It turns out it’s kind of hard to ditch your smartphone in 2024. There’s a lot of life admin involved. Even more so when you work in digital media and need to be online to do your job.

But that’s what became my reality this summer when a Barbie pink Nokia 2660 Flip landed on my desk. I agreed to ditch my iPhone for two weeks in the name of journalism.

Thankfully I still have a real-life SIM card, so the physical changeover was relatively easy (once I worked out how to get the back off the phone). But no contacts transferred across and the return to T9 texting stumped my unfit thumbs (and brain). We actually used to press buttons to sift through individual characters and not just glide our phalanges across a screen, remember?

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Pretty quickly I just gave up on communicating with people in my life outside necessary interactions. My poor grasp of predictive text and lack of recall of abbreviations makes me think we’re actually regressing as a society. But I can say my millennial fear of making phone calls started to disappear within hours.

I overestimated the battery life and ended up totally uncontactable for about six hours on day two. It was nice. And it turns out no one tried to call or text me during that window anyway.

I would drop in an anecdote about how much my screen time decreased but it turns out I’d never activated those settings on my iPhone so I have no official data to share. I can only assume I fall into the average (or above) category, so the decline was probably pretty significant. But for full disclosure, I carried my iPhone around like a little safety blanket (more on this soon) and continued using my laptop for work. I did dial back on streaming TV shows and dusted off my record player rather than tuning into Spotify. I was that person reading a book on the bus or even just staring out the window in silence, alone with my thoughts. Shock horror!

The prospect of no Uber (or Uber Eats) or Instagram actually didn’t faze me that much. But the lack of apps available on a “dumbphone” extends to things like WhatsApp, Classpass, Gmail, Slack and banking. And without the New York Times app I said goodbye to my morning Wordle and Connections competition with my dad. I also had to dig this thing called a debit card out of my wallet – I drew the line at physical cash.

I had no notes app to record how the experiment was going and I stopped short of whipping out a physical notebook. But these are the thoughts, feelings and emotions I remember rolling around my mind:

  • I use Google Maps a lot to check routes that I know by heart, such as getting to the office or my home. I tell myself this is for bus times but maybe it’s just anxiety?
  • I take the same picture of the beach near my house almost every time I go there. Why?
  • I’m very quick to buy myself a little treat or coffee when I have the convenience of a bank card on my phone.
  • The look of joy on the face of anyone over the age of 25 when they see Snake is unmatched. But we’ve all gotten really bad at it.
  • Podcasts, news apps and general Googling are quite important parts of my identity/job.
  • I don’t know any of my passwords and if something happened to my face and I couldn’t unlock my phone/apps using it, I would be in trouble.

A lot of people told me how inconvenient my life choice was for them. I couldn’t be part of group chats, I couldn’t open Tiktok links and I couldn’t contribute to conversations about pop culture as readily. One friend resorted to emailing me in a panic when she thought I might not see her WhatsApp message, which made me feel like Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail for a minute.

I didn’t not use my iPhone during this time. I used apps I deemed necessary for modern human existence on wi-fi. When my enthusiasm started to wane on day 10, I listened to an episode of The Imperfects podcast about how host Ryan Shelton traded his smartphone for a “smugphone”. He revealed he uses an iPad mini for loopholes similar to those I had made for myself. I was inspired to keep going because it validated that it’s actually very hard to be totally offline and still a functioning member of society.

Unsurprisingly the biggest change I noticed during the experiment was at bedtime and when I woke up. There was no option to endlessly scroll. I simply went to sleep or got up and went about my day. Revolutionary.

After an initial social media binge when I returned to the Internet, I’ve actually found myself missing some aspects of the flip-phone life. Some of it probably comes down to simply setting better boundaries and re-evaluating my relationship with my phone. I know there are people out there who sleep with their phones in another room or use the focus mode on Apple devices to filter out notifications at certain times of the day. If you’re operating iOS 17 there’s a feature called assistive access, which is also dubbed “senior mode”. It allows you to hack your home screen to only show certain apps in large format and essentially dials back the functionality of an iPhone to just the basics. It could be a workaround to consider.

I think if I were to fully assimilate to the Nokia 2660 Flip, I could probably find ways to overcome some of the more tedious roadblocks I faced. But since I’m contractually obliged to keep paying my phone bill, which includes the handset, for another 24 months, it doesn’t feel fiscally viable to totally ditch my iPhone at this point.

I’ll always remember the summer I was caught in a love triangle between two phones.

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