Should I Downgrade From My Smartphone?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately, mostly because I hate distractions.

Anything that eats into my productive time is a thorn in my side, including my phone.

This a tough question to answer though because it would be the first time in my life I’ve decided to downgrade a piece of personal technology.

But, I know I’m not alone – you went to Google looking for an answer, and that’s why you’re here.

So let’s take a look at why any of us would want to downgrade to a dumb/flip/feature phone.

Source: Oracio Alvarado

Because Other People Are Downgrading

Apple is struggling to sell iPhones for the first time ever.

Why?

Because they’re overpriced – people are tired of paying $1,000 for the “latest” iPhone.

And the real slap in the face is that Apple has shown zero technological innovation for years now – just bigger screens, less useful apps, and promises of more to come.

Basically, Apple’s vision stagnated after the passing of Steve Jobs, and Tim Cook isn’t the tech visionary Apple needs right now.

Not even close.

Most other smartphone manufacturers (including Samsung) are seeing the same downward trend in sales of new devices, especially high-end phones.

A growing number of people are either not upgrading to the latest smartphone, or are getting rid of them entirely.

Downgrading Might Help Protect Your Data

Nobody likes the idea of being spied on for any reason.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal taught social media users a valuable lesson: Tech companies lie about what they do with your data

Tech companies will also openly lie about whether or not they monitor you:

When Samsung forgot to tell people their TV’s record conversations

Alexa doesn’t record stuff…except when it records everything

So, despite all their claims to the contrary, tech companies are tracking what you’re doing, who you’re doing it with, and what you’re talking about.

And this is entirely driven by profit – the more data they have on you, the more valuable you are to potential advertisers.

I removed all social media apps from my smartphone 12 months ago, and replaced them with an Audible subscription.

It’s one of the smartest things I’ve ever done because I swapped the passive voyeurism of trawling through social media feeds for listening to books on subjects I actually care about.

I traded being dumbed down by social media bullshit to upgrading my brain.

I have discovered some amazing authors by making this one tiny change to my digital lifestyle.

Plus I went from consuming 4 -5 books per year to 24 last year, and I’m on course for 50 books this year.

Something else to consider is this: How much of your personal data is mined by the apps on your smartphone?

Answer: A horrifying amount.

Downgrading Is A Healthy Choice

Smartphones and their apps are addictive.

There was a time when the first thing I’d do after waking up is check my Facebook feed, and then some stupid game. A game I’d regularly buy “credits” for. Doh!

Toilet break in work?

On my smartphone.

Lunch break?

On my smartphone.

That’s a terrible habit for an adult to have, but imagine the impact this would have on a child?

What’s worse is that social media companies have designed their interfaces using gamification principles.

These are the same psychological tactics used to keep you addicted to playing online games.

Like it or not, you’re addicted to your smartphone because it was designed to do that.

Are Flip Phones Coming Back?

So, that all sounds pretty compelling, but is there any data to back this up?

Yup – there’s a growing trend in people wanting to switch off from smartphones.

More and more people want to disconnect from the hyper-connectivity we’ve immersed ourselves in without giving a thought to what it might do to our social structure.

What it might do to our minds.

Is there a connection between the rise in depressive and social anxiety disorders and when smartphones became the “must have” gadget of the new millennium?

It would appear so.

Those who can’t bear to be separated from constant online activity (…but you’re not addicted, right?) might go as far as installing apps to stop the constant notifications from their iPhone or Android device.

Even the true addicts can sense that smartphones are nothing but a massive time suck – they wouldn’t install “blocking” apps otherwise.

Will we see smartphones consigned to some kind of technological scrapheap?

I doubt it very much, but the jaded masses of former social media addicts are slowly ditching smartphones and reclaiming their personal time.

Can You Still Use Old Cell Phones?

Certain tech companies might hate the idea, but once your phone is capable of connecting to a 2G GSM or CDMA network, then all you need is a SIM card that fits it.

Or a SIM card adaptor if you get really stuck.

So that old flip phone you have in a drawer is probably still usable.

Countries like Singapore have already ditched their GSM network, and some mobile networks in the states are doing the same.

It’s almost like they want to keep people connected all the time…even if they don’t want to be.

At worst you’ll need a dumb/feature phone that can connect to a 3G network, which is something most older cell phones are capable of.

So, “Yes” you can still use old cell phones on modern mobile networks, including any 2G (GSM) networks that still operate today.

Are Flip Phones Harder To Track?

A cell phone that doesn’t have a GPS chip installed is far more difficult to track. The only real option being to use either your Wi-Fi connectivity or proximity to the nearest cell tower to find you.

The absence of a velocimeter on your dumb phone will also prevent anyone being able to pinpoint your approximate location based on how fast you were traveling and for how long.

If your flip phone doesn’t have a Wi-Fi connection option then it becomes even more difficult to track.

It all depends on how far you want to take your quest for online anonymity.

Can Flip Phones Be Hacked?

Any electronic device can be “hacked” if you pay the right people enough money.

Or if you’re a government agency that’s definitely not scanning mobile networks…if you want to believe that.

But not having GPS and a bunch of web-connected apps on your phone drastically reduces your exposure to security risks.

Yes, yes I know smartphones are meant to be secured from virus infection.

But that’s a myth.

Both Apple and Android devices have virus infection problems – the manufacturers just never make it public.

That’s from first-hand knowledge.

So owning a dumb phone doesn’t mean you’re “off grid”.

But it does mean you’re far less visible than walking around with a mobile tracking device in your jeans pocket or bag.

What Is The Best Non-Smartphone?

If you’re looking for a non-smartphone I’m going to assume you want a really basic phone.

So I’m not going to talk about smartphones with smaller screens and fewer features – we’re aiming for a completely dumb phone here.

After a bit of research it looks like the most popular dumb phone right now is the Nokia 3310. It doesn’t have a GPS chip or Wi-Fi connectivity.

Source: Wikipedia

The only real downside here is that it uses YunOS, which is a recoded version of the Android OS.

If you want to cut Android OS out of the picture altogether (and that’s not a terrible idea), the Nokia 216 is another option for you.

Nokia 216

The 216 also doesn’t have GPS or Wi-Fi connectivity, and uses the Nokia Series 30 operating system.

So, how do you feel about switching back to a basic phone?

Probably as conflicted as I do.

My concerns about smartphone usage have less to do with security or privacy, and more to do with breaking the cycle of being addicted to a device that literally adds nothing to my day.

But I still wanted to address all aspects of downgrading from a smartphone so that nobody felt left out.

People say they can’t live without their device, but will check their emails/social media from one…while they’re sitting at a computer.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Have we reached “peak” smartphone usage.

I think we just might, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The Best Password Manager For You (2019)

password login screen

If you’re not sure why you might need a password manager, then I’d like to highlight a recent data breach where hundreds of millions of email addresses and passwords were exposed. And by “exposed” I mean made available online for criminals to download and use.

The simple fact is that although you know you shouldn’t use the same password across multiple sites, you do it anyway. And after several years working in IT environments, I know that most people struggle to remember even a single password, never mind dozens of different passwords.

So what you need is a solution that helps you manage your passwords in a secure way.

And that is exactly what a password manager does.

At least 50% of companies won’t inform customers that their data was compromised in a cyber attack.

Source: https://www.dataiq.co.uk/

Why do you need a password manager?

In the earliest days of the Internet most people had an email account, and were members of a message board or two. They used the same password on all of them, and at the same time cybercrime wasn’t really a thing.

Times have changed though.

Now people have multiple social media accounts, probably multiple email addresses, and dozens of other sites to log in to. Then you have to factor in that they’re probably also using a mobile devices or tablet in addition to a desktop or laptop computer.

To make their lives as easy as possible, people use the same password for every online account they own.

Why?

Because they don’t want to waste time resetting passwords for accounts…after they’ve forgotten their password yet again. THey know they’re taking a risk, but the logic is always “…well…who would want to hack my social media account?”

You need a password manager because if you don’t use one then it’s only a matter of time before one or more of your personal accounts gets hacked.

In fact, there’s a good chance that’s already happened, and you had no idea.

But your social network/email provider/online store said they have the best data security and encryption know to mankind?

Yeah, well here’s a list of recent data breaches, and the number of users who had their data stolen.

Recognize any of these names?

1. LinkedIn – 164 million
2. Adobe – 152 million
3. River City Media – 393 million
4. NetEase – 234 million
5. Exactis – 131 million

Source: https://haveibeenpwned.com/

There are literally hundreds of other data breaches we could list here, and they’re only the ones that have been disclosed by the companies managing your data. The 0ther 50% of all data breaches stay out of the media, so users are never, ever aware their personally identifiable data has been stolen.

What does a password manager do?

The main reason people don’t like using multiple passwords is because they’ll forget them.
That’s understandable because it’s human nature, but it’s also not an excuse for potentially exposing your personal data to people who could (and probably will) use it for criminal acts.

A password manager provides you with a secure online location to store every single one of your passwords. Then the next time you go to login to your email or social media account, the password manager will automatically fill in the username and password field for you.

They also have lots of other neat features like generating secure passwords, reminding you that you’ve used the same password across multiple sites, and also providing you with a “digital vault” to store other sensitive information like credit card numbers, etc.

Are password managers safe?

That all depends on the password manager itself, but the leading ones are extremely secure. Products like LastPass and 1Password are 1000% trustworthy (not a typo – I meant 1000%)

There’s always the potential for some a$$hat to create a password manager that’s designed specifically to steal your personal information, which is why it’s important to do your research first.

Every product listed in this blog post is either one I use myself, I’ve used in the past, I’ve tested, or it’s an industry leader.

Just make sure to read real reviews on a variety of password managers before you committ to using one. Or ask a techy friend what they use, or the IT guy (or gal) in work what they’d recommend.

Analog vs. digital password managers

An analog password manager is one of the most overlooked ways of storing and managing your passwords. Even better is that this is solution works 100% offline.

So what is it?

A notebook.

Yes, writing down your passwords and storing them in a notebook is an option, but no it’s not a very good option. You could lose it, it could be stolen, it could catch fire or get water damaged.

But there’s one exception that you might need to make to using analog password storage.

You see, every password manager requires a master password to access it. If you forget this password you always have the option of resetting it, but I do have my master password written down.

My reasoning is that only a person who knows what that password is for can actually use it – I don’t use that phrase for any other account.

So although I use a digital password manager, I do keep an analog backup of that master password.

Apart from that I would strongly recommend that you do not (repeat: do not) keep all your passwords written in a notebook. There are just too many ways for your information to be compromised.

Which password manager is easiest to use?

This is really down to the end user. I’m a loyal fan of LastPass, but I don’t believe in forcing that idea on anyone else. I’d used AI Roboform for several years before switching to LastPass.

AI Roboform was the easiest solution for me to use for a long time, until I was introduced to LastPass.

What I’m saying here is that the idea of “easiest” will depend on what you consider to be easy. My definition is a simple one: It’s the password manager that works without me having to tweak, fiddle or poke at it.

I like things “that just work”, because that’s what I’m paying for. I prefer functionality over advanced features (which I’ll never use) any day of the week.

What is the best free password manager?

This is a tough question to answer because there are so many great optinos out there. Password managers are one of the few pieces of software/services you’ll find where you can get a working account (legally) without having to spend a cent.

  • Lastpass – No limits on number of passwords stored
  • Dashlane – free for up to 50 passwords
  • Roboform – No limits on passwords stored

N.B. 1Password isn’t listed because it’s only free for 30 days, so that doesn’t really count as “free”.

What is the best cross-platform password manager

Most of you own a desktop computer or laptop, as well a smartphone, and possibly even a tablet. And you probably don’t considering youreself geeky or a nerd – they’re just tools you use as part of modern life.

But the fact that you probably use a mixture of platforms (except Mac users…because they’re Mac users) and operating systems means you’ll need a password manager that’s as at home on a Linux box as it is on a shiny new Mac.

Let’s take a look at which password manager is the most versatile, in terms of how many platforms it supports.

Password managerDesktopMobileWeb Browsers
LastpassWindows, Mac, LinuxAndroid and iOSInternet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera, Microsoft Surface RT
DashlaneWindows, Mac, LinuxAndroid and iOSInternet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera
RoboformWindows, MacAndroid and iOSInternet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera
1PasswordWindows, Mac, LinuxAndroid and iOSInternet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera

 

Useful resources

Want to check when and if any password you’ve ever used has been compromised? Check out the Pwned Passwords search feature from the helpful peoples at HaveIBeenPwned.