Kale phone, crack phone
The CAPEX approach to fixing phone addiction
George Mack tweeted about a neat approach to killing smartphone addiction: just have two phones.
The full thread is worth a read, although it’s light on detail. Here’s how I implemented it.
My main phone, an iPhone 11, stays as it is.
I bought a second-hand iPhone SE (2020 model). I like how small it is – which helps solidify the notion that it’s a ‘second phone’ and I shouldn’t be sitting staring at it. I then set that up as a new phone.
I installed some useful apps: Authy (two-factor auth), Uber, Waking Up, Google Maps, Motion, 1Password, Monzo (to approve payments), VanMoof (to unlock my e-bike), Spotify, Audible, Kindle and PagerDuty (I’m a CTO, so sometimes I get paged and need to respond). [Edit: looks like Monzo doesn’t like being on multiple devices – you just get logged out on the other phone. Sad.]
I removed most of the system apps I’m not planning on using (Fitness, Home, Books, Compass, Find My, Music, Measure, Magnifier, Podcasts etc). I’m debating removing Safari too.
I linked the iPhone SE to my iCloud account. This means:
I can take photos on it (it has a half-decent camera) and they get synced to my photo library.
Notes, Reminders and Voice Memos sync to my other devices. That way, I can still use my kale phone to write or record my thoughts.
My AirPods just work seamlessly with both phones, no additional setup required.
Finally, I bought an eSIM using Airalo and installed it. I can’t make calls, but with data I can FaceTime people I desperately need to be in touch with, and crucially I can receive alerts on PagerDuty (the real reason I “can’t” switch off my phone).
I’ll probably end up installing a real SIM, and maybe having calls divert from my main number to the kale phone.
If you really really really can’t live without WhatsApp, you can still access it in the browser. It’s a bit janky, and the layout is almost unusable (you need to choose ‘Request Desktop Site’ to access it at all), but that all helps make it unappealing. WhatsApp is the app that sends me by far the most notifications.
It’s a bit of a time investment, but it’s a set and forget intervention. You can just hide your main phone in a drawer, safe in the knowledge that if people really need to reach you, then they can do so on your kale phone.
It also doesn’t require the willpower of a true ‘digital detox’: you don’t need to delete all your addictive social media accounts, you can still use online dating apps, you can still get your dopamine hit from all the likes you get on your Insta story. But without the pull of an endless feed of bullshit being a swipe away, you’ll hopefully find yourself spending your time more thoughtfully.
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