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Flip Phone Challenge

December 25th, 2016

On Christmas day 2016 I dropped my iPhone cracking the entire front screen.  After a few seconds of disappointment, my mind quickly turned to a replacement phone.  The iPhone 7? The iPhone SE is a nice size.  The pixel could be cool too.  The next day I ventured into the Verizon store to browse around.  I was surprised to see they still sell about 6 varieties of flip phones, I joked with my wife about getting one. Ha!, “that would be funny”, I thought.  Over the next few days I realized that is exactly what I want so I embarked on the  flip phone challenge. For all of January 2017, I used a flip phone as my cell phone.  My fear of taking this leap reflected just how much I depend on a smartphone, which only encouraged me further to take the challenge.

There will be headaches for sure, but I hope this step back will force me back into the beautiful reality I’ve drifted from.

Continue reading to hear why I think you should take the flip phone challenge with me! And learn a bit about my new fancy flip phone.

Why do the flip phone challenge?

For the past few years whenever I’ve experienced a ‘this is cool’ moment, I tend to pull out my iPhone, snap a photo and post to Instagram.  This behavior is automatic.  A reflex, like a sneeze when a tickle fills the nose.  I’d think of a witty caption, curate hashtags, and experiment with filters until I found just the right one.  Within 10 minutes of posting I’d recheck my Insta and enjoy the fleeting dopamine rush of likes…and extra dope-points for comments.

For the majority of the ‘this is cool’ moment, my attention would be in digitality, not in reality. Was the experience sinking in? Was I even really experience it at all? More and more I’ve found the answer to be no.

Adults spend 10 hours a day in digitality, which is the average time we stare at a screen every day.  5 of the 10 hours is spent on your smartphone.  Everything we used to do in reality is now done in digitality: almost all forms of communication (from chatting to face-to-face meetings to letters), cooking, transporting around, buying things, experiencing vacation.  Arguing with friends at the bar has been lost to a quick Google search.  Even bar room one night stands have been lost to online dating apps.

I miss reality.  So I’ve decided to ditch my smartphone for one month and use a flip phone.  I don’t expect this change to bring me back to the stone age, but I do hope it helps me recognize just how much I’ve been missing reality.

Here is a bit about my new Samsung Convey 3:

Some things I already love about my new phone:

  • 15-day battery life
  • Audio jack so I can listen to music on-the-go using my wired headphones
  • I’ll never get anxiety about the phrase “Storage Almost Full”
  • Meets military specifications for dust, shock and extreme heat

December 30th – Flip Phone: Day 1

Just got back from the Verizon store and I didn’t get any sarcastic remarks from the Verizon guy.  He called my phone a ‘Basic Phone’ which made me smile.  It took all of 3 minutes for him to bring me back 10 years in mobile phone technology.  I made a few test calls and texts.  So far, my heart is still beating and I am still breathing.  Here are some initial observations from day 1:

  • My T9 muscle memory is fantastic
  • Core functions (make a call, send a text, add a contact) take the same number of clicks as my old smartphone.  The UI on these Basic Phones is surprisingly good.
  • First flaw: I have to manually type in all my contacts to the new flip phone, ugh. Only about 10 people made the cut for now.
  • It is really satisfying to hang up after a call. A few times I added some extra umph as the phone noisily slapped closed just because I could.
December 31st – I hate group text messages

Texting is pretty bad.  It is slow and cumbersome, especially group messages.  A few other things:

  • I lost 3 photos because I forgot to press ‘save’ after taking the picture
  • My friends are wondering why all my texts end in “CB#:”
January 1st – Email calculator

Didn’t really use my flip phone at all today.  Also, I found this email calculator that will tell you how much time you will spend sending emails throughout your life. It is depressing and all the more reason to get yourself a flip phone!

January 3rd – No more timing the bus

Today was my first day back at work after the Christmas vacation.  Since it was raining out, I decided to take the bus.  I went to check my phone to see when the next bus was arriving but….Oh no, I have a flip phone!  I still get surprised sometimes. So I walked out and just waited at the corner for the bus to arrive.

Since starting the flip phone challenge 5 days ago, I’ve definitely noticed having more free time. I’ve spent most of this time reading.  Instead of browsing Facebook, Instagram, worthless news, or my email, I was able to spend my 30 minute commute reading a book on the bus.  It was nice.

January 4th – Carry pen and paper at all times

While walking to BART after leaving work today I realized I forgot to make a much needed call.  I did not have the person’s phone number on me but it was in my gmail which, of course, I could not access via my flip phone.  I called Isa and asked her to text me the number from a business card on my desk.

After receiving the text, I realized I couldn’t just call by pressing on the number from the text message like you can from a smart phone.  I figured I could write the number down then call it.  This task would be difficult while walking in the rain so I hopped into the Ferry Building.  Rummaging through my backpack, I found a pen but not a single piece of paper.  “A napkin!” I thought, which I obtained from Blue Bottle cafe which was still open.

Finally, I was able to write the number down on the napkin from the text and then make the phone call. When I got home, I stashed a few pieces of paper in my bag for future use.

January 8th – Just 1 month? Let’s do 2!

After a week of the flip phone challenge, I am surprised at how easy this is.  I thought it would be much harder.  I don’t feel like anything has really changed at all.  The hardest part is deflecting jokes from friends and co-workers, although it makes for interesting conversation about technology and values.  I feel like a lot of people want to do the same thing, and I hope they do.

In case you were wondering, here are some other celebrities like me that still use a flip phone.

Maybe I should extend to 2 month?

January 16th – Take a deep breath

After completing the first deep inhale/exhale during last Sunday’s yoga class, the teacher said, “We often don’t realize how much space there is in our lungs because we’re so distracted throughout the day.  How often do we take a full inhale and exhale?” She continued to describe the importance of focus on the breath, as most yoga instructors do.

I thought this was a great analogy to what I had been feeling with my iPhone.  Except instead of ignorance of lung capacity, I had been ignorant to thought capacity.  Tiny distractions every few minutes blinds you from your full potential.  Thoughts become tiny fragments scattered over many topics.  Hopping back and forth limits your ability to see one completely through.

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Product & marketing expert for digital marketplaces


Dan Mascola

Dan Mascola

Dan has over 10 years experience in product, marketing, and engineering management roles across software, hardware, and energy sectors. He enjoys building products people love, creating successful marketing strategies, and turning ideas into reality. Dan lives in San Francisco with his wife and dachshund Sophia.

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