Initially, I thought taking on the challenge of replacing my smartphone with a retro phone for a week would be no problem, but it turned out to be a massive inconvenience and was nearly impossible to pull off.
You can imagine there would be a number of upsides to using an outdated phone: fewer distractions, less time wasted staring at a screen, more quality time spent with friends and family ...
But having grown accustomed to the convenience of having a smartphone, it’s very hard to live without one.
Here are five things I learned after going one week without a smartphone:
A wake-up call
One of the first things I noticed about using a retro phone was its lack of functionality. The phone had no internet access and no music player, which made the hour-long commute to and from work every day extremely boring.
Although the phone did come with an FM radio player, trying to tune in to the correct station on a moving MTR train travelling underground was impossible. After a few attempts, I gave up and resorted to sneakily looking at other people’s phones for entertainment.
Not being able to browse sites like Reddit or watch videos on YouTube was also frustrating. The phone did come with a few games, including the Nokia classic Snake, which became my only form of entertainment on the device.
Even less connected with people
Having an old Nokia phone meant having to use a physical keypad for the first time in many years. And instead of having a Qwerty keyboard, each key button represents several different letters. Sometimes you have to press the button multiple times to type out a single letter, so even typing something as simple as “lol” would take nine clicks of a button.
For someone who hasn’t used a Nokia phone for years, trying to remember where each letter is placed on the keypad meant it took ages to type out a short message.
And while I had to live without a smartphone for a week, of course, the rest of the world kept using their devices. Many of my friends still tried to message me on WhatsApp or Facebook, and I ended up missing many important messages.
Also, when a person tries to send you an emoji, all you see on your screen is random characters, which is really annoying.
Out of the loop
Without a smartphone, it was very difficult to keep updated on news, weather and traffic information. I went from constantly being bombarded with loads of information on my smartphone to having almost no information on the outside world at all.
One thing I use my smartphone for every day is to check when the next bus is expected to arrive, and what route I need to take to get around town. Without this information, I wasted a lot of time getting lost and waiting at bus stops.
Old habits die hard
It was quite liberating not having to constantly attend to notifications on my phone, but I still found myself pulling it out to check if there were any notifications on the lock screen, and of course there weren’t.
I would also pull out my phone to look at during a long silence, for example, as most people do in this day and age, but would have nothing to stare at, making things even more awkward.
Organisation out the window
Over the course of the week, I gradually realised that I had been heavily relying on my smartphone to keep things in order with many time-saving and organisational apps. But without these apps, I suddenly became disorganised and found myself wasting a considerable amount of time.
Some small nuisances included having to take notes on paper instead of on my phone, not being able to check my online calendar, or not being able to use the phone’s stopwatch.
These may all sound like minor inconveniences, but not having access to these apps proved to be one of the biggest downsides of going old-school.