📚 3 weeks without a smartphone

First Published: 2022-06-17

How it happened

For the past 2 years I have been using the Google Pixel 3a and really liked it. Since I greatly value my Privacy and Security I used it with Graphene OS and installed mostly open source software from Fdroid. The days were numbered for the Pixel 3a, at first predictably, because the Pixel 3a would not recieve further security updates from Google after May 2022. But it also had issues charging for about a year, which meant just jamming the charger in with a little more force and cleaning the port for a while until it became more and more of a problem in May. On May 28th, after visiting a good friend for a few days, the phone ran out of battery and when I arrived home to charge it I couldn't get it to charge for a few minutes, where I then gave up.

How I got the featurephone

But the switch wasn't only one of necessity. I had bought the phone I use now about a month prior to the Pixel 3a dying. The CAT B40 seemed appealing to me since the day it came out, and the 50€ for what I still believe to be one of the best mass produced feature phones seemed so worth it that I bought it as a backup phone. I even tried for 2 days in april, but wasn't yet ready.

Why not just buy a new smartphone

This is a question I'm undoubtedly going to get asked a whole lot in the coming months. Short answer: they suck. For the long answer read ahead.

Hardware

If I wanted a new smartphone today, my primary option would be the Pixel 6a, said to release in a few weeks for 450€. That is if I want to uphold my high standard of privacy and security. If I was willing to compromise on that for the benefit of my wallet, I could walk into an electronics store today and get a decent-ish phone for 100-200€. This doesn't seem appealing to me, so if I change my mind in the coming weeks and return to a smartphone, it will likely be the Pixel 6a. But even that phone doesn't exactly tick all the boxes. Sure, it'll have even more performance to blow my pants off, the Pixel 3a had more than enough, but it's larger again, I don't like the silly multi-camera design of basically all phones today and it drops the headphone jack. That all is forgivable, if it came at a decent price. 450€ is not a decent price for what is firmly a midrange phone today. I remember buying the pixel 3a at a discount for just over 200€.

Software

Let's talk software for a bit. I didn't use my phone very extensively, I had whatsapp, signal, a few simple productivity apps, newpipe (a youtube client), infinity (a reddit client) and a webbrowser. I used my phone for about 1-3 hours a day, and always had a love-hate relationship with it.

If whatsapp and signal had first class desktop support I would have switched to a featurephone months ago. But whatsapp web and signal desktop are clearly an afterthought. In an ideal world they would be like webmail, or any other online account for that matter. I open the browser, enter my username and password, and am free to communicate from whatever device I want. Instead I have to sync it to my smartphone.

But I shouldn't be too mad. Prior to the whatsapp multidevice beta this wouldn't have been possible at all, since your phone needed an active internet connection for whatsapp desktop to work. Now I have my smartphone at 80% battery powered off in a drawer for whenever I switch browsers or laptops and need to scan a qr code again.

Lifestyle

Up until now I've talked in details, but let's look at the big picture.

At the end of the day the phone exists primarily to communicate. If you need something from me and it's urgent, call me. If it could wait until the evening, send me a whatsapp message. Many of us are very very connected. If you don't return a message in minutes, something is off. I don't like that. Noone is entitled to my availability or a quick response. I'm not afraid to miss out.

Secondarily, the phone is an entertainment device. I don't think my time spent watching youtube has dramatically decreased since my switch, I just entertain myself on my laptop instead. Yesterday I watched the office for 8 hours in procrastination. If you're considering a feature phone, don't lie to yourself and say it will miracolously cure your bad media consumption habits. I'm sure it will make a difference, but it won't be lifechanging.

This has been incredibly rambly, but I hope you enjoyed seeing my perspective on things.


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