Do I Need My iPhone?


Smartphones and data plans are expensive, so do I really need them? Or can I get by without?

Since learning that I’ve paddled my way out into an oceanic book project about the smartphone, several people have asked me variations of these questions over the last few months.

Truth be told, I’m not yet working on implications, but I have started a list of questions to ask.

So do I really need a smartphone?

  1. What does my smartphone cost me per year in the price of the device, insurance protection, covers and cases, and of course the monthly service? Is it worth it?
  2. Do I need mobile web access to fulfill my calling in vocation or ministry? Do I need mobile web access to legitimately serve others?
  3. Do you travel a lot? I think people who do travel extensively will ever need a smartphone for work and for navigating. Are there other ways to navigate?
  4. If you use your smartphone to hold your shopping e-coupons, how much money would you save without a smartphone data plan?
  5. Can my web access wait? Is my need for smartphone functionality replaceable with structured time at a laptop or desktop computer?
  6. Can I get along with a dumbphone with calling and texting features?
  7. Can I get along with wifi and an iPod or tablet? What would I lose?
  8. Can I just as easily listen to audio and podcasts in other ways? Through an iPod for example.
  9. Am I simply addicted to my phone? If so, can the problem be solved with moderation, or do I need to just cut it off?
  10. Do I want my kids to see me gazing at a handheld screen so much as they grow up?

If you answer yes, and the smartphone is a necessity in your life, then think about certain ways that you limit your time. Have you considered:

  1. Turning off all non-essential push notifications.
  2. Getting accountability from others.
  3. Telling your kids and spouse and friends to watch how your phone prohibits life and interactions.
  4. Asking for feedback based on what they see you posting online.
  5. And consider deleting your most time wasting apps (social media, games, etc).

But the surface has only been scratched. We all use our phones in different ways and I presume there are many more questions to be asked. Here’s where I need your help (and everyone asking these questions needs your help).

Tell us in the comments:

(A) What questions you would add to this list about whether or not to ditch the smartphone?

(B) What other scenarios in life would make a smartphone and data plan essential?

(C) For those who do legitimately need a smartphone, what other safeguards would you suggest or have found to be helpful?

Thanks for your input!


10 thoughts on “Do I Need My iPhone?

  1. Great post! I would also ask the following: “Do you have specific times in your day/week that are set aside for no electronics?” It’s good to put everything away and just spend time with God, family, or friends, with as little to no distractions.

  2. B) My husband is military and travels frequently, rarely having access to a phone. He got me an iPhone so that no matter where (or when) in the world he is, if he can get signal, we can iMessage. Smartphone? I could care less about it. Communication with my husband when he’s gone? Totally worth it.

  3. I’d ask the following:

    Do I need/value having a decent camera with me at all times? Cameras are pretty limited on dumb phones, typically, as is the ability to post the photos taken.

    How valuable is it to have access to assorted reading material at all times? Or to be able to research ‘on the fly’? Is a smartphone a way of ‘redeeming the time’ in those regards?

    Do you need easy access to your diary, to check appointments or to make new ones? Yes, a paper diary is useful but many people now use electronic diaries and other scheduling apps – again, dumb phones don’t generally offer such. Unless a person uses and always has with them a tablet, they’ll be restricted in using such services if they opt just for a dumb phone.

    Is tweeting part of how you engage in ministry or necessary for your work? If so, a smartphone might be unavoidable. Same applies to other social media, such as LinkedIn – availability of such services on dumb phones is minimal.

  4. A) – Can I have a meaningful conversations with friends or family at a dinner table without getting bored and looking at my phone?
    – Do I use my smartphone to prove my point in an argument just so I look like the better person?
    – Do I like spending more time with my internet friends than those who are actually a part of my life?

    B) – For me the ability to keep track of my appointments at all times as a photographer has helped stay more organized that if I didn’t have my smartphone. But I could always use a regular book planner if I needed to.
    – Many customers now want to either WhatsApp or Facebook Message me photos to print so I need a smartphone to receive photos in this way.
    – I have my good cameras, but don’t always carry them around with me because of the weight. My phone has a pretty good camera for capturing those surprise shots that catch my eye.

    C) – I have recently been under much conviction from the Holy Spirit about being addicted to my smartphone and the internet. For me, one of the biggest decisions I had to make was to stop using my phone when I am at home or out to eat with friends or family. The only reason I take my phone out while at the table is if I receive a phone call. Text messages and other notifications do not count.
    – I also had to make the decision not to use my phone to watch YouTube or spend a large amount of time on social networks while at work. In doing this I have cut my wasted time on Twitter and Instagram down by at least half. Am still working on the YouTube, trying to fill my time with reading more books or gospel centered blogs.

  5. I had a contract around $50 a month for a regular phone – looking to upgrade to a Android or iPhone – the minimum was $70 a month ( plus tax) that would run me just short of $1000 a year for one phone , not to mention my wife’s phone which would have driven it to at least $1500 a year. We decided we really did not need the bells and whistles and purchased 2 Tracfones for $20 each. We now spend $120-150 each a year for minutes. That saved us over $1000 compared to the smartphones. We have phone services and texting – basic things like voicemail and alarms as well and a cheapo camera. Not fancy but we don’t spend our time with our family staring at our phone. We went to a dinner with a dozen late 20 – 30’s folks recently – every one of them was staring at their device and not looking at each other – what a waste of time with friends.

  6. Last time I was in the US I didn’t want to pay for a phone contract because it is about 20x the cost of phone service in Ukraine.

    I made it several months with no mobile phone. However, I did still carry my smart phone with me and used it for everything else. If I really needed to make a call I’d just stop at the nearest McDonalds or grocery store where about 90% of the time they have free wifi and I’d make a call from Skype on my smart phone via wifi.

    I found that saved me a lot of money and I wasn’t constantly checking social networks and e-mail.

  7. Tony, I’m humbled and blessed that you shared my thoughts on your blog today, I owe a lot of my awakening to God’s grace through DG and your own wrestlings with smartphone/social media addiction. I am especially excited that you’re laboring to serve the church with a much needed book on the subject. These are important questions without easy or across-the-board answers, but I have been helped by a few things while I wrestle with my need for an iPhone: could I make it a WisePhone? If one is prone like me to do dumb things on their smartphone, delete the distractions and replace it with wisdom on said device. I’ve deleted Instagram and instead get my habitual scroll-fix through the SheReadsTruth app. Instead of reading the comments section after CNN articles, I listen to the Ask Pastor John podcast/app for his and others’ comments on what the Word says is going on in the world. Just like if I want to be healthy I don’t pack my pantry full of potato chips and cupcakes but with healthier binge options, removing fluff from my phone and giving my compulsiveness better options has really aided my spiritual health. 
    I’m not totally out of the weeds when it comes to smart phone problems, but little measures coupled with heart-inspection and what Chalmers called “the expulsive power of a new affection” is my hope.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s