Stuart's Blog

The Quest for the Perfect Essentialist Phone

I've been searching for many years now for the 'perfect' phone. One that's dumb enough to not distract me (no social media, no browser, no email) but clever enough to do the things that bring value to my life (calendar, directions, music, app-only banking)…

And I've slowly realised—as I should have realised a long time ago—that the perfect phone doesn't exist. And, in fact, can't exist.

But here's where an interesting balancing act comes into play.

If I want some of the benefits of a smart phone, then I'm pretty much going to have to have a smart phone. This means that it becomes my responsibility to use it wisely.

And I'm all for that. I think we should all take personal responsibility for our lives; to live deliberately and choose—as far as we are able—how we conduct ourselves.

But here's the rub. I don't know of a smartphone that isn't full of bloatware, that doesn't have all sorts of annoying apps installed that can't be removed.

I don't want Zoom. I don't want Facebook. Please don't use up my memory and data and battery supporting those apps and more.

It's my personal responsibility to avoid distraction, but I am holding a device that is designed to steal and hold my attention - to keep me engaged for as much time as possible through all kinds of human-behaviour hacking that have been discovered in the last twenty years or so.

So do I throw the baby out with the bathwater? Do I carry a paper diary and a walkman and an A-Z map and a dumbphone?

I'd rather not.

I'd actually be willing to forego directions and music but really, a calendar is really important to me. It doesn't even have to sync with an online diary - I'm happy for my phone to hold my definitive calendar.

There are a number of 'minimalist' phones out there; the Punkt, the Light Phone II, Mudita's Pure Phone... but they all seem to fall short.

I guess this is a niche market and developers are still finding their way. Hopefully there will be a growing movement away from the surveillance economy and constant notifications and the 'respectful' phone will come of age.

#tech #digital minimalism #essentialism #simple living

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