One Year Owning a Smartphone
I got my first smartphone in December 2017. Before that I was using an old blackberry phone that I got from my dad. I would use it only for phone calls and texts. My main apprehension against a smartphone was the fear of being perpetually reachable via email and other messaging application. What I did realise, was that a smartphone would be especially helpful during travels and in unfamiliar surroundings.
So what did really change, now that I have a smartphone? I realise, that the issue of availability is really an issue of educating people about when they can expect an answer. Also I made sure to disable auto-polling and notifications in my mail client. As expected the smartphone helps tremendously during travels, to check connections, delays and get to new places.
Two things happened I did not expect. I do a lot of reading (mostly websites) on the phone. Given the small screen and font sized used, I worry a bit about my eyesight. Second, I use the phone as a small computer. I write and publish this blog from it. With the termux app I can have a full linux system on my phone. Using an ssh client I can log into an server for heavy computing. The main drawback is here again the limited screen space.
Let me tell you a bit about how I use my phone. Since I care a lot about (online) privacy I removed all Google apps besides Phone and Contacts. I also bought a bluetooth keyboard which really helps to type faster and more accurately than using the on-screen keyboard. With the external keyboard you can disable the on-screen keyboard saving valuable screen real estate. I use a logitech keys-to-go keyboard, which is very light and has a long lasting battery, though the feedback when pressing the keys is a bit weak.
With few exceptions I use open source apps exclusively, all available via the excellent F-droid app store. Here are the apps I use most:
- Osmand for navigation
- transporter for public transport across the world
- termux for having a linux system on the phone
- K9 Mail for email and OpenKeychain for encryption
- passAndroid for digital tickets e.g. plane tickets in pkpass format
- Orbot to use Tor as a free VPN
- NewPipe to watch Youtube videos and listen to music from that platform
- Signal (apk from their website) for secure messaging
- muPDF to view pdf files
- anysoft on-screen keyboard
- DAVx5 to synchronize calendar and contacts
- Etar as calendar application
- Simple gallery to view picture
- OpenCamera as camera app
- Simple Notes to take notes
- WebOPAC to manage my library subscription and the checked out books
I do spend a lot more time on my phone than before. Instead of observing my surroundings like I used to, I would stare at the small screen. I spend more time in the bathroom, absorbed into whatever I am reading online. Still I have the impression of being more productive, because of the few times I use the phone for work or for jotting down notes on the train, subway or bus. Funny how we fool ourselves.