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Stephen Hackett's weblog about Apple, Apple history, technology, journalism and design.

Hanging Up On iPhone

Next week, I’m turning off my iPhone for a year.

Ok, that was a dramatic lede. Forgive me. In reality, I’m giving my almost-new iPhone 5 to my lovely wife — trading it in for a Motorola W385.

And no, that’s not another forgettable Android phone from Moto. It’s a flip phone. You know, the kind with physical buttons and stuff.

Longtime readers will know that I’ve done this once before. Here’s what I wrote back in 2010:

…I had a strong urge to simplify things in my life. This is the single biggest step I’ve taken in this direction. I also find myself with empty time sitting in traffic or waiting for an appointment, since I don’t have the option to check Twitter or Google Reader. It’s really freeing, actually.

That freedom is what’s driving this decision.

I — like most people I observe in waiting rooms and in line at Starbucks — kill little bits of time with my head down, the glow of my smartphone lighting up my face. Twitter, App.net, Google Reader, Instagram, Email, iMessage, Tumblr and more wedge their way in to my life in little two-minute increments throughout the day.

I’m tired of it. So I’m fighting back — by retreating. I’m giving up my iPhone — my daily life partner for almost five years.

In 2010, I said that the iPad is what made the move away from a smartphone possible. In reality, my Wi-Fi only original iPad wasn’t as useful as I had hoped while out and about, so I opted to return to the iPhone after just a few months.

I feel more confident this time that I will succeed at my experiment.

In addition to my self-imposed 12-month timeframe, I’ve got an LTE iPad mini in the mail, set to be delivered Friday. It’s my first iPad with cellular data, and coupled with the Mini’s form factor, I think it will be a decent iPhone-replacement for the times I need data when I’m not in the office or at home.

(To be clear, I’m only going to fall back on the LTE when I have to for work. Short of that, the iPad will be on Wi-Fi only.)

The iPad mini, of course, isn’t nearly as portable as the iPhone. It’ll be great for meetings and being out in the field for work, but too big to use in line at Starbucks or at a red light without looking like a douchebag. I’m counting on that factor to help this be a success.

I know what some of you are thinking. Seven months ago, Paul Miller left the Internet for the year. While his actions are far more insane than mine, I would be lying to say he’s not an inspiration for this experiment. I’ve heard him talk of life without the Internet, and have greatly enjoyed his writing on the subject. I hope to gain a sliver of what he has by cutting the Internet out of the little free moments I find myself with during the day.

Unlike Paul’s adventure, mine could be completed by imposing some will power when it comes to my iPhone. The problem is that five years of reaching in my front right pocket any time I’m free has created a strong habit, and I need to quit cold turkey.

I’m cutting the problem off at the source.

Time will tell if I come back to the iPhone. It’s way too early to call that now.

You can follow along with my experiment. I’ll be posting semi-regular updates and reflections here, posting them with the “iPhoneless” tag. I look forward to seeing what this change means, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading about it. Here’s to the future…

Update: Be sure to see this post, in which I clarify my iPad mini usage.