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Enduring Life Without A Smartphone

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I was without a smartphone for a few weeks, and while I waited for my replacement claim to process, the importance the smartphone plays in modern living became crystal-clear. Loss aids in the development of understanding and, most importantly, appreciation. In some ways, I may have been better off, but I also encountered a few situations that highlighted the critical roles our smartphones play in daily living. Habit fires more quickly than conscious memory. Time and again I would automatically reach for my glossy, Gorilla-Glassed instrument, only to sigh when I remembered I was without.

 

The Frivolous

Music

Nearly every song known to humankind, accessible from a gadget the size of a notepad. An amazing, welcome feat. However, as nice as it is to have the ability to recharge the soul on the go, I found a way to push through.

 

Games

My life may have actually improved by not having access to the arguably, time-wasting, tap-tap-tapping on Toon Blast’s vibrantly colored block patterns. I may have even taken a moment to admire a tree or smile at a stranger.


Books

I read a lot on my phone, often while standing in line or sitting in waiting rooms. Instead, I spent the time either people-watching or practicing breathing techniques.


Videos

I don’t watch a lot of TV shows and movies on my phone, but I did miss the ability to reference how-to videos on YouTube, which I often do when I’m out on the field of life.


TV Remote

I’ve awakened to the much improved TV-watching experience that Apple TV provides. Instead of channel and app surfing, I peruse by titles, actors and genres using Apple’s TV app, which culls content from all media apps. The thing I love most about the iPhone Remote app is that I can type searches into Apple TV fields using the phone’s keyboard. I loathe the clumsy old method of using the up, down, left and right arrows to select each letter one at a time.


The Inconvenient

GPS

I’ve been around long enough to remember the time when paper maps and muscle-memory were the de facto standards for navigation. Were I living in a city I’d become familiar with during that epoch, I may have been well-off. However, I moved to Houston well after being indoctrinated in GPS reliance. Save for my routine routes, this megalopolis of sparsely blocked twists and turns became a real challenge.


Paying Bills

Without my phone I had to resort to the convoluted, digital backwoods of a laptop to pay bills. Instead of facial recognition, I had to futz with usernames and passwords. Certainly another high-class problem, nevertheless, pain points become obvious once you’ve grown used to more efficient methods.


Paying Vendors

Granted, surrendering the habit of carrying cash, cards and other important papers is a personal choice. I don’t recall making this conscious decision at any point; I think it just evolved as the smartphone gradually became capable of handling more responsibilities. As more businesses are set up for NFC payments, I just look at my phone for a few seconds and the payment is processed. For a few weeks it was back to deciphering between “swipe or chip?,” pecking in my PIN, then waiting for the annoying, grating audio alert prompting the user “process complete, take your card!”


Social connection

I’m not much of a social media user, but I do text quite a bit. I was able to use Apple Messages on my laptop to text other iPhone users, but my non-iPhone friends were out of reach for the duration. I noted that most of my inner-circle of social relationships use iPhones, so as luck would have it, I could at least get through to them so long as I was near WiFi with my iPad or MacBook texting apps. However, exchanging money from a distance wasn’t an option, so when splitting the bill at a restaurant, I had to have cash with me.


The Keystones


Emergency Phone Calls

As luck would have it, I was involved in a traffic accident during my time without a smartphone. A hit-and-run, so nobody else was at the scene to offer up their phone or make a call. Thankfully I wasn’t too incapacitated and the vehicle was still drivable, so I was able to make it home. If it had been worse, I may have been in dire straits.


Paperwork

After my accident, I arrived at the urgent-care facility without my insurance card. It was at home, somewhere, but I always use the card from my insurance company’s phone app, so confirming my info was a bit of a hassle.


My recent string of doctor visits entailed reams of intake forms. A multitude of fields asking for phone numbers and addresses for emergency contacts, primary care, work, etc. The smartphone was born for this task. Obviously there was nothing I could do. It made me wonder what I used to do in similar situations. I filled out what I could and left the rest to administrative imagination.


Money Management

Doctors like to be paid for their services, and I needed to move some emergency money into my spending account. Easy enough, just login to the bank’s phone app and … ugh. I headed back to WiFi and a laptop to handle business.


Transportation

The grand lockout was ridesharing. I could not hail an Uber or a Lyft via my laptop’s web browser. I tried the mobile version of Uber’s site, and got halfway. But before long I had to verify with a phone number or take a hike, literally. I tried using a Skype number, but the service would not accept it. Yes, I could have asked a friend to get me an Uber, but I have the blessing/curse of Norwegian stoicism. So I ended up Skyping a taxi service. When my ride arrived, it wasn’t a yellow, checkered cab, but a regular sedan with the Uber sticker on the windshield. I realized my taxi service was basically a broker for ridesharing services. The market always has room for middlemen.


Calling my mother

According to my mother, one of the highlights of her week is my Sunday phone call. Mothers may understand the grandeur of this gesture more than the rest of us, I mean, come on, mom, it’s just a phone call. Lo and behold, it means a great deal to most mothers, so in my estimation, this was the greatest chasm in my experience without a smartphone. I think she’s more delighted that I’ve received my new phone than I am.

 

Love them or hate them smartphones are actually pretty helpful and I missed mine...but I survived! Find more random ramblings at our blog, here.

 

Hale Holman

About the author - Hale Holman

Reformed graphic designer turned web developer. Metallica, Apple, Ninja Motorcycles - not necessarily in that order.

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