lipu pi jan Niko


Smartphones are good, actually*

2022-05-03

So I recently moved to using a smartphone after being a basic-phone only person for multiple years, and my experience has been actually positive. To the point where I would write a provocatively titled blog post about it for the clicks from annoyed FOSS and permacomputing people at me liking an objectively trash device. And yes, smartphones are objectively trash. They’re hard to repair, built for minimum life and maximum profit, and generally suck (as all devices invented by modern capitalism do). But after having lived without one for so long, I want to talk about having one again.

I got rid of my smartphone, a Nexus 5, originally, probably sometime around 2017? I honestly don’t remember. It’s your usual story - found myself distracted by social media, hurt by FoMo and tracking, wanting to “digital detox” and take control back of my life. I did this by stopping using a smartphone entirely. (looking back, the smartphone wasn’t the problem, as there were wider issues in my internet usage at the time). But the phone got ditched, and I developed a new approach: each device should do one thing and do it well. Phone is seperate from MP3 player, MP3 player is seperate to camera, etc. I largely still believe in this and would probably return to it, expect for one thing: I got a smartphone again. Specifically, I got the same smartphone again - my old Nexus, which was my sister’s for a while. Now it’s mine again.

After my most recent MP3 player died, I was out looking for a replacement. I thought about buying an ipod, but I then found my old smartphone in a drawer. I charged it up thinking it was broken (the screen was already a bit cracked, and I have vague memories of my sister throwing it out), then it turned out - it works! So I started using it as an mp3 player, and very soon after as a phone as well, because I may as well put a SIM in the thing if I’m carrying it already. But it needed some things to make it good.

How to make a smartphone good

Out of the box, smartphones are corporate tracking devices that hate you. So you need to take some basic steps to make them better:

These steps basically convert a smartphone from being a corporate tracking device to being a small, media-focused portable computer running a kinda shitty OS. My daily usage of this phone now mostly revolves around listening to my local music library and podcasts (which I copy onto it from my PC), sometimes checking one website for bus times, and sending the occasional text.

The good

The bad

The ugly

Conclusion

Having a smartphone is convenient. The user experience and flexibility are nice. You have to disable a lot of stuff to make it good, but when it’s good, it’s pretty good. Still not better than dedicated devices, but a whole lot more convenient. A portable computer actually made to be good (repairable, having a good OS, etc) would be far better, but smartphones are what exist, and having some kind of semi-flexible pocket media player with internet access is good.

so, to complete this post’s title: “Smartphones are good, actually, when you run a degoogled OS, keep them mostly offline, got one for basically free, and use it as a souped up MP3 player”. I hope that you enjoyed this shameless nonsense. Back to your regularly unscheduled somewhat shameful nonsense soon.