I lived without my Galaxy S5 smartphone for 2 weeks: here's how my life changed

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

For as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated by science, technology, and electronics. I must have been 5 when I took apart a record player just to see how it worked, I could use a soldering iron by the age of 12, and at 15, I knew my way around a computer well enough to write basic code. Today, I'm surrounded by electronic gadgets both at home and, of course, at the office. My work as part of the PhoneArena writers team has allowed me to get my hands on tens, if not hundreds of smartphones and tablets over the years, and many of them I've tested for extensive periods of time. Currently, my personal phone is a Samsung Galaxy S5, which I use primarily for taking photos, watching video, streaming music, accessing the web and social networks, chatting with friends and family, and making the occasional phone call.

Yet as dependent on my smartphone as I am, I've long been wondering what it would feel like to live without one and whether I had not become overly attached to mine. Hence I volunteered to temporarily swap my Galaxy S5 for a phone without apps, without games, and without any access to the internet. These two weeks of "abstinence" yielded the flurry of positive and negative experiences which I'll share with you in the paragraphs below. 

Humans are creatures of habit


It was noon when it all began. I turned off my Galaxy S5 and transferred my SIM card into the basic handset chosen to replace my smartphone. Only minutes later, I could feel that something was wrong, most likely because the familiar weight of my smartphone was not present in my left pocket. This made me anxious, as if I was missing something of value. Having lunch that same day didn't quite feel right either. You see, I have this habit of checking the news and going through my social networks feed while enjoying my meals – a display of bad manners I'm sure we've all been guilty of. Having no smartphone meant I couldn't do that, yet my hand was itching to reach for my pocket. As a matter of fact, I kept on checking my potato phone regularly throughout the day, making sure I didn't have any missed notifications – something my brain was wired to do without much thought involved.

This feeling of nervousness, surely caused by the fact that I didn't have a smartphone on me, stuck around during the first few days of my experiment. While it didn't make me lose my mind, it made it clear for me to see how my smartphone had shaped my behavior. Whenever I heard someone else's phone beep, I instinctively looked at mine as well. Furthermore, I could feel a persistent urge to check the weather, to read the latest headlines, to go on a particularly distracting website that I rather not mention (hint: its name starts with a digit), all because my brain was used to be constantly stimulated with information. 

The bliss of not having a smartphone


Several days into my experiment, I could feel I was already adapting to this new and unusual smartphone-less lifestyle. In fact, I was starting to notice the pros of breaking my constant connection to the internet, such as the fact that the gizmo in my pocket wasn't beeping every 7 minutes. It turned out my smartphone was a distraction greater than I thought. Without it drawing my attention, without the temptation to waste time by playing a game or going online, I felt more productive both at home and at work. My generally terrible attention span was steadily improving.

Having no smartphone also meant that I had less to worry about. I didn't have to treat my phone like a baby, as I usually do, because my basic handset was cheap and durable – unlike the Galaxy S5, it didn't have a large and fragile display in its front. Besides, my dumb phone had a pretty decent battery life, so forgetting to plug it in before bedtime wasn't a big deal.

Furthermore, I noticed that I was no longer getting phantom vibrations. If you don't know what these are, imagine feeling your phone vibrating inside your pocket when it actually isn't; most heavy smartphone users get them every once in a while. I'm guessing my phantom buzzings disappeared because my basic phone was vibrating much less often than my smartphone since it could receive nothing beyond texts and calls Therefore, my brain was not under this constant anticipation of a vibe caused by an incoming email or instant message.

We take smartphones for granted


While I could feel the positive effects of not having a smartphone, I was also missing the convenience of having one. I realized how many features and functions I've been taking for granted all along, which only reconfirms the age-old saying that we don't appreciate what we have until it's gone. Without a smartphone, I couldn't take down notes and set reminders as easily as before, I had to listen to the boring radio instead of streaming whatever I wanted over Spotify, I was struggling with texting on a keypad, I had to ask others to google things for me, I was missing the the quick and easy communication with friends from all over the world. Simply put, what I want to point out is that a smartphone is a tiny miracle. Any spoiled brat who thinks that their smartphone sucks needs to be reminded of all the functionality it bring to their fingertips.

There was one thing in particular I was missing a lot – my Galaxy S5's camera. I love taking photos, and my smartphone is the primary tool I use for the purpose, but without it, I missed quite a few opportunities to snap a great shot. This made me take out my dusty point-and-shoot camera and carry it around, just in case I needed it. Needless to say, carrying around a dedicated device simply for taking a quick picture wasn't convenient, which is yet another reason to appreciate smartphones even more. 

Conclusion


Smartphones are fun and functional, there's no denying that, but their heavy use can lead to undesirable consequences. They are highly distracting, they might mess up one's health, and they're great at ruining social interactions. Still, I'm convinced that they do much less harm than good when not abused. That's why I definitely don't want to sound like I'm preaching how we should all ditch our smartphones. Instead, I think we should do our best to use them with moderation – to find that sweet spot where we're reaping the benefits of having a smartphone without becoming overly attached to it. And if you're also feeling too hooked on your smartphone like I was, try putting it down for a day or two or mute its notifications every once in a while. Go out, meet more people and don't use your phone when it isn't appropriate. Don't take photos of every meal and every drink – shoot less, enjoy more. And seriously, stay away from addicting games and time-wasting web sites. You'll thank me later. 


Story timeline

Related phones

Galaxy S5
  • Display 5.1" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 16 MP / 2.1 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Quad-core, 2500 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2800 mAh(21h 3G talk time)

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18 Comments

1. XperiaFanZone

Posts: 2277; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

9gag? 4chan? Great article.

2. android_hitman unregistered

nice article :D

3. tedkord

Posts: 17198; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Only two weeks? I could have sworn this started at least a month ago.

6. TyrionLannister unregistered

It takes time to write an article.

5. livyatan

Posts: 867; Member since: Jun 19, 2013

I'm addicted to surfing the Internet. And my phone is simply a tool for that

7. JKGTTURBO

Posts: 1; Member since: Oct 30, 2014

You failed to mention if you were still getting your kicks from a laptop,tablet,PC or other device. Like you didn't go completely cold turkey did you?

8. Penny

Posts: 1844; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

Love the article. Very relevant and some actual wisdom to impart.

9. nlbates66

Posts: 328; Member since: Aug 15, 2012

people who use their devices on the toilet.... work on your sense of hygiene >.>

16. Unimurph

Posts: 1; Member since: Feb 10, 2015

Let's break this down shall we. Enter bathroom sit on toilet, so far all all we've touched is the doorknob. Take phone out of pocket and start reading, drop kids off at the pool, now we've touched the doorknob and our phone. Put phone back in pocket and wipe ass, now our hands are contaminated but the phone is safely stowed. Flush and wash hands, now with clean hands take phone out of pocket and continue reading a phone that is just as clean as when it entered the bathroom. If you count touching a door know as a hygiene problem than you have serious germ issues.

11. alexvv

Posts: 165; Member since: Oct 16, 2013

what's more if your smartphone is waterproof you can take it at the bathroom, too, without worrying ! some extra addiction.

12. Limbopope

Posts: 63; Member since: Aug 12, 2014

Oh dear...............the phantom vibrations............I need help soon

13. Simona unregistered

Thing is when am at home my smartphone is sat on table.. bcos am using laptop.. Amd when am outside or at work I just check email,few same boring sites,read news and that's about it.. Even that internet getting bored .. Started play some game ,but even that game is too much disturbing..

14. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

Read the taking for granted part, pretty much sums up the experience. And also, it feels more productive than using a basic feature phone.

15. LikeMyself

Posts: 631; Member since: Sep 23, 2013

I lose about 3-4 hours every day reading tech articles on my tablet and it's time waste for me since I don't study IT or anything like that! Anyone can help? If I can reduce it to only about 30mins, it'll be great. But on Android you can't block websites and resisting the temptation is difficult!

17. andynaija

Posts: 1253; Member since: Sep 08, 2012

I don't loose THAT MUCH time but I understand what you mean, just find other stuff to do. When everything else is done then you can read the articles. I also need to take my on advice too...

18. DrewMonroe

Posts: 21; Member since: Feb 27, 2012

i have been thinking of this for few days now in anticipation of heavy paper works in the upcoming month. least ive done is turn off all notifs like in Facebook and instagram but still cant gets hands off 9gag. guess ill have my s4 have a vacation for a month from now. thanks for sharing your experience.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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