Six Months with a Tiny Phone

Out of Hand

So many people ask me about my tiny phone I’m starting to think it’s the most interesting thing about me — and I’m not sure how to feel about it.

I’ve always liked phones with a “smaller” form factor. I put “smaller” in scare quotes because when I purchased my first iPhone, the iPhone 4, it wasn’t so small at the time. I had either an iPhone 4s or 5s from 2012 to 2019 — the 5s boasting a perfect 4 inch display. The next generation iPhone 6s and 6s Plus had a 4.7 and 5.5 inch display respectively. That’s a 38% increase from the previous generation.

The madness didn’t stop there. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has a display size of 6.7 inches. That’s a 67% increase from the iPhone 4. The iPhone has literally gotten out of hand. My hands at least.

Screen time has also increased, and probably more than 38% from when the iPhone 4 came out. At least for me. I spend a lot of time looking at a screen. My job pretty much requires me to be on my laptop all day. Don’t get me wrong I love what I do — a lot. I also get outside as much as I can and prioritize exercise, but I still log at least 8 hours a day looking at a screen, and that’s just for work. I got to a point in September 2020 where I wanted to rethink how I was interacting with my phone.

My Smartphone Reimagined

I spent a lot of time on my phone. I watched YouTube videos, read books, texted, talked, listened to music, navigated and more. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with any of those activities. In fact, I don’t necessarily want to stop any of them. I’ve learned a lot from YouTube, I try to read as much as I can, and I’m a This American Life podcast super-fan. The problem comes from spending more time than I want on any of those things.

For me, having a big shiny phone is like the Sirens of Titan calling me to come watch another J Kenji-Lopez Alt cooking video when I don’t even own a wok. What did I do when I have 5 seconds of down time in a line, or at a meal, or get in an awkward moment of silence in a group? Pull out my phone — check Instagram, Twitter, whatever; insert your digital vice here. I wanted to be in the moment a little more and be present. Nothing magical, just look around instead of looking down. I wanted something to give me a nudge to start a new conversation in that awkward moment instead of starting a tweet. I wanted to create an environment for myself to have the best possible chance of making the right decision. I wanted to make the right decision the path of least resistance, where it is actually easier to make the right decision rather than the wrong one. So, I started to reimagine what I wanted out of my phone.

Palm

I wanted a phone that reflected the amount of time I wanted to spend on it. How much time did I want to spend on my phone? I wanted to cut out the extra YouTube, reading, and social media from my life, so that meant not a lot of time. That means I needed not a lot of phone. So that’s what I bought.

The Palm phone has a mind boggling 3.3 inch display. Think about that. Your phone is probably wider than my phone is tall. I want to be able to text, call, listen to music, track my workouts, and use GPS. That’s pretty much all I want. I also need to be able to check Slack or respond to an email quickly and effectively until I can get to my laptop in case I need to handle an issue for work. The Palm phone has a full Android operating system, so I can do all of the above. I even get a selfie cam. That was Palm’s major value proposition for me: I could check my email, I could watch a YouTube video, I could read an article, but would I want to for very long? No. That’s the beauty of it. The right choice has the path of least resistance.

Palm has other features like Life Mode. Life Mode is basically like super airplane mode. Whenever it’s on all notifications are suppressed while the phone is locked, so I only see notifications when I want to see them. This has also significantly reduced the amount of times I check my phone. When I decide to check my texts, I can, instead of my texts constantly checking in with me. Another benefit of Life Mode is it puts a major kibosh on spam callers. If someone calls me in Life Mode it goes straight to voicemail. Slightly annoying for non-scammers (aka my friends), but most of my contacts know by now I’ll call them back in a little bit, or just shoot me a text first.

The Right Tool for the Job

For me, Palm is the right tool for the job. If I was trying to build a sand castle, I probably wouldn’t buy a backhoe — I’d stick with a little shovel. The backhoe would be overkill. That’s what the iPhone 12 Pro Mega Optimus Prime is for me right now: a little overkill. If I was trying to build a house, then I would probably go for the backhoe. That’s why I don’t think Palm is for everyone. If your life requires you to be more active on your phone (and there could be a variety of good reasons for that), then Palm is probably not for you [1]. I would not plan on spending several hours a day on your Palm phone and having a good experience. For my use case, in this season, it’s just the right fit.

Will I have the Palm phone forever? I’m not sure. I really like it right now. Maybe having children will change things, or maybe my job will change in a way that requires me to be on my phone more instead of just my laptop, maybe I’ll go blind from squinting at my little screen, but until then — I’ll be in Life Mode.

[1] It’s worth mentioning that Palm can also be a “companion phone” — meaning it’s synced to your primary big phone, so if you want to disconnect for a bit you can just take your tiny phone on the walk. I decided to make Palm my primary phone.

Originally published at https://jacobhrussell.com.

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