A blog on software engineering by Trevor Brown

Benefits of Living Without a Smartphone

It’s immediately obvious what the disadvantages are of living without a smartphone. Lots of things in modern life are more difficult without without the help of a smartphone. Smartphones augment our own knowledge and keep us connected to people, systems, and services we rely on. In my previous blog post I wrote about my experience living with only a dumb phone.

In this blog post I list the benefits of living without a smartphone that I have noted over the last 15 months. Some of these things I experienced myself and others are things I have read about.


  • Better posture. Even a poorly positioned laptop is often better than using a smartphone. Desktops, laptops, and desks have been designed with ergonomics in mind and have had decades of refinements. Smartphones weren’t designed with ergonomics in mind and can’t be improved without completely changing their form factor.

  • Less eye strain. While it is possible to use a smartphone and not strain your eyes most people end up using their smartphone in ways that eventually lead to eye strain. Spending too much time looking at the screen, holding the screen too close to your eyes (it needs to be at least 20 inches away), having the text set too small, and using it in sunlight are things people commonly do with their smartphone that lead to eye strain. With a flip phones it is easier to hold the screen at a safe distance and with the simpler phone you’ll spend less time looking at the screen anyway. For more information see:

  • Restore your natural cognitive ability. There is evidence that even the presence of your smartphone incurs some cognitive cost. An article in the University of Chicago Press Journals says "Results from two experiments indicate that even when people are successful at maintaining sustained attention—as when avoiding the temptation to check their phones—the mere presence of these devices reduces available cognitive capacity. Moreover, these cognitive costs are highest for those highest in smartphone dependence." See the full article here:

  • Develop your spatial memory by navigating without a GPS. Always using your GPS negatively impacts your spatial memory. Grow your spatial memory by writing down directions or memorizing the route before hand. See this link for the study:

Family and Friends

  • Focus on the people you are with. It’s easier to stay present in the moment and focus on the people around you when you don’t have the distraction of notifications and social media. Life is better when your focus isn’t split between online activities and the real world.

  • Set a good example for children. Screens are bad for young brains and eyes. Real world activities are better for young brains. See this link:


  • Less distraction. With a dumb phone there is less to distract you. For me this resulted in large blocks of uninterrupted time throughout the week. I was able to be more focused on what was I working on. Since giving up my smartphone I’ve read far more books and had more time to work on hobby projects. At work I am much more focused and I don’t have to fight the temptation to take a break and check social media.

  • Makes it harder to use social media. Without social media apps there is no temptation to waste time when I should be working or spending time with family.

  • The technology is simpler. There is significantly less software running on a dumb phone than on a smartphone. Less software means less time debugging software issues. You won’t have to deal with updates that break apps or apps that stop working.


  • You’ll only have to charge your phone once every 3 days. Dumb phone batteries are typically much smaller than smartphone batteries so they charge faster and use less electricity. Plus battery charges for dumb phones usually last 2-3 times as long. The result is less energy use overall. It’s convenient not having to charge your phone every day.

  • It will cost less to purchase. Dumb phones in the US cost about $30-$100. Smartphones typically cost $100-$800. On average a dumb phone will cost about 1/5th of what a smartphone would cost.

  • You’ll use less data. With no apps to consume data and a more limited feature set you’ll end up using a lot less data. Data intensive activities like streaming aren’t practical on a dumb phone.

A Few More Benefits

  • Encourages use of pen and paper for writing. Seth Etter says "The simple act of writing can focus my thoughts and attention in a way that nothing else can. Free from distractions, just a canvas to pour my thoughts into, and turn them into something with a sense of direction and purpose." Read the rest of his article here: When I had a smartphone I got in the habit of writing notes and even blog post drafts on my smartphone. While it is convenient to write on a smartphone, they make clarity of thought and organization difficult.

  • It will likely have an FM tuner you can use. While there has been an effort to get FM tuners in smartphones most still don’t have one. An FM tuner is nice for listening to the radio and can be great when cell service isn’t working during emergencies.

  • It has a smaller attack surface. With no apps and much less software overall, a dumb phone has a smaller attack surface. While a dumb phone may not be any more secure than a smartphone there is less to be compromised and less for an attacker to gain by compromising a dumb phone.

We are often quick to adopt technology but seldom to do we assess whether or not it is actually making our lives better. Maybe this list has made you consider switching to a dumb phone. Whether or not you switch to a dumb phone I hope this post has caused you to rethink your relationship to your phone and the software on it.