For roughly two and a half months I have been without a mobile phone of any kind. Two months might not sound like much, but this is coming from a software developer who is entrenched in technology and has even built multiple Android and iOS apps. Before this, I always carried a phone and was in a constant state of sync. The event which prompted this experiment was the loss of my Nexus One during a trip to Las Vegas–the exact details of which aren’t important, but suffice it to say the trip was a success.
My hope throughout this was that I might be able to come to some insight or achieve a revelation about the significance of always being connected. Perhaps by depriving myself of something I had grown to take for granted, having a powerful computer in my pocket, could inspire me as a (mobile) developer. Unfortunately, the best I could come up with is this: having a phone doesn’t really fucking matter. For people who work in front of computers, in this day and age, your phone is a luxury device, and not having one is no big deal.
Sure, I definitely did miss out on a few candid photos of my friends, some of my amazing lunches went undocumented, and I definitely could have benefited from Google Maps from time to time, but fundamentally nothing about my life changed for the better or for the worse. I am still wired to a computer majority of the day, my brain is still synced to my GMail inbox, and aside from short periods of commute, the internet is still readily accessible if needed.
I was also hoping that I could write about how not having a phone could reduce stress. The physical constraint of not being able to check your email several hours a day does relax your attitude, but I still felt no perceptible difference in my stress level. Instead, for the rest of this post I will share some random tidbits I gained from this experience:
Google Voice is the Shit
For $0.00 dollars a month I have the same mobile phone number I had before as well as unlimited calls and domestic texts. This is all done through Google Voice after porting my phone number. From the perspective of all of my contacts, I still have a phone and nothing has changed. Of course, I need access to a computer to return calls, but this is not a problem for me, especially with a MacBook Air slung over my shoulder for most of the day. It really is only a matter of time before mobile VOIP clients usurp voice and text plans entirely.
Moreover, using Google Voice for calls and texts is actually a lot better than the traditional phone counterparts. Voicemail transcription definitely helped screen recruiters. I am also doing myself a favor by typing out texts in an instant message-like interface rather than constantly using a touch keyboard. In retrospect, it is actually slightly amusing to think of myself responding to texts on my phone while sitting in front of a full keyboard, as I often did. The same goes for email. Even if you have a phone, it is worthwhile to go through the cumbersome porting process, effectively making your phone and computer interchangeable.
Touch Interfaces Are Sexy and Easily Forgotten
While not having a phone, there wasn’t a single app that I longed to use over it’s desktop equivalent. Desktop apps aren’t quite as sexy, but they definitely work. I might be singing a different tune if I were really into the mobile gaming scene or consuming certain types of content as thats where I feel most of the innovation is taking place (even though Angry Birds is now in the browser).
Phones and computers are converging, and phones are starting to feel like shitty computers. (Although, I really hope I eat these words when NFC becomes prevalent). This is especially apparent when my Macbook Air is sitting next to my iPad 2 on my coffee table. It is only slightly larger, an order of magnitude more useful, and usually the first to be picked up when someone wants to browse the web. That said, just to be clear, I still do believe that a properly done native iOS or Android app focused on consuming content can still rival anything out there and can appeal to a wide(r) audience.
I Just Bought a Phone
I’m sure I slipped throughout this post and referred to my not having a phone in past tense. That is because yesterday I finally bought myself a replacement phone, an HTC Sensation, not because I needed it, but because I wanted it. I’m looking forward to being able to tether my air again.