Living Without A Smartphone: Month One

Living Without A Smartphone: Month One


I don’t own a cell phone or a pager. I just hang around everyone I know, all the time. – Mitch Hedberg

Mitch Hedberg & Cell Phones
Click to play


I once loved my iPhone but after three years, I felt too emotionally invested in the electronic gadget and began to detach myself from it.

Earlier this year, I went cell-phone free for six months. In that time I learned not to rely on smart phones for entertainment, reference, or communication.

Overtime, I realized that I do need a cell phone for emergencies, logistics, and traveling. Last month, I finally gave up my iPhone contract and downgraded to a non-smartphone on a pre-paid monthly plan. The first billing cycle has ended and I survived.


I continued carrying a moleskine calendar & nyc street maps. A friend also bought me a compass/necklace that is discreet and actually has come in handy more times than I expected (and I didn’t need to wave it in a figure eight like an idiot to get it to work).

I spent one night out of town and brought a borrowed iPhone 3GS with me to check my email via the hotel’s wifi. This wasn’t necessary but email is my predominant form of communication so it was nice.

Cell Plan

The prepaid plan includes 250 minutes and unlimited texts for $25/mo.

One thing I did notice is that texting on the phone blows. Compared to using a full keyboard, the numerical keypad is extremely tedious. This meant that I texted less or used GV/email instead.

I rely on email a lot but surprisingly didn’t miss not being able to check it constantly. I let people know that I wouldn’t be checking my email once I left work so they would know to text me instead. I haven’t missed anything important this way.

Battery Life

My $40 generic flip phone can easily go five days without needing a charge! Think about that for a minute.

It’s interesting how quickly we accept hassles and adapt to living with them. Now, we simply accept that you need to charge your smartphone every day. We accept that it might not even last a full day. We accept carrying around a phone charger and hunting for outlets.


Non-Smartphone Pre-paid: $27.22/mo (w/ all taxes/fees)
Smartphone Contract: $76.80/mo (w/ all taxes/fees & $10 discount)

This gives me a monthly savings of $50; that’s $600 annually.

Budget-wise, the savings is rather negligible. My cellphone cost went from 2% down to 1% of my monthly income. However, this wasn’t about the savings (though that’s a bonus) but more about not paying for something I don’t need.


Does the thought of not owning a smart phone make you anxious? For those who don’t have one, are you considering the upgrade?


20 Replies to “Living Without A Smartphone: Month One”

  1. I gave up my smartphone after having it for 6 months, figuring a $300 early termination is a lot cheaper than $2400 to stay in the contract.

    I have been cellphone free ever since. I don’t miss it and I use my iPod touch with wifi for emailing which is my main form of communication.

    Feels fine to me.

    Eventually I will get a cellphone but one to share between BF and I like a landline of sorts.

    1. What do you use for a phone instead? Google Voice or landline? Have you found yourself in any emergencies where not having a cell phone was a major hindrance? For me, locking myself out of my apt would have been an impossible situation if I didn’t have my cell phone with me at the time. Most other situations, however, I don’t see how a cell phone will help.

      The only other issue that came up when I went without a cell-phone was for logistics. I was successfully picked up at train stations from friends without giving them live-updates of my train ride, but it made me pretty nervous. It felt to me that those were the exact situations cell phones were designed for.

      If sharing a cell phone with an SO was an option, I would certainly do that!

      1. No phone at all. I force people to email me and plan ahead of time.

        The only time it was annoying was when I went out and I needed to confirm with BF on something but had no phone.

        Most of the time, there is always a store or person to ask to help. Generally, everyone has a phone. Even emergencies didn’t need a phone — people stop to help.

        I am also told that a defunct phone without a plan can call 911. I haven’t tried it, however.

        Sharing with BF works because he rarely uses it and I carry it. We use it like a voicemail answering machine.

  2. I think in my M-F normal life, it wouldn’t be a problem. I would have trouble on weekends and especially on any out of town trips.

    I probably could do it, yet I don’t see a big motivation too.

    1. I think it would be impossible to not have texting at this point, but none of the other forms of communication (twitter/facebook) are a significant loss.

  3. I don’t have one and I don’t want one. I don’t want to spend more than $50 a month for a phone, and I know that having access to the internet all the time would make me a total asshole. I don’t need to check email all the time; I’m not that important, I don’t want to ‘check in’ places, because that’s stupid, and I don’t want everyone knowing where I go all the time. Plus, like you said, I only need to charge my phone every five days, and it’s small enough to carry when running unlike a clunky iphone.

  4. No smart phone for me either. I’ve always had a dumb phone. It’s cheap, and flips open when I answer it which makes it special these days :0) I can see why it would be essential to have access to email, and other online capabilities if I’m always on the run. But I have internet at work and at home. The only time I’m not in either of those places is when I’m driving or socializing. Unlimited talk and text is all I need, so don’t think spending extra money on a smart phone and a data plan is worth it to me at this point in my life.

  5. I’ve never had a smartphone. Thankfully, I was too cheap to buy one when they became mega popular. As I’ve watched people and how dependent they are on their phones, how they basically let the ability to get online hijack opportunities to enjoy the HERE and NOW, I’ve wanted one even less. I have a phone with the QWERTY keyboard but no data plan. One of the few benefits I see in the iPhone is that it can replace the need for multiple devices. For instance, I do okay without a smart phone because I have a GPS for when I’m driving to places unknown (true that you can Google map before leaving but it’s invaluable if you get lost – happens to me a lot). I also have an iPod. The iPhone could replace my GPS and iPod, so I would have one device instead of three. But for the cost? Meh.

    I will admit that a smart phone came in handy ONE time for me the entire time they’ve been around. In NYC on vacation with Mom, it was super nice to have her iPhone when my step by step directions were confusing. We could just whip it out and know exactly where to go.

    I still don’t see myself ever upgrading to a phone with a data plan or touchscreen, but I would be seriously inconvenienced by losing the QWERTY keyboard. Texting on the number pad is a pain in the ass.

  6. Hey nice article! i did the same with my cellphone, i cancelled my line,my cost was 80$ per month.

    I now have dell voice, it’s free voip over wifi, most of the time (like 95% of the time) i am either home or at my job where wifi is available.

    I paid 6$ to have SMS for 6 months. this is the only thing i pay haha, i am saving 960$ per year because of that :)

    However i still use my Galaxy S2, i love the phone too much !

  7. A lot of people spend tremendous time and money on their phones… it’s like their lifelines and proud to show it off as a status symbol. These day and age, almost everyone has a cell phone.

    Lucky me, I got a free smartphone by signing a contract with Bell. But my bill is only $20/mo so I have the best of both worlds. Adding data to a cell plan isn’t worth it to me since I have internet at work and home. I actually just sold my smartphone and am without a phone for the next two weeks… hopefully I’ll survive. I’m treating myself to the new Google Nexus 4 by LG.

  8. I’m clearly in the minority here, but I have smartphone and I’m quite happy with it. It’s come in handy on a number of occasions (most recently during Hurricane Sandy when we lost power and I needed to find out what was going on) and honestly, I like having the convenience. It’s not a financial hardship for us to have one (my husband still has a flip phone, although his work does pay for an iPhone) and as long as we can afford it, I’ll keep it.

    For me, it’s not so much the monthly cost that bothers me. It’s the allure of apps. That’s really where the cost starts to creep up on you.

    1. It did occur to me during the hurricane that if I lost power, I would have zero access to information. Although it seemed the data towers were not working the entire time anyway. I also like to have email access when traveling. However, for these rare circumstances, it just was not worth it to me to keep my iPhone. The reasoning was based more on minimalism than monthly savings.

  9. I really think smartphones are worth it, I have an android and it’s great, I use it for mail, txting, calls GPS, browsing and so much more.

    I am surprised at how many people are still signing up for 3 year contracts at about $80 a month just to get a bit of an upfront discount on their phone. I’m with Koodo and pay 45 a month with no contract and that includes CD/VM, unlimited txts, 50 canada wide minutes (don’t usually talk on the phone that often) and 500mb of data. Wind, Public Mobile etc are also much cheaper than the big 3 as well and you can get a good smartphone for $300 – well worth it over the long run.

  10. The main disadvantage, difficult texting, could be corrected with a querty, non-smart phone. I have 5 non smart phones with 750 min and unlimited texting on an att family plan for 130. That comes out to 26 per phone. No advantage to prepaids if you can put together a group of 5. Plus you get upgrades.

    1. Are the minutes “free” if you’re calling one of the phones already on the plan? Because 750 min for 5 people in a month seems a bit on the short side.

      1. Good question. Minutes are free “Mobile to Mobile” so I assume that means the 5 phones on the plan. It also has rollover minutes.

  11. Lol. True facts, Anyway I just sold my Samsung Galaxy S4! Bought a simple 50$ Samsung DUAL SIM and guess wha’… Can last 2 weeks without charging it. More focused at work :-)


Comments are closed.