Student Life without a Smartphone


Most of us have seen Netflix’s The Social Dilemma, so I will spare the lecture on why you should say goodbye to your smartphone. There is something up though – how can it be that despite a general awareness of their negative effects, smartphones continue to mindlessly consume our lives? Of course, this question may seem as useless as asking why a smoker doesn’t ‘just quit smoking’. Yet, there appears to be an illusion that, in today’s world, you can’t get by without one. Having spent half a year with my £1 MobiWire, I intend to dispel this myth. Think of smartphones as like your crazy ex – when you’re with them you think you rely on them, but as soon as they’re gone, you realise you didn’t need them after all. Here are all the aspects of a smartphone that you most definitely can live without.

Social Media:

Why not start with the big one? No doubt, there are many great things about Social Media; keeping in touch with friends of the past or publicising your latest work or achievement (just like this will be straight onto my friends’ Facebook feeds) are things that would be made a lot harder without it. Luckily, thanks to the wonders of laptops and computers, giving up your Smartphone is not equivalent to retreating to an isolated hut in the middle of the Gobi Desert. In fact, most of the things bad about Social Media are consequences of the next Instagram scroll being only a pocket-reach away at all times.

Here comes the bad news. Unlike Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, Snapchat does not run on anything other than a Smartphone. Admittedly, part of me was worried about the prospect of missing out on plans, losing the constant online chatter, and of not knowing that some random lad from a night-out is getting the train to Cardiff. Thankfully, these worries vanished as soon as I made the transfer. Once someone realises that your Bitmoji is nowhere to be seen on their list of contacts, they will find a way to message you. Even better, the change from instant messaging to grinding out words on the ABC texting system of a brick phone will force you to call people if you need or want to speak. So, believe it or not, a lack of Smartphone-media is not only beneficial, but also possible.


If Christopher Columbus made it back to Europe with a compass, then you can definitely make it back from a friend’s house without Google Maps. If I am heading on my own to an address I’ve never been to, I usually check it on my laptop and memorise the route – if it’s a longer journey, writing down directions can be very useful. I actually thought this would cause me big issues considering my far-below-average sense of direction, but it really hasn’t troubled me in the slightest. Even in the few situations where I have been ‘lost’, without the option to reach for the online atlas in my pocket, there is always a way to get your bearings. Making use of bus stop signs of even strangers’ kindness may feel like unnecessary effort, but there is something genuinely quite authentic about it. Regardless, if you are well prepared, you shouldn’t run into any difficulties without Google Maps or City Mapper within constant reach. Anyway, who doesn’t love an adventure?

Apple/Samsung Pay:

Paying by card it is.

Spotify (or iTunes if you’re stuck in 2010):

 Confession time. For the first few months, I did occasionally listen to music on my SIM-less iPhone. In fact, this became the only purpose of my otherwise bottom-of-the-draw device. Spotify was the one I really thought I couldn’t (and originally didn’t) go without – every single little solo walk was without debate an earphone-in matter. Luckily, it does not have to be a case of throwing your Smartphone away altogether, and there is nothing wrong about keeping this. Interestingly, coincidence or not, I increasingly started enjoying more and more music-less walks and journeys. Perhaps making it habitual was lessening my appreciation of it. Once again, the computer saves the day with this, and it may mean that blasting music from your room at top volume becomes that bit more satisfying.


You may find that making that 20-minute walk instead of hopping in an Uber could cover the cost of your new Nokia 3310. Also, what better excuse for not being able to UberSplit when your friend insists that it’s too cold to walk? In all seriousness, getting by without Uber is more-than manageable, and it may even dawn upon you how unnecessary (and money-draining) the majority of Uber journeys really are. Of course, many see Uber an important safety measure when going out, so it is important to remember that, if you were to use your Smartphone as solely an ‘Uber-device’ (like I did with Spotify), then you would still reap the rewards of living a Smartphone-less life.


Well, there’s probably not much that needs to be said to prove that you could get by without the latest update of Angry Birds. Learn how to play chess?


If you identify as a ‘live in the moment but let me get a picture first’ kind of person, then, as I have done, it may be wise to invest in a cheap (but cool) camera. Nevertheless, there is something refreshing about enjoying “photo-moments” without the internal debate of whether to take your picture. With people sending you the must-have pictures anyway (via Facebook Messenger, of course) it is basically a win-win for the brick-phoners. Your albums can be loaded up to your computers or laptops so thankfully your memories will be saved.


Ooft. Bet you didn’t think of that one. But don’t worry, this is actually one of the most minor issues. Regarding transport, all services simply have to accommodate for those without Smartphones, so there is always a reference number you can note down, or a machine at the station to pick up your ticket from. So, even if your National Express driver looks at you like you’re from the wrong century, you will still make it on that bus. The same goes for nights out (or will go, I should say), though a printer may be required in some cases. Even printer-less, however, emailing the ticket to a friend you’re going with will sort you out. If your friend doesn’t want to do this deed, then maybe you should find other people to go with anyway…


It’s crazy how normal it has become to carry around a magical encyclopaedic potential of knowledge in your pocket. It’s even more crazy how we predominantly use this power to find out what Donald Trump’s daily horoscope is, or something of the like. If there actually is something you really need to know, Google will not vanish from your computer, so with a bit of patience that knowledge will be yours! There may be situations in which you are out the house and must know, for example, when the shops close. By knowing I can’t rely on a browser, I’ve found that this kind of information is just something that sticks more easily. In half a year I’ve never needed to ask a stranger for a piece of information, but in the worst cases this I’m sure this could be done. Perhaps a minute or two will be lost, but the nourishment for your soul from a friendly interaction will surely make it worthwhile.


As a serial iPhone notetaker in the past, I was concerned about where I was going to write down my daily to-do list that never gets completed. Luckily, I became aware of the wonders of pen and paper. A pocket-size notepad now contains all of my random lists, scribbles and reminders. As for the nostalgic notes already on your phone, these can usually be uploaded to a computer or laptop. If this is not possible, then keeping your smartphone mainly redundant will still keep the notes.

That Random App That You Need:

This one differs from person to person, but whether it’s ordering those regular photos on FreePrints or getting that free Pret coffee from your monthly subscription, you probably have that app you can’t go without. Being consistent with the theme of the article, I believe that there is always a way around the issue. Perhaps a friend with a smartphone will be of use, or maybe an extra few minutes might be required to do whatever the phone could do in a few seconds, but you still can go without it, and the liberation makes it worthwhile. Of course, I may very well be proven wrong by something I’ve not considered here. However, if we didn’t need it 30 years ago, then I’d be surprised if there’s a function of smartphones that we now need.

To Conclude:

Now, there are two things you may be thinking at this point. 1) “Well it looks like my laptop might as well just become my new smartphone, what a scam!”. To some extent, your laptop or computer is the saving grace for many of the things that will become absent upon giving up your smartphone. The difference, of course, is that you do not carry around your laptop around with you when out the house, and it is a lot harder to be mindlessly use something that won’t fit in your pocket – you won’t find yourself whipping your laptop out in an awkward social situation. 2) “Wait a sec, you’re telling me I’m going to have to carry round a camera, a notepad, an iPod Nano, a debit card, an atlas and maybe even a chessboard! How big do you think my pockets are?!”. Well, not exactly. The great thing is that none of these things have the addictive power of a smartphone, so thankfully you won’t find yourself taking an atlas to Sainsbury’s just ‘out of habit’. The essential outing equipment has become my MobiWire, keys, wallet and (most importantly) mask. The extra stuff, although useful, is not needed, and can be brought out selectively.

In the modern age, it’s almost impossible not to make the scary observation of just how much smartphones dictate our lives. It seems that many have considered cutting away this dependency but upon thinking that society has made us need them (which is no doubt partially true), have halted in their tracks. However, when the functions of smartphones are stripped down, it becomes clear that there is no reason why we can’t live more happily and freely without them. Even without chucking it away, there are many ways you can make it more redundant, and the positive side-effects will still follow. Please don’t throw it in the bin though, we’ve still got the environment to think about.

Written by Louie Lang