New Bohemian.

no gods, no masters, no idols.

How to live without a smartphone, and why you might want to try

For the past few years, I’ve kept a Nokia featurephone in my tech arsenal, alongside my iPhone. Like many, I struggle with smartphone addiction and wanted to experiment going without it for periods of time.

This proved more complicated than I initially imagined it would. It turns out we have deferred much of our life’s business to these magical glass rectangles. However, I did come up with a set of tools that worked for me. Even though I’m currently carrying my iPhone once again, hopefully some of these tools and techniques can inspire you in the event you want to throw your smartphone out a window and reclaim your time and attention.

My current Nokia model is a 6300 4G. It’s a terrible phone, and that’s part of the fun!

More important than which phone to use is why you might want to ditch your smartphone. It’s no secret that every company is hoarding and selling your personal data. By continuing to rely upon these companies’ services for basic everyday needs like calendaring, fitness, music, and navigation, you’re allowing these companies and their data customers access into your personal life that would have been unthinkable just twenty years ago. By divorcing yourself from the need for these apps and relying on the simple tools of yesteryear will insulate you from dependence upon proprietary solutions which are subject to the whims of price increases, feature changes, and shutdowns.

What’s more, removing your smartphone from your life relegates your phone back to being a simple communication device. While smartphones are inherently useful tools, they are a sort of Swiss army knife device. This means that you’ll receive stressful work emails while you’re reading a novel before bed and distracting text messages when you’re trying to focus on driving. Maintaining a philosophy of one job per tool will improve your focus on the task at hand.

Choosing a dumbphone

Don’t take too long trying to find the best non-smartphone. They’re all either mostly terrible or very expensive. I won’t go into the details here because there are plenty of resources on the subject. Find a phone that fits within your budget and supports your network.

Getting a phone plan

Because dumbphones don’t require a data plan, your monthly phone bill could stand to decrease dramatically. I recommend using a prepaid no-contract plan. Mine is from Mint Mobile and I get unlimited talk and text for $15/month. That’s a far cry from the typical $100/month or more for unlimited data contract plans. Plus, if you’re paying a monthly installment payment for your smartphone, your $50 dumbphone will relieve you of that expense as well.

Getting around

In navigating around cities, we have begun to rely extensively on turn-by-turn navigation provided by apps like Google Maps. As a result, we have allowed our in-born navigation skills to atrophe. To me, this is an unfortunate development and leaves us unnecessarily dependent upon our phones to get around.

Because of this, I encourage you to cultivate your own sense of direction and navigate cities the way we did before the ubiquity of the smartphone. Observe the planning conventions your city used to help people navigate. Many American cities are organized around a numeric street grid, and if you spend enough time studying a map, you’ll notice patterns and conventions which were implemented to aid in navigation. For instance, street address numbers might match their cross-street number (i.e., 2601 4th Street is near where 26th Avenue crosses 4th Street). In Portland, Oregon, the Northwest neighborhood is comprised of streets in ascending alphabetical order, making its navigation easy but also having the historical character that plain numbered streets lack.

If you still can’t find where you’re going, try asking someone for directions. You might think you’ll be met with skepticism—who needs to ask for directions when everyone carries an atlas in their pockets? But in my experience, people are generally excited to help you find your way.

But if I haven’t convinced you to try navigating places on your own, go buy a Garmin GPS.

Listening to music

A curious, terrible thing happened to the way we listen to music over the past decade or so. We went from purchasing music on physical media such as vinyl, tape, or compact disc, to purchasing individual digital music we could store on our computers, to subscribing to music streaming services for a monthly fee that give us access to the world’s music… as long as we keep paying their fee.

We tend to value what is scarce, and access to music is no exception. Before the streaming giants took over, discovering new music was a social and physical endeavor. We relied on mixtapes, record stores, music magazines, and word of mouth to hear new music. Now, we do it in a vaccuum. We have given the streaming services massive power over our listening rights. And if we stop paying them, they revoke our access to all the music we’ve cherished.

Because of this, I went back to buying music directly from artists on Bandcamp and maintaining my own digital music collection. I purchased a refurbished classic iPod from Elite Obsolete Electronics and loaded it with songs whose digital files I own and control. Sure, I don’t have access to every song in the world in my pocket, but I know I’ll always have access to the songs I’ve purchased.

Hands-free calling

The headphones that come standard with the 6300 are terrible. I connected an old pair of Apple headphones and found the hands-free experience, while not as luxurious as my iPhone and AirPods Pro, was satisfactory.

Most featurephones have Bluetooth support, so I’m sure you can pair your wireless earbuds, but I haven’t tried that.


Acclimating to T9 predictive texting was probably the most irritating part of my dumbphone transition. The 6300 has predictive texting, but for some reason does not have a setting to enable it by default. This means having to press the ‘#’ key four times every time you want to text someone to put it into predictive mode. Once there, the results are decent, but there are plenty of words in the zeitgeist that need to be typed manually.

Additionally, group texting is atrocious. Whenever a friend would add me to a group text, every time I would reply it would start a new text thread with every participant, and they would see each of them as a separate conversation. So I’m sure I lost some friends as a result of my dumbphone transition. Tread cautiously, or perhaps, just pick up the phone and call!


I grew uncomfortably reliant upon calendar notifications to keep me from missing appointments. As a result, calendaring was one of the most difficult transitions for me to make. I settled on using an A6 pocket-sized LEUCHTTURM1917 notebook with dotted paper, which I then demarcated myself with a bullet journal layout. It worked well for my purposes, and the pocket on the back cover now serves as my wallet.