How to cripple your iPhone and reconnect with the world


Do you spend too much time on your phone? If any of these statements seem familiar, the answer is probably yes:

  • You check your phone as soon as you wake up.
  • Running low on battery causes you stress.
  • Being out with friends doesn’t stop you checking social media on your phone.
  • You sometimes feel a vibration and check your phone, but it was imaginary.
  • You place your phone on the table when out with friends.
  • Your battery barely lasts the whole day.

If you’re still unsure, try installing the Moment app, which tracks your phone usage. You’ll be horrified just how often you pick up your phone each day.

Turn your iPhone into a feature phone

I knew I was definitely addicted to my phone, but I wasn’t ready to follow Eddie Redmayne and switch to a £10 burner. For one thing, I like to take photos of my children and carrying a separate camera would be frustrating. Google Maps is pretty handy too.

Instead, I dumbed-down my iPhone. Here’s how you can do the same:

  1. Delete every app that wastes time. Ditch Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, games, shopping apps, email, etc. Keep only a handful of functional apps.

  2. Next use Apple’s parental controls to prevent willpower from letting you down. Open Settings and head to General > Restrictions. Enable restrictions and ask your spouse/friend/co-worker to choose a memorable PIN without telling you what it is. They are now the gatekeepers to your phone, so treat them kindly.

  3. Within the Restrictions settings, deselect “Safari”, “iTunes Store” and “Installing Apps”. Then navigate back to the main Settings menu, which enables the PIN and prevents further changes.

Your iPhone is now on-par with a feature phone, with only calls, messages and basic utilities available. You don’t have the privilege to install apps, so you can’t go back to your old ways without coercing your partner from step 2.

Next time you’re alone in a restaurant, standing in a queue, or even sat with your family, the escape route into your pocket is gone. You’ll need to retrain your mind to engage with the present and forget about what everyone is doing on Twitter.

Disconnecting and Reconnecting

It’s been a month since I dumbed down my smart phone; a good moment to stop and reflect on the results so far.

I’ve discovered how often I Google irrelevant stuff. On countless occasions, my hand would flash to my pocket to research something I was thinking about. When I remembered I couldn’t search on my phone (there’s no web browser), I just gave up. It wasn’t even worth going into another room to find a computer. Clearly it wasn’t important after all.

I soon realised I had an addiction that would take time to break. This became apparent on day three, when I sat in a coffee shop with my family enjoying a drink. Despite the pleasant surroundings and the delightful company, my hand produced a phone with a speed and dexterity rivalling a magician. For no apparent reason I had been drawn to it. I didn’t have a specific task in mind, I merely wanted to reconnect to it; to touch my safety blanket. I felt quite pathetic.

By the second week, I was feeling fewer twitches. I was also engaging more with those around me. In office meetings, I was no longer the guy who half paid attention while checking email because I’m so important. Instead, I listened intently and connected with the people in the room. When sitting with my extended family at the weekends, I had twice as many conversations as normal. Without my trusty sidekick to provide light entertainment, I initiated more discussions and listened with greater interest to the results.

By week three, the battle was largely won. I no longer carried my phone about the house, nor did I check it as soon as my eyes opened in the morning. When queueing or waiting for things, I just relaxed and enjoyed the short pause. Perhaps the biggest indicator was my phone battery; never have I gone to bed with over 70% unused before!

Next Steps

I won’t pretend this single act of detoxification has transformed my life, but the early results are promising and I have no plans to reverse the changes. There’s a sense of freedom when you disconnect; when you can’t read your emails or access the Internet every second of the day. Maybe in three months I’ll go “full Eddie”, only time will tell…

If you’ve tried a phone detox recently, let me know in the comments how it went.