  1. pam #

    I went to SxSW three years ago (I think) and I stated, un-ironically, that I had the oldest phone there. Folks would laugh until I showed them my phone, a 90’s Nokia that I used for random texting and phone calls. No data plan, and get this, a prepaid card. I survived just fine until I was hired to work on an app. Then I realized that I was turning into a dinosaur and after a ridiculously long period of research, I settled on an iPhone.

    Now, I’m totally addicted. I managed just fine without my iPhone, I really did. It’s not like I needed Angry Birds and Yelp and Instagram and and and. It wasn’t until 2009 that I had a smartphone, after all, and I’d traveled without getting lost, eaten perfectly good meals, got by on hotel wifi and lobby computers. I love my stupid phone, and I hate that I love it so much.

    November 26, 2011 at 4:20 pm
    • That’s exactly why I’m reluctant to trade in my crappy phone. I know I’ll be addicted too and I don’t really want to use up any more time each week playing with gadgets.

      November 27, 2011 at 4:19 pm
  2. I agree. My phone doesn’t even have net access; it just calls and texts. Like you said, I don’t need any more addictions. Also, it’s far cheaper (my prepaid phone is roughly 10 dollars a month), and I like being able to lost. I do wonder if at some point I’ll become a second-class citizen, though.

    November 29, 2011 at 12:19 pm
  3. I gave up my smartphone 3 months ago and when I saw gave up – I mean that in the drug sense coz I loved that little puppy…
    Did I need it though? I will read anything if it is in front of me – cereal packet, letter box bumpf, whatever and a smartphone meant i had something to read in every spare minute.
    Not having it forces me to engage with my kids (yes – I ignored them to read the Guardian App/blogs/twitter etc..) and think creatively or just day dream when on the bus or with a moment or two to spare.
    Whats more I think I am a better business owner for forcing myself not to be available 24-7.
    And my new (very old phone) has a battery life of almost 7 days!

    November 29, 2011 at 3:21 pm
  4. I’m with you. I have a regular old cell phone I rarely use. I feel like I’m on the computer enough everyday already so I’m reluctant to get anything else.
    Except of course all the photography apps on the iphone sound really cool.

    I’ll procrastinate a little longer …and save some money too.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:50 pm
  5. Sam, sounds all too familiar. It’s having access to all that stuff I can read, whether I need it or not, that I’m resisting. A time will come where it will be just stubbornness that holds me back from getting one. That time hasn’t yet come and the prices keep dropping in the meantime.
    Thanks to all for sharing your thoughts.

    December 3, 2011 at 8:29 am
  6. john gray. #

    I bought one recently. Always had a simple phone. Even downgraded to a clam style one that was years old because I was sick of accidentally going online in my pocket and using up all my credit.

    But now I own an Android HTC sensation, with a processor that’s faster than my laptop mini, and i have to say there’s absolutely nothing that i do on it that is in any way useful. I surf the net for stupid things just for something to read, rather than choosing something worthwhile and reading that. I Google map to find places nearby. Rarely go there, I’m just curious. And whereas before I wasn’t really interested in the every current thought of my old old friends on Facebook, now i find the same thing absolutely fascinating. I know I’m addicted, and now I’m just using it for using its sake. I’m even writing this on it, and its taking absolutely ages. And the word prediction is just as time consuming as it always was to type, but now from correcting the wrong words its suggested and you’ve not noticed cause you’re in the flow.

    If I couldn’t I wouldn’t but i can’t.

    January 4, 2012 at 8:40 pm
  7. You are spot on. I had a low end smartphone and it got me addicted to my rss reader. I sometimes held food on my mouth without swallowing because I was busy reading when I should have been eating. I am glad now, I have no such problems because I ditched the phone.

    January 28, 2013 at 10:23 am