Ten years on, in the present, more than a billion people across the world use a smartphone of some sort every day, and in the west roughly two thirds of the population have committed to the ‘smart’ life. So what is the attraction?
From breakfast to midnight, they’re often never more than a foot away, desperate for attention. When you think about it like that, it’s not the most appealing human trait we have, feeling caught in the web of connectivity.
But like it or not, internet access has become a crucial part of our lives, with the need to be kept up to date equally as important as sharing the latest thing your cat / child / grandmother did with the world.
But what happens if your phone drops out of the equation, whether that be through misadventure or just a general desire to switch off?
Don't worry though, as in reality you’re basically just losing the data connection – if you arm yourself with an old tablet or a laptop we've found ways to keep you connected at the bare minimum, as it’s incredible what you can still do out and about (although might need to buy a SIM with some data to keep things ticking for some of these options below).
It might take being a little creative, it might take a little patience, but it is certainly possible to ditch the smartphone and remain a fully productive digital citizen – taking back control from dictatorial rectangles that now dominate our lives.
1. Using a portable Wi-Fi hotspot
By far the simplest way to stay connected without a smartphone by your side is with the use of a portable Wi-Fi hotspot and packing another basic screen with connectivity, that’ll do the bare minimum you need.
These little hockey-puck shaped objects have SIM-card connectivity, and often come with generous data plans, which comes in especially useful for business customers.
Most major phone networks offer specialist packages with these in mind, and they can even prove to be a practical substitute for your home Wi-Fi network should your wired connection be poor. There are certainly available.
2. Using a laptop with inbuilt connectivity
Continuing the trend of the Wi-Fi hotspot, some laptop manufacturers (such as Toshiba with its line) have opted to make things even simpler for the discerning business customer and offer laptops with SIM card slots, giving access to 4G on the go.
No matter where you are, as long as you have access to a compatible card to hand, it’ll be possible to continue the eternal search for the fabled inbox zero.
3. Using a car with in-built Wi-Fi
Car manufacturers, eager to ride the wave of modern technology, have been quick to abandon CD players for a whole host of gadgetry.
Now family car trips to Cornwall need no longer be endurance runs for parents, with the kids in the back able to gobble down YouTube while real-time navigation is possible with a tablet or smarter connected sat-nav.
4. Use public transport or go shopping
There’s a plethora of public Wi-Fi options out there these days – now nearly every coffee shop, supermarket or bus offers the ability to connect to the web (for the small price of your personal information, of course), making it is easier than ever to keep up with your necessary data as and when you need it without being beholden to a constant buzzing in your pocket.
The bigger benefit here: the same system even applies abroad, so you don’t need to worry about where you are to use it.
Just make sure you’ve connecting to legitimate hotspots – they’ll be listed in the locations you frequent. Hackers sometimes make similar-looking Wi-Fi networks to connect to, so make sure you’re vigilant.
5. Using a feature phone instead
While many of us were quick to abandon our beloved flip phones for our modern glass sandwiches, the little critters are still kicking about, and some offer more functionality than ever.
For those who want the convenience of voice calls and texting with none of the pressure of being really ‘connected’, the hotspot functionality in many of these handsets is a life saver, allowing you to dip in and out as you please. This really is the holy grail for those looking to unplug while still being in the loop.
6. Using a smart TV
It is said that Hercules faced 12 trials to achieve immortality, but there was a little known 13th hurdle that defeated him.
Legend has it that Zeus asked Hercules to write an email on a smart TV using a standard remote, and some say that he is still composing that message to this day.
While we wouldn’t advise doing something like that on your TV (although there are remotes that have full QWERTY keyboards on them to make this possible) modern sets allow you to browse the web easily and some even come with apps to let you see the weather or get other small news bursts to keep you quickly up to date, without getting sucked down the Facebook rabbit hole.
7. Using a smart fridge
As you’ve probably noticed, this list is all about helping you get the stuff you need done through being connected without being bugged by a thousand other notifications.
Users who spend their entire lives in their kitchens can do everything their gastric section desires – from looking up recipes to ordering more food – from the comfort of their fridge.
8. Using a connected smartwatch
The smartwatch revolution may not have taken off quite like the pundits expected, but a few quality models still make their way to the market, some with quite unique functionality.
The Samsung Gear S3 offers the option of cellular connectivity for those intent on typing out WhatsApp messages on exceptionally tiny screens.
Again, this is a situation where the difficulty of using the device might be an effective buffer against compulsion and can allow you to focus on things like exercising, which can be tracked without connection and uploaded when you’re back with connectivity.
9. Using a dongle
Something that many a business user will be well acquainted with, these older Wi-Fi dongles are still used by a few – come on, you’ve probably got one rattling around in a drawer at home or work, and maybe even with some data still left unused.
Essentially a pen drive with a SIM-card slot built in, before many people discovered the ability to use their phone as a wireless hotspot (and in the era of stingy data allowances) these were often life-savers, and still an excellent way to stay connected should you need to.
You have all of the control, and it can be a very pleasant sensation – just get a pay as you go data package, slot the SIM in and you’re away.
10. Using the library
This may seem like a slightly left-field option, but the nation’s libraries – keen to attract Joe Public back to the land of paper Wikipedia – have embraced the digital revolution.
Much as at internet cafes, but without the hassle of paying, many libraries offer public internet access and Wi-Fi, indeed this is a beloved option for many more mature users.
In a situation where you have no back up, this might just be a (very) figurative life-saver. Certainly, it is a boon for those looking to leave the smartphones behind but also to still indulge a little in the digital world, even with the phones of others going off all around, like wasps in matchboxes.