As my Google Pixel XL (the original) continues its decline into non-functionality through hardware failure and obsolescence, I am seriously considering “going stupid” for my next phone. That is, I will “downgrade” to a flip-phone or the like. I have a lot of reasons for this, but there are also some big problems with trying to avoid smartphones in 2020.
Reasons to go stupid:
- Headphone jacks are disappearing – This I decided was my line in the sand for smartphones. If I can no longer get one with a headphone jack, that means I won’t use one. I just cannot support the anti-consumer practice of eliminating a functional and universal jack used on every product for decades and decades. With the Samsung s20 dropping the jack, there are few premium options left.
- Dedicated hardware lasts longer and doesn’t lose its core functionality. My Pixel phone now no longer functions as a phone very well at all. I can’t hear most phone calls now, which means that I have to talk on speaker or use a headset – except that the speaker is also broken, so I have to twist the chassis to hear it. By contrast, my old flip phone lasted for years without any breakdown and was treated more roughly. My good digital camera (a canon rebel from some years ago), still takes higher quality photos than a phone, mostly due to optics rather than higher density sensors. My handheld gaming systems from the 90s are still functional after decades of use.
- Smartphones are an unnecessary distraction. I find myself checking my phone frequently when I am with my kids – time that should be for them alone. I find myself looking up my video stats, looking at twitter, or opening a game whenever I get a twitch of boredom. These things should have their own times and spaces. Having a stupid phone ensures that.
- Dedicated gaming hardware has a better experience with better games. Smartphone gaming, for the most part, sucks. Playing classic games, even rpgs, without buttons, sucks. Due to market forces and the general industry’s direction, mobile games are built around sucking money from players in gacha schemes or other pay-to-win models. The only mobile game I really play is Fire Emblem Heroes, mostly because I can avoid spending money on it, and I like Fire Emblem, but it is universally a worse experience compared to playing one of the main games on a handheld gaming system like the 3ds or Switch.
The obstacles to stupidity:
- Loss of compact space. The functions of a smartphone can be mostly replicated by dedicated hardware, but they take up space. A digital camera, a 3ds, a flip phone, and a gps take up MUCH more space than a small aluminum square in your pocket. Even if you have one device that can do double duty (like a PS vita) and you leave the gps in the car, you are still talking 2 pockets worth of space rather than one. Maybe that’s not such a big deal for a woman with a purse, but I don’t like to carry such a thing, even if Indiana Jones did.
- Some dedicated hardware is worse than the smartphone counterpart. This is true of GPS hardware, which is now worse than just using your phone, or at the least is much more cumbersome. Digital video cameras also generally don’t support usb microphones, which I need to record on the go with my usual high quality.
- Texting is much harder. I’m not a fan of text messages and really never have been, but people are now used to texting rather than calling. It’s going to be harder to communicate with my friends and family with a dedicated phone.
- Less flexibility on the go. Being able to look up a restaurant, call-in reservations, and then get directions there, while in an unfamiliar city, is extremely convenient. It’s hard to give up that option when you are used to always having it.
So that’s what comes to mind right now. I’d be giving up a lot to get off of the planned obsolescence treadmill, and I’m not sure how worth it going stupid is versus just being better about using my device.
One thing I have learned is that the devices we use now are NOT designed to last, and its getting worse. My Pixel XL is from 2016 and is actually the second one I’ve had – the first bricked itself after 11 months and I got my current phone as a warranty replacement. It’s less than four years old, but when I mention that it is dying, the usual response is, “Of course it is, it’s really old.”
This is the world we operate in, where my PC from 2015 can still play all the current games at high settings but my smartphone is an old piece of shit after a few years in my pocket.