Moving From "Smart Phone" to "Simple Phone"

If you have known me for any length of time you know that I’m a tech geek. If I can be (budget, availability, and need notwithstanding) I like to consider myself an earlier adopter of new things in tech. I usually upgrade my operating systems the day they are released regardless of what bugs I might encounter. I’ve always been curious about technology.

However, I don’t want it to dominate my life. I’ve noticed lately however that my phone has been in my hands a lot lately. Stephanie has probably noticed it too. My kids have probably noticed it as well. What am I doing on my “phone?” Oh the usual things. Email (personal and work), Facebook, Twitter, Sports, Games, “Productivity”, Retro-Photos, Reading, Connecting, Web, Music, Writing, Bible Study, So On And So Forth. I had all the important things on my phone. Right? Somehow my smart phone has become the one thing that if I lost I would be “up a creek” so much so that I couldn’t really do anything without out.

And so I got to thinking is this right? For me the answer is no. I need to move from having a “smart phone” to a “simple phone.” My guess is that some of you do too. So how do you turn your smart phone (that probably dominates your life) and turn it into a simple phone? Here’s some choices I’ve made with one caveat. Let’s start with the caveat:

Smart phones are not evil or immoral. It’s okay to have one and to use it that way. I just want to streamline my use of one. And for the snarky among us (you know who you are) getting a standard flippy-cell phone is no fun. So don’t suggest it in the comments!

Now on to the Simple Phone Strategy.

  1. Start with a clean install. By that I mean restore, reset, everything. Reinstall your OS and pretend as if you were getting the phone out of the box on the first day. Obviously back up and save anything important (like pictures) but the best way to move from Smart to Simple is to wipe clean the entire phone.
  2. Only One Page Of Apps. That’s right, only twenty apps (twenty-five if you have an iPhone 5) on your phone. I do have a concession to this rule, pre-installed apps don’t count. I dumped many of the system apps (contacts, compass, stocks, etc) into a folder and placed it on the second page. The idea here however is to keep your phone simple. Limiting yourself to one page limits what you do with your phone. So I have to make some choices about what apps I absolutely must have and use.
  3. One App Per Function. Now this might take some discipline. In the smart phone strategy I had four different camera apps. Obviously I can’t delete the pre-installed Apple camera, but I moved it into a folder and put it on my second page. I’ve put my preferred camera app in the spot Apple’s default one took. Essentially the idea is not to be redundant.
  4. One Email Account. Yep, that’s it, only one. And don’t pick your work email address either. I have found that if my work email is on my phone that I am tempted, when not working, to be working because my email is in front of me. The only email I have on my simple phone is my personal account. This is the one my friends and family use most to write me so I don’t mind them intersecting my life.
  5. If You Can Access it Via the Web, You Don’t Need an App. So Facebook isn’t an app on my phone. I don’t get any push notifications about it and I’m happy with that. Again the idea is simple, and non-invasive on my life. I want to control the phone, not the phone controlling me. The best way I found to do that is to limit my apps to those functions that aren’t available on the web.
  6. No Games. None. Sorry this is a tool, not a toy. Plus games distract me from people.
  7. If You Can Do It Better On A Bigger (Or Different) Device Don’t Install It. I don’t have a Bible app on my phone. Why? Because I have my physical Bible with me on a frequent basis. I don’t have a writing app on my phone. Why? Because I can’t write a long-form article well on a four inch touch screen well. I am limiting myself to apps that serve a specific purpose (such as Expensify) so I can stay focused and simple.

These are just some guidelines I’ve given myself to make my iPhone simple, functional and something that stays in the background of my life and not in the forefront. Maybe they will be helpful to you. Let me know what you’ve done to make your smart phone more like a simple phone.