Monday, 15 September 2014

Dumbing Down

In the beginning... 

Most of us who have a "smartphone" have experienced the panic then frustration when the battery is close to dying before finally packing in for the day. For me this is usually around 1500/1600. I have finally reached the end of my tether with this.

As a great ancient anonymous technology-philosopher once said: 

"How smart is a smartphone when it doesn't have any charge."

My current set-up... 

Currently I have a Samsung Galaxy Nexus. It is a really good phone (when it has power). Good specs, running a stock version of Google Android (no manufacturer bloat-ware). I have a bizillion minutes, texts and unlimited data. I rarely turn on my WiFi or Bluetooth and I am pretty sparing with daily use. I also had to buy a portable external battery as I was fed up of it running out of juice before the working day was done. 

When things go wrong... 

I know that when some features of the phone are used the battery gets obliterated. The activities which substantially hurt battery life are: being on a call, Google Maps, and instant messaging on Skype, and taking a picture with the camera. I do not have Facebook installed on my phone and neither do I have Twitter. This is due to A) the outrageous permission requests required for both apps, B) social apps use background data, which in turn uses the ariel, running down the battery even when not actively using those apps. 

My absolute minimum requirements... 

Any phone that I have must be able to do:
- Phone calls
- Text messages,
- Emails (I hate emails, mainly just use my mobile to view email and respond if totally urgent otherwise they wait until I am back at my computer)
- Contacts
- Calendar 
- Sync email/contact/calendar with more that one account (Gmail, MS Exchange etc)
- Light web browsing
- VoIP/Internet calling on the SIP protocol
- Call blocking 
- Tethering to laptop to act as portable modem.
- Battery should last at least one full day (0700 - 2200) between charges 

Nice to haves...

There are a few applications that I really utilise on my phone:
- Maps
- Google Hangouts
- Weather (normal and coastal/marine weather)
- News
- Train times
- Mobile Banking

An experiment 

The question: How big an impact will NOT having a smartphone have on my daily productivity. 

The hypothesis: Getting rid of my smartphone will improve my daily productivity. 

Finding a suitable replacement

Most smartphones suffer from the battery life issue. I was looking around for a cheap hard-button QWERTY phone to replace my "smart-brick". Sadly, there are not too many of these on the market today. So instead I found myself looking at "feature phones" (could be referred to as "old-school" or "retro"). After a quick search I found a phone that promises good battery life and meets all of my absolute requirements and some of my nice-to-haves too. 

Meet my Nokia 207. 

Impressively, this little gal can do everything I need it to do and a bit more. The punchline is that it cost just under £30 including VAT and delivery... So that would be just about a tenth (1/10) of what I paid for my "smartphone" but still meeting my core needs... Allegedly, the battery will last up to a month - we shall see about that. There was a version with a camera for an eye-watering £35 but I rarely take pictures, and I am not that bother about taking a picture with a 1.3MP camera anyway.

The full specs can be found here but the headlines:

Display size: 2.4 ''

No camera 

Power management
Maximum standby time: 20 days
Maximum talk time (2G): 12 h
Maximum talk time (3G): 4.5 h
Maximum music playback time: 29 h

Potential Cost Savings

Currently I am paying £25/month for a sim-only 30 day contract for effectively unlimited everything, including data. Even if I wanted to surpass the fair-usage allowance my phone would not let me as it would run out of battery, and ultimately I would spend more time charging it than using the bundled mins/texts/data per month.

Having looked at my mins/texts/data usage I could easily move on to a much cheaper package (£7 - £10/month). This would save me in the region of £180 a year, with the cost of buying the new "dumb-phone" covered in just under 2 months. 

I will run with this experiment for a couple of months before writing an update on the outcome. 

Have you looked at whether you actually need a smartphone? How much could you save?

No comments: