Don't Replace Your Smartphone With A Dumb Phone, Do This

Lately I've been seeing a trend on Reddit and YouTube where people have been opting for dumb phones in order to overcome their smartphone addictions. While it's awesome that so many people are willing to go this far in order to quit their addictions, it's excessive and counter-productive at best.

I'm not going to tell you the blatantly obvious reasons why dumb phones are inferior to smartphones. You and me both know lacking GPS, apps, and other useful smartphone features makes dumb phones well... dumb. The convenience and usefulness derived from our smartphones is unparalleled for productivity and enriching our lives.

Instead, I want to get to the root of the issue by discussing why getting a dumb phone will not solve your problems and what you should do instead.

Your Smartphone Isn't the Issue

Your smartphone use is a symptom of the problem.

"But I spend X hours a day on mine doing Y, what do you mean?"

I get it, I've totally been there myself. However, our smartphones are not the enemy. Like our computers, smartwatches, and other cool kid devices, it's neutral. Your smartphone isn't a demonic entity that whispers into your ear saying "YOU MUST USE ME HUMAN. USSSEEEE MEE!!!".

It's the notifications from your apps telling you that. It's the promotional email about Y app's virtual currency going on sale telling you that. Most of all, it's the root cause of your self-destructive behavior telling you that.

Point is, addressing the environmental and psychological factors that drive your addiction is the real issue to tackle, not the smartphone itself.

Dumb Down Your Smartphone

Sure, our smartphones are not the enemy, but that doesn't mean that the apps you have aren't either. Instead of going full throttle by removing your smartphone, it's much more practical to address the specific apps and cues that cause you hardship.

With this, it becomes a matter of deciding which apps to keep and which apps to discard. I'd suggest you remove any app that makes you feel like it negatively impacts your life more than the benefits it provides you.

It's also important to remove anything that reminds you of your apps. This may mean unsubscribing from mailing lists and even deleting your accounts.

By removing harmful apps and avoiding cues whenever possible, you remove preventable temptations that normally arise. This is important because our willpower is limited. The more mental energy that you use to exert self-control, the closer you get to ego depletion, which is just a fancy term for having less self-control.

Bonus: Have Someone Else Control App Installs

If you can simply reinstall the apps then you don't have many barriers that will get in the way if your urges are big enough. Having someone else you trust with sole access to installing phone apps until you fully recover is an excellent layer of defense. Brownie points if they can keep you accountable throughout the recovery process.

Find and Resolve Your Root Cause

Sure, addressing the environmental factors is important since you got rid of all of your smartphone distractions, but is that enough?

Unfortunately, it isn't. There is still a psychological reason that drives your self-destructive smartphone usage, a root cause. Without resolving it, you are not solving your addiction. You'll always find another distraction to replace the ones you got rid of.

You may intuitively think that switching to a Nokia or even dumbing down your smartphone is all it takes to solve your problem, but you are indirectly avoiding it. You aren't resolving the source that drives smartphone addiction in the first place.

If you replaced your smartphone with a dumb phone and switched to binging Netflix on your laptop then nothing has changed. You merely went to another unhealthy outlet for the problems your smartphone served to cope with.

If you replaced your smartphone with a dumb phone and you don't have another outlet for your negative emotions, such as boredom and stress, then you are suppressing your emotional needs.

For this reason, it's essential that you find the root cause of your behavior.

Do you not have any healthy outlets for negative emotions? Do you lack a way of getting your social needs?

By finding and resolving the source of your self-destructive behavior, you not only eliminate the need for a dumb phone, but you also eliminate the need to have a self-destructive relationship with your device or anything else for that matter. This enables you to have real, impactful changes that make you happier and more productive than any dumb phone could provide.


Smartphones are smart. Dumb phones are dumb. By taking away your smartphone, you remove the convenience and utility a smartphone provides... when it isn't used to watch videos of Indian dudes building a pool alone in your bedroom at 4am.

That said, instead of thinking about it being an issue with the device, it should be an issue with the behavior. By addressing the behavior, you can have your cake and eat it too.

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