The Dumb Phone Challenge


Who’s with me?

I left Illinois for my home in central Missouri at around 1pm.

While listening to podcasts on my phone, I kept hearing the little ‘bing,’ ‘bing,’ ‘bing’ that notified me of new emails while I was driving.

I’m not going to read them. I’m driving, right?

So what good does it do me to keep hearing that little #*$)@# bing??

None. None good, that’s what.

Ever forgot your smartphone?

After the first few minutes of terror, doesn’t it actually feel kinda good?

I don’t know if you remember, but it wasn’t that long ago we used our phones for, umm, phone calls.

I think I might go back to that.

No email. No facebook. No tweets.

My phone will make calls.

And maybe texts.

And maybe Angry Birds.

But that’s it!

What’s the downside? What’s the worst thing that could happen? What’s the best?

Seriously, spend two minutes thinking about how different your life would be if your phone only made calls.

Two minutes. Don’t touch your #*$)@# phone. Just think.

Well? Not bad, eh?

Who’s with me?

Oh, and PS: Those new iPhone commercials? “If you don’t have an iPhone … then … you don’t have an iPhone.” It pains me to say this, but Apple? That’s pretentious and stupid and please stop it. Thank you. Please don’t have me killed.


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As CEO and Head Custodian of Miles & Company, Tim Miles helps owner-operated companies do more with less. He's the author of Good Company: Making It, Keeping It & Being It.

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Good advice? Please share. Thanks!
  • Jeff

    Um, Tim,

    As embarrassing as it is to admit, I don’t have an iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, etc. Yes, I am the owner of a dumb phone. Mostly because I just don’t travel that much, and partly because I waited for the Verizon iPhone and now I’m trying to decide if making skype calls from the iPad would work well enough to skip the iPhone thing or if I should just wait for the next gen iPhone to come out. Yes, I’m stupid.

    But here’s the thing: it’s not that great. I keep asking myself: would you rather worry about e-mails and stuff while you were out, or would you rather be able to check the darn things while you were out so you didn’t have to worry? Stupid question, but I suspect it’s the one that sucks most of us into this trap.

    See, the technology doesn’t change the problem, either for better or worse; it just changes the manifestation of symptoms. The real problem is the presumption that you should be always reachable, and you can’t deal with that bit of psychology via technology.

    Why not buy an iPod shuffle, turn the phone off, and agree to check-in with the wife at predetermined times, during which you’ll turn on the phone, review e-mails, and call Dee? You won’t be reachable for a few hours at a time. Can you dig it?

  • Paul Boomer

    The worse that could happen is you reply to an email a few minutes or hours later. If someone really needs you, they’d call. Period. We live in an over-communicated world as it is.

    Being connected 24/7 is a convenience a good deal of us have glommed on to as part of our daily life. But then, people forget what’s most important to them… which is usually right in front of them (which is not the screen of your smartphone).

    As a half-step, why not remove all your email accounts from your phone for a few days? You still have access to the ‘fun’ things on your phone but are limited from accessing your email (and I bet you don’t know the login for webmail if you really are tempted).

  • Craig Arthur

    Hey Tim,

    Like Jeff, I only own a dumb phone. And the only reason I have that is for convenience. Like in case I get lost in a shopping centre and I need to find my wife. It is only in the last month or so that I (begrudgingly) added my mobile number (cell) to my business card and website.

    I love technology, but also love my private time. If you need me send me an email. I’ll respond when I am free.

    Last holidays I went 10 days cold turkey from email and phone calls and computers. I survived. The world didn’t tilt dangerously on its axis because I was unplugged.

    I’ll stick with a phone that makes calls, send texts and has an alarm to wake me up when traveling.

    PS and I find it nice to be able to talk with people in a restaurant rather than sit there and watch them play games, send texts and do other “essential stuff” on their smart phones. Just call me old fashioned.

  • Brian

    Hello :)

    I’ve been an owner of a smartphone for a few years now… but just a day ago, I thought I’d challenge myself and NOT use a smartphone for a week.

    Life seems so much simpler without a smartphone… and to be honest, i feel like I’m actually using my brain a bit more :p