I'm old enough to remember having all my friends' phone numbers memorized and being forced to stop at gas stations to buy maps. I feel extremely fortunate to have experienced a world without mobile devices. I bought my first iPhone, the 3G, back in 2008 and have had a love-hate relationship with it ever since.
Working long hours and being highly connected has become the ultimate luxury. In the future it will be the opposite; privacy and leisure will once again be the highest status symbols.
I've never been one to play games or text message. For me, keeping up with current events is my Achilles' heel.
Having been forced into politics, Twitter is my drug of choice. News always breaks there first. Keeping up with the issues at a low level is a requirement and news cycles turn over twice a day now. After a couple days it's easy to get left out of the loop. Legitimately, these are issues that directly affect my daily life in a big way... but so does keeping up with them.
Wise beyond his years at 18 months, my son's first phrase may have literally been "No phone!". That was just before the 2016 election, which lasted forever. It was time for a change.
Getting the Apple Watch and a small, real camera has allowed me to cut the leash. Even though they cost money, I was able to save up by not upgrading my iPhone 6S, which still runs the latest iOS just fine.
First, I Tried Living Like It Was 2001
The first thing I tried was deleting all the apps off my phone. This worked for a few days until I caved.
Next, I thought about getting an old Nokia "candybar" style phone circa 2001. Luckily, Nokia had just relaunched their classic design, but with one problem, it wouldn't let you delete distracting features like the text messaging app. Surely I'd get sucked back in. No go.
Next, I discovered the Light Phone. It's a curious concept that pairs with your smartphone but doesn't require your phone to be with you. It fits in your wallet and only makes phone calls.
The reason I decided against the Light Phone was because it requires 2G. In theory, the coverage is better worldwide but pretty bad where I live. Their tech support told me they regretted the decision and are working on a second version that uses the standard 4G. I couldn't wait that long.
A Smartwatch Filled the Gap
Ultimately, I decided on a hybrid approach and bought an Apple Watch. The Apple Watch Series 3 and 4 (GPS + Cellular) no longer requires the iPhone to be next to you to function, which had been a deal breaker in the past. I can now make calls with it anywhere I go and even share the same phone number as my iPhone. The reception isn't nearly as good but that's a feature not a bug.
The other issue I had with going back to a dumbphone was syncing contacts to my other devices. Contacts are the only thing I actually use iCloud to sync. I had no idea how I'd manage that using a Nokia or Light Phone. Manually syncing across two separate platforms just seemed like a huge headache.
There are also a couple iOS apps that are really handy to have on my watch, like my todo list (I use Todoist).
A smartwatch is also great for when I'm out running with my son because I can track how far I've gone. If I need to make a call or text I still can, but it's cumbersome enough that I don't feel the urge to do it often.
If you do get the Apple Watch, definitely get the smaller size if you're a male (38mm). It's a classic size that won't look gadgety on your wrist.
If you're using an Android, look for a smartwatch that supports Android Wear. Some of the designs are actually kinda cool. (note: I've never used one)
Get a Small, Real Camera
Other than making calls, the only other must-have for a smartphone is the camera. I never really took photos before I had kids but now I always want to. My solution was to buy a real camera.
You don't need anything big or fancy, the best camera is one that you're actually willing to carry around and is easy to use. Taking photos with a camera really does make you feel more in the moment too.
I love my compact. Ultimately, I chose the Canon G9X because it has a large 1" sensor and was easiest to use. It's not much bigger than my smartphone but it takes way better photos (RAW or JPEG). Most importantly, there is zero temptation to start checking headlines or text message in between shots.
Sensor size is really important. The bigger the sensor, the better it will perform indoors. Smartphones, due to their size, can only have small sensors which often produce grainy or blurry photos indoors. A 1" sensor is a happy medium. You'll appreciate it even more with toddlers on the run.
I carry mine around in a separate hand tote that I also keep for other things, but the camera will literally fit in your pocket even though it's quite a bit thicker than a smartphone.
I started ditching the smartphone 12 months ago as a New Year's resolution and it has worked out well. I still take my iPhone with me in the car so I can play music or use apps that still require it, like Yelp, but I leave it in the car unless it's really hot outside. A phone is still useful for when I really need to look something up in an emergency too. The one steadfast rule I still have is no email or social media on my phone. Give it a shot.