It all started with the unthinkable. As I walked out of my apartment bathroom with my HTC First in hand, I slipped and dropped it on the tile floor. Glass shattered everywhere. My wife screamed for joy.
Why? Because I no longer had a smartphone to look at. As a geek, my eyeballs would always be stuck to my smartphone if not my laptop. She had long hated that I’d stare at my tiny screen more than her face. I tried to discipline myself to not use the smartphone when spending time with her, but couldn’t resist its chirps and buzzes.
As my smartphone lay shattered on the floor, I knew I didn’t want to get another one and continue ignoring my wife. I decided to buy a dumbphone for the first time in six years, and a 7-inch tablet for data purposes.
My social life and marriage have improved. I no longer stare at my phone during dinner time or bedtime. I converse more when hanging out with my friends. And my wife is a lot happier. (Happy wife, happy life.) Here’s how I made it happen:
The gear: A 2006 Motorola RAZR V3xx and a Google’s Nexus 7 for my data needs.
The plan: AT&T (prepaid) with 250 voice minutes and unlimited texts for $25 a month; T-Mobile data-only plan with 2.5GB 4G speed with no overage charges for $30 a month. (The speed drops to 2G once I go over 2.5GB. That’s good enough to check e-mails and get notifications.)
Total cost: $20 for the Razr from eBay and $349 for the Nexus 7 plus $55 a month for data. No contracts, so if a cheaper service emerges I can switch in a heartbeat.
How I text: Who wants to type on a tiny T-9 key pad? I signed up for Google Voice and give away that number to people. That way, I can do SMS on my tablet or desktop and still get calls on my Razr.
As of writing this, if you want the 2GB of data on the latest smartphone (I’ll use the Galaxy Note 3) it’ll run you $300 plus $95 a month on AT&T, $300 plus $100 a month on Verizon, $250 plus $80 a month on Sprint and $704 plus $60 a month on T-Mobile. Comparing that to my setup — $369 plus $55 a month and no contract, this was a no-brainer.
The best part: Battery life. These days, you are lucky if your smartphone lasts throughout your workday. But this 7-year old Razr will last up to four days without charging! And the battery life on the 7-inch tablet is enough to last about a day and a half.
Downsides: Some people might argue that you don’t get unlimited voice calls with my set-up, but who uses smartphones to make phone calls anymore? The most ironic thing about my old smartphones (BlackBerry 8800, BlackBerry Bold, Samsung Galaxy S, Motorola Droid Razr, Samsung Galaxy S3, HTC First) was that I rarely used them as a phone.
One downside is that I replaced one device, a smartphone, with two. But being the geek that I am, I used to carry a cumbersome laptop for quick e-mails and tweeting. Now, I carry a dumbphone in my pocket and the tablet in my bag. If I really need to do some computing, I take my tablet out of my bag instead of my pocket. But that extra step is a deterrent enough for me to check Twitter less and spend more time with people around me. And it doesn’t hurt that I’m paying a lot less money for my mobile communication needs.
The author is a front end developer at The Washington Post. You can find him on Twitter.