Life with a cheap and half broken phone

And how my habits have changed for the better

Back at the beginning of 2017, I was sick of owning a phone that may or may not turn on. So on a sunny, January afternoon, I decided to pop out of the office earlier than usual and grab myself a brand, spanking new phone.

Except there was a catch. I only spent about $150 instead of $1500 for the latest Samsung or iPhone. One less zero on the receipt meant a happier wallet after the event.

Just over 2 years later, the cheap Meizu M3 now plays a pivotal role in my disconnection from the digital world. While there is nothing wrong with it physically, the software is simply falling apart at the seams.

$150 is worth much more than $1500

I was given a Samsung s3 back in 2012 when it first came out as a graduation gift. The phone lasted approximately 2 years before the battery called it quits and the speed of everything came to a sudden halting crawl on a systems update I didn’t approve.

I’m sure hardware and software are much better for higher-end phones in 2017 when I got my cheap $150 phone. But even then, there were known issues like the latest Samsung at the time blowing up on planes and iPhone 7 and 7 Plus having response and network issues.

My $150 phone didn’t have any major issues until about 6–7 months into the game. I was happy with it until around early to mid last year. This equates to approximately $0.34 per day to own and use the phone up until the little recurrent issues started to get annoying. If I had bought a Samsung or Apple phone back in the day, it would have equated to $3.48 per day to own such a device (assuming that it starts to fall apart around the same time, if not before).

With an extra $3 per day, that’s $21 per week or about $84 per month. That’s almost 25 extra cups of coffee from a cafe per month.

Apps are the things that make up a phone

The App Store stopped working 6 months ago. It was around this time that I began to notice my relationship with my phone.

Without apps, the phone doesn’t really do much except for internet browsing, texting and calling people.

It turns out I don’t do much of the latter two. Curating apps on the phone made the battery last a little bit longer. However, once an app is deleted, there is no point of return or chance to re-download. So when I said goodbye to Facebook on my phone, I really meant it.

Once it was gone, there was no going back.

When there’s nothing much to do on the phone, I found myself using it much less. There’s nothing that’s keeping me tethered to the screen, no point of interest and no game to keep me mindlessly entertained.

Out of the digital and back into the physical world

When there’s nothing to do on your phone, you tend to move on and do something else. I find myself checking the screen much less for fear that it might drain the battery.

I hardly use my data now because of it — leaving me with $35 in the pocket each month since I’ve canceled my phone subscriptions. That’s an extra 10 cups of coffee for me.

The forced disconnection in order to conserve the battery made me more attentive to my child. I notice her more and my attention is much less divided and sporadic. I didn’t notice it until recently but I talk to the toddler more and she’s less angry on the rare times I do pick up the phone.

Less narcissism

I used to be on the selfies train. With a half-broken phone, I feel less superficial and self-absorbed. I’m not as self-conscious about my face as much as I used to be. I’m not as critical and secretly disliking the way my face looks in photographs.

It’s funny what narcissism can do to a person — how it morphs and distorts personal perceptions. If I want to take a photo, I have to bust out the DSLR. There is more intention when I do take a photo. There is more mindfulness. There is more purpose.

The act of taking a photo has returned to its original purpose — to document memories and moments in time — not documenting every waking moment of your existence.

More productive without productivity apps

I’m a sucker for productivity apps. If someone recommends an app, I’m usually the first to go and download it.

I would tinker and spend hours trying to make it work. Then when it doesn’t, I would move onto the next app and start again.

With the app store inaccessible and the battery on constant life support, I’ve moved onto the paper system. I now have a single notebook to keep everything I need in one place. It’s old school. It’s how Warren Buffett does it.

And it works.

I find it easier to flip to the latest page and just look at my list and brain-dumps rather than trying to figure out where things are.

There’s something effective about the physical aspect of writing on and flipping pages. It might be basic and primitive in our over-connected and digital age — but it works.

Will I get a $1000+ phone?

That is the question I often ask myself, especially if it’s only going to only last 2–3 years due to the changing nature of software requirements on hardware.

That question remains unanswered.

Maybe I’ll get an overly expensive phone if I have the cash to spare. But for now, if this phone becomes too much of a fire hazard from the constant overheating, then I wouldn’t mind grabbing another cheap $150 phone.

I don’t really care much for brands, only that the item works as expected. There is a status value attached to owning an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy — and I’ve grown up enough not to play in that game anymore.

I would rather enjoy the extra 2–3 dozen cups of coffee per month than walk around with a miniature computer in my pocket. Besides, it will probably give me back my anxiety and keeping up with the Joneses mentality by hooking me back up to the digital world once again.

About Author /

Editor of Hustle Thrive Grow. On a quest to become a better human and documenting the journey in digital ink.

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