Back to Basics

A short while back, I picked up one of those newfangled folding phones so I could (ostensibly) read more. This purchase obviously went against my "single-purpose devices" and "offline-first technology" rules, but I got caught up in a wave of techno-consumerism that ended up inspiring additional purchases of new wireless headphones and a new smartwatch (plus all of the cases, screen protectors, and everything else that those things necessitate).

When the phone broke during extremely regular usage (you know, like opening it to read a book), I decided that the folding phone is cool, but those moving parts introduce more wear-and-tear than I was prepared to deal with (after all, there are still some phones that are years old that are in decent shape, setting aside battery degradation).

But, instead of going back to a system that was simple and worked for me, I went with a fancy-schmancy Galaxy S24 Ultra, complete with a pen that I never used and a camera that uses AI to enhance pictures of the moon that all ultimately look the same:

AI Enhanced Moon

Once again, I was drawn in by the allure of something shiny, and once again I feel torn by my decision, because these are not my values.

When I switched to the Android ecosystem, it was because I told myself a lie about being able to read more. Granted, I did read a bit more, but not enough to make a difference (I read a bunch on my regular-old non-folding phone too), and the decision ultimately opened a crack for other less-than-satisfying choices.

Can't have an Android phone without an Android watch, and Android headphones, and Android services. It's all Android, all the time!

Unfortunately for me, my family is not on the Android train, so all my choice did was introduce friction.

I was immediately locked out of those family group chats (thanks for that one, Apple) and was unable to get back in, despite a ton of effort. I couldn't manage my kids' iPads (which require parental approval for installing new applications, and granting extra screen time). My wife and I couldn't easily send high-quality pictures to one another, because of Apple's lack of RCS support (and Android's lack of iMessage support).

In other words, I made my and everyone else's lives more difficult.

But, what do I need a smartphone for anyway?

Ultimately, to communicate with loved ones and manage productivity. That's about it.

I don't need (or want) to use it for games or movies, and the "there's an app for that" craze has been murdered by the proliferation of the subscription-for-everything model.

I have found that I'm happiest when my glowing rectangle of distraction is used as an enhancement of my off-screen life, rather than an extension of it.

Digital calendars? Awesome.

Coordinating plans with family and friends? Hell yeah.

Todo lists? Yes please.

Turns out, just about any phone will do for those purposes, and as long as the people in my immediate circle are in the same ecosystem, the experience is seamless and less frustrating (and I'm all for a life of fewer unnecessary frustrations).

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra next to an iPhone XS Max

So I've made a decision to rewind the clock. This weekend, I dug my old iPhone XS Max out of the drawer, booted it up, updated it, and swapped my SIM card in. Aside from an aging battery, it works great for the things I want it to work great for.

As for my Galaxy S24 Ultra? To eBay with you, my friend. Hopefully I'll recoup some of the cost (and what I don't recoup, well... we'll call that a tax on my choices).

I've written about losing my way a bit when it comes to technology, but writing about it isn't enough. The only way to find it again is to actually take some action. If I want to live a life that isn't ruled by my tools, then I need to be extremely aware of the tools I use (and, perhaps more importantly, the tools that use me).


If you like this post or one of my projects, you can buy me a coffee, or send me a note. I'd love to hear from you!


This is post 055 of #100DaysToOffload