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I live every day without a smartphone and almost always have.
I generally use a Nokia 3310 or Nokia 800 tough, but also own a Fairphone 2, which I am currently using at the moment, because the app “KDEconnect” allows me to type SMS messages on my computer. I usually find myself switching back to one of the Nokias, due to the battery-life and flimsy construction of the Fairphone in comparison.
I use none of the “smart” functions of the Fairphone. I just call and SMS. I use a de-googled open-source ROM, and location services and internet-connectivity remain switched off, except when using KDEconnect, which requires WiFi. I’ve never had any need for maps or internet while on the go.
I do firmly believe that governments should mandate that a certain number of public telephone boxes (e.g. 1 per town/village, 1 per 1000 heads of population in larger areas) should be maintained. This would be a great emergency fallback option. Before now, at least one of my relatives has needed to make an emergency call and was unable to because their phone had been damaged. He was fortunately walking-distance from home at the time it happened, but if the situation had occurred in a more remote area or had been more time-critical, the outcome could have been very different. I once also had a minor car issue, and my cell phone had run out of battery. I was also travelling through an area of weak/intermittent cellular coverage (which probably prematurely drained the battery). I was fortunately close to one of the very few operational payphones left in the country, and was able to call a friend to get my toolbox from my garden shed and drive it to me, so that I could get the car home. Also - cellular outages are uncommon but they do occasionally happen, and there needs to still be a means of making an emergency call as a backup. It’s no use saying “it’s not worth maintaining the infrastructure for the little use it gets” - that would be like arguing that we don’t need seatbelts in cars, because careful drivers rarely need them.
Whilst I’d love it if everyone would ditch their smartphone, I’m not arguing for that here. I’m suggesting that, given the fragility of smartphones, their battery-life, etc., we need to have suitable backups in place, that I fear market dynamics are gradually getting rid of. A means of functioning without a smartphone should always be maintained, even if that means is uncomfortable or inconvenient.
I can survive indefinitely without a smartphone. But, I use the Internet on a computer every weekday for my income, so I would not survive long without the Internet unless I were to change careers.
Watch early seasons of the American TV series Law & Order, and you’ll see police detectives going to curbside payphones after getting paged by their lieutenant at the police station. The American RBOCs (Regional Bell Operating Companies) installed, operated, and maintained their own payphones in their regions but eventually decommissioned them. Now I believe that nearly any payphone that you find in the USA is installed, operated, and maintained by smaller companies. The American payphone business is not what it used to be.
The good news for American college students is that many campuses have emergency-call boxes scattered about them. The backup for those boxes in an emergency is for a student to ask another student to make the call, given that essentially every American college student has a cellphone today. But, this backup approach requires that people be willing to talk to strangers and to ask for their help … and for those strangers to be willing to help!
Its funny I never realized pay phones have disappeared in my country lol
There is a certain nostalgia to them.
I have a smartphone for my daily work. I have the data off most of the time, and I use it as a standard phone. At home, I only use the internet on the computer.
I have installed only the main apps I may need daily because I want to concentrate on all the “technology” on my computer.
Like Kirk, my main business is internet-based, so I cannot disconnect completely. However, I maintain a strict working schedule to have a life, and I easily disconnect from everything. I don’t create unnecessary stress by answering immediately to someone or expecting the same from the other side.
Not having personal social media (only a business Instagram that I access on the computer) and a dozen of apps and games (only the necessary to “survive” in another country), it is easy to be offline and enjoy life.
So, why do I keep a smartphone? Because I don’t like to carry or have too many things in my life. The smartphone allows me to have a translator, an offline GPS, a good camera, and quick access to email. I can also quickly type notes or preview a presentation and make minor corrections on the go.
As a natural science person, I believe in balance for everything in our lives. Technology should serve us and not the opposite. It is hard to have that balance these days, and perhaps it is one of the biggest challenges for the new and subsequent generations. In the end, it all depends on our needs and wishes. I say to my students: We are owners of our decisions and slaves of their consequences.
About subsidized public phones, I agree! It’s just poor planning to expect everyone to have a working personal phone, charged up and on their person, at all times and in all emergency situations.