Personal Experiments: Using a $20 phone for a Week Backfired on Me

Lessons learned from using a $20 phone for a week

May 12, 2018 - 2 minute read -
miscellaneous deep-work

att zte gophone

Almost two years ago, I dropped my iPhone and broke it’s wifi and geolocation attenna. When this happened I thought it would be an interesting learning experience to see what life without instant access to the internet would be like for one month.

I survived that 1-month without instant smartphone access and one of the biggest insights I had from this experience was, I can simply schedule ahead of time when I want to go on social media. I felt much more alive, happier, present and in control of my life when I was more deliberate with my actions. I developed the habit of mostly doing fun or distracting things on my phone at the end of the day.

Earlier last month, after re-reading some books on concentration and deep work, I felt inspired to try my experiment again, but this time with no smartphone. This time, I decided to use a $20 old-school querty keyboard phone. At this point, I had aleady developed a good habit of responsibly using my smartphone, but I wondered if there was “another level” to this experience of disciplined smart phone use. My initial thoughts were that this was going to be a seemless transition, but I figured out how integral my smartphone was a tool in my life. This 1-week experience wasn’t terrible but there were significantly more drawbacks than positives for me. Here are some takeaways:


  • phone usage was limited to essential tasks like calling and texting only during work hours.
  • I was forced to be present everywhere, since I couldn’t just take out my phone and use it as a distraction.


  • Everything task on this $20 phone took much longer to accomplish
  • I started avoiding my phone, thus pushing back my response times to family and friends. The thought of clicking so many buttons on this querty phone became unpleasant.
  • No wallet case for this generic phone. My case on my Iphone served as my wallet. This meant, one less item to carry and forget.
  • No ability to import all my contacts from my iPhone. I only ended up adding the 5 people I contacted the most.
  • No Camera.

Though this experiment didn’t turn out how I originally intended, it reminded me that my smart phone is just a tool, if I choose to use it that way. I am in control of it, not the other way around.