Cell Phones – Less is More

My first cellphone was a Nokia in 1999. I don’t remember the model name or number, but it was the little brick-like thing that basically everyone had back then. I just got out of the Air Force and not only were Melissa and I looking for a home, I was looking for a job. If prospective employers were going to be able to call me back, I needed a phone number, so a cell phone made sense. I still have that original number.

I kept that brick for a really long time. I don’t remember what the phone was after that, but I think it was Windows CE based. I think it had a stylus? I really don’t remember. I liked it for a really long time, and then I didn’t, just like all of the phones I’ve ever had.

In 2008, I picked up the iPhone 3gs. I kept that until I started working for Trimark, then jumped on the Nokia Lumia 920. I really loved that phone. Unfortunately, the world conspired to kill Windows Phone, and Microsoft finally complied with their wishes. Then I switched to the Galaxy S7, and now I’m on the Galaxy Note 9. Both of the last two phone updates were somewhat hostile.

I’m not sure what happened, but with the Galaxy S7, I reached the point where I legitimately started to resent having to have a phone at all. It’s supposed to be this powerful device that puts the sum of human knowledge in the palm of my hand, simultaneously connecting me with friends and family at a moments notice. It feels more like obligation in physical form, and a way for government and corporate organizations to track and spy on me, if they wanted to.

With the proliferation of 2 factor authentication, I cannot do without a cell phone. I don’t really have a choice. If I want to be able to do my job or log into my bank account, I have to have a cell phone. It’s an indelible part of my life experience now. Not having a choice in the matter is probably a good part of why I do not care for cell phones anymore.

Apparently, AT&T thought I was still using the old Lumia, and since that device is 3G only, they decided I needed a new phone. I knew the S7 used LTE, so I knew that when the 3G network stops in a few months, my phone would be fine. AT&T sent me emails stating that my phone wouldn’t work when 3G went away, and I ignored those emails. I barely noticed when the emails switched from warnings to “We are going to send you a new phone.”

They selected the Galaxy Note 9. There’s some letters after the 9, but I don’t remember what they are. It supports 5G, and it has a stylus, and it’s a little bit larger than the S7. Large enough that it doesn’t really go in my front pocket very well anymore. Other than the size, it’s a fine phone, and a suitable replacement for the S7.

I thought when I received the new phone, I would transfer my hate from the S7 to the Note directly. I knew I was going to hate transferring apps and credentials and all the 2 factor stuff. I was right, in that was very inconvenient. I’ve had the new phone for a while now, and even tonight, I had to bust out the old phone in order to log into my Steam account.

A funny thing happened, though. I intentionally chose to remove a bunch of apps from the Note. I didn’t install Wordscapes, or Pokemon Go, or Twitter. I tried to uninstall Facebook, but the phone itself doesn’t allow for that, which is pretty scary. I allowed myself 1010! for games, and I installed Discord and Spotify and a few other apps I deemed essential.

Now… I kind of like my phone, again.

It helps that it’s new, and I don’t have to charge it every night. I’ve been getting away with charging it every 3 days.

The big quality of life improvement, though, is that I’ve reduced my access to social media, which was bumming me out at all hours of the day. I also reduced the games I was playing, because ultimately, those games weren’t as much fun as they were secondary jobs. I reduced some of my daily obligations just by not installing a handful of apps. It has improved my quality of life.

I suppose that’s the point, and it is almost certainly applicable in other areas. Less can be more. I don’t need the shiniest, newest cell phone, because the newest devices exceed my needs. That excess turns into a kind of weight on my mind, where I feel like I need to do more with the device in order to justify the cost and its existence.

If any of what I’ve just described resonates with you, perhaps you can do what I’ve done and simplify. Take a look at the apps on your phone that you’re using, and ask yourself if you need them. If you don’t need them, ask yourself if they’re making you happy. If they’re not making you happy and you don’t need them, uninstall them. Don’t fall into the sunk cost fallacy. It’s not worth it.