Skip to Content
Uncategorized

My Dumb Phone Experiment: What Is an iPhone Anyway?

My dumbphone experiment takes an unexpected twist.
December 29, 2012

Kind readers, I have a confession to make. One reason I so willingly volunteered for a month of technological backwardness (see more on my decision to give up my iPhone here, here, and here) is that for part of this month, I wasn’t going to be on the grid much at all. I’m filing this post from somewhere in the Caribbean. No one’s calling me, and I wouldn’t pick up if they did.

Why, then, have I nonetheless half-relapsed even while on this (working) vacation? Why, as I write this, are both my new Alcatel dumb phone and a hand-me-down Verizon iPhone in my pocket?

As I’ve made clear from my first post, what I miss most about my iPhone are its utilities. The one thing that I found that I can’t do without, especially on a vacation, is my camera. Though I have other gadgets that have filled some of the gaps left by my iPhone—an iPad nano, for instance, for subway-commute music—my point-and-shoot camera is long dead. So my dad passed me the old Verizon iPhone 4 he’s not using anymore. The intention was to  use it only as a camera; I’ve since downloaded and used other apps, largely for productivity purposes, like Voice Memo and Notes.

What’s fascinating about this device is that, like a souped-up iPod Touch, it has apps but no data plan. I can’t receive calls or texts, so far as I know. I can only get Internet when on a Wi-Fi connection. Basically, it has afforded me all the utilities of an iPhone without that nagging, tingling, addictive sensation of needing to check my e-mail constantly.

So is this a relapse? Or something akin to smartphone methadone (a methaphone)? I don’t know. All I know is that I love this half-broken iPhone much more than my fully functional one. It’s actually made me rethink what an iPhone is, or could be.

This experiment has been as much a case of differential diagnosis as anything else. What exactly about the iPhone do I love, and what do I hate? Is there a path forward to a more healthy relationship with technology that doesn’t involve the “nuclear option” of throwing your smartphone out the window? And how can the Apples and Googles of the world help us to form this healthier relationship? As I experiment with different configurations of connectivity, I’m arriving at some ideas, which I’ll present in a future post.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

conceptual illustration of a heart with an arrow going in on one side and a cursor coming out on the other
conceptual illustration of a heart with an arrow going in on one side and a cursor coming out on the other

Forget dating apps: Here’s how the net’s newest matchmakers help you find love

Fed up with apps, people looking for romance are finding inspiration on Twitter, TikTok—and even email newsletters.

computation concept
computation concept

How AI is reinventing what computers are

Three key ways artificial intelligence is changing what it means to compute.

still from Embodied Intelligence video
still from Embodied Intelligence video

These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems

They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.

We reviewed three at-home covid tests. The results were mixed.

Over-the-counter coronavirus tests are finally available in the US. Some are more accurate and easier to use than others.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.