I’ve been without a cell phone for the majority of this year. In the beginning it was because I was living in Canada and I couldn’t be bothered to figure out how to purchase minutes for my SIM card without a Canadian address or credit card, but shortly after moving back to the US my iPhone shattered and slowly stopped working. I was already used to living without a phone, so I decided just to go with the flow and see what life without the phone is like. Turns out that it’s not that different and you get used to it.
What do I miss?
- Camera More than anything, I miss having a camera. Photos are a big way that I use to connect with my friends while I’m in out of town and not being able to take photos is the worst. Worse than not being able to call or text people.
- Music I can’t listen to music while I’m on the subway or going for a walk. A lack of music isn’t that bad actually - I suppose it’s nice to be exposed to random overheards and background noise once and awhile - but I remember how great it was to be able to put on some music and be in my own world for a while. It’s such a wonderful escape that I don’t have anymore.
- Communication There were plenty of times where being able to call or text someone to let them know that I was running late or that plans had changed would have been nice. But mostly I just told people to meet me at specific places at specific times and made an effort to show up on time. This almost always works and there’s some strange novelty to it. I admit it was nice to be able to call friends/family to catch up while out on a walk too - now I’m limited to making calls at home or in the office.
- Google Maps Getting around efficiently was nice. I’ve spent a bit more time this year being totally lost, walking down random wrong streets and asking random people for directions. On previous visits to New York I spent a lot of time Google-Mapping directions on the subway. This time I had no option but to memorize the subways maps. That and I check and memorize directions before I leave to go somewhere now instead of relying on a phone. I also really miss being able to look up what restaurants, parks, coffee shops, etc were around me.
- Moves This was a cool app that would tell me how far I walked, biked, or drove every day and show me the paths I took. A bit creepy, but I’d love to have these stats again.
- Clock Without a clock, I don’t usually know exactly what time it is when I’m out and about. The time is posted everywhere - billboards, on tvs, inside cabs, on random clocks, but unless you are in the habit of paying attention you might not notice. I’ve gotten in the habit now of asking random people for the time.
Overall I do miss having a phone and I do think a good smartphone can really increase one’s quality of life. Actually it’s a bit ridiculous without one. But I miss it less than I thought I would.
When I’m out and about throughout the day I’m much more in the moment and aware of my surroundings now. I’m forced to talk to people to ask for directions and the time. I spend the time on the subway people watching and thinking instead of playing games or reading.
At home or work I am less distracted. There’s no random notifications popping up throughout the day to pull me away from what I’m working on. When I’m having a conversation there is no screen to take my mind away from the person in front of me.
Waiting rooms are a bit weird now too. I’m usually the only one not on a phone. It feels a tad awkward but almost comically so.
TL;DR Not having a phone shows how great having a phone is. Having a phone is distracting. Not having a phone is inconvenient.