I ditched my smartphone for a week so you don't have to

A week without my smartphone
No smartphone for a week?   

When my boss said, "why don't you try spending a week without your smartphone and use a feature phone?" I thought, what's the worst that could happen?

No big deal, I spend a few days with a "dumb phone". At least I can still call and text. It'll be easy. How wrong I was.

What I didn't anticipate was realizing just how much I rely on my device for nearly everything.

The idea was to try out what's known as "digital detoxing" – disconnecting from your increasingly connected devices. We check our phones around 85 times a day on average, according to research from Nottingham Trent University. And I wanted to see if I was better off without that.

For the experiment, I used an MP01, a feature phone made by Swiss company Punkt. All it does is make calls and texts, but handily it did have an alarm clock to wake me up in the morning.

Arjun Kharpal

It was a nice feeling to start with. On day one, I reached over to turn the alarm off in the morning, no glare of a big screen offending my eyes and a million notifications staring me in the face before I've even gotten out from under the covers.

There was a serenity about my morning as I made my way into the CNBC studios, not having to wade through my hundreds of emails. It was all going so well, until I switched my PC on at work and all those emails were waiting for me there. I thought, "if I had just been able to delete them while in the cab doing nothing, it would have saved some time in the morning".


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But I let that slide. That's not a huge inconvenience and beside, being able to just relax in the morning was quite nice.

As the day went on, I found myself reaching for my smartphone to check it, even though I didn't have it on me. What was I missing the most? WhatsApp mainly. Just being able to send a quick message. But I found a work around using WhatsApp Web, which of course only works on the desktop. It solved part of the problem however.

In the days that followed, I found myself noticing how much a smartphone had become central to my life. I couldn't just watch Netflix on the go, listen to music, take pictures and use Google maps -- perhaps the biggest issue as I'm terrible with directions.

There are ways around it. I printed off a Google Map one day to get to where I needed to go, sort of mixing old-school map reading with modern technology. And I watched Netflix on a laptop.

But it's the convenience over everything that I missed the most. When manufacturers talk about the smartphone being the center of your life, they aren't wrong. And that's certainly what it has become. Just think about how much you do on it every day.

This idea of "digital detoxing" sounds great but it left me feeling slightly stressed out at times, a sign of the impact the devices have had on our society. I'm all for switching off from your smartphone every now and then for a bit, but a whole week felt a pretty long time.