The iPad + dumbphone experiment

One of my most-read posts on my now defunct English edition of was about combining a tablet with a dumbphone, ditching the smartphone (the post is available on the legacy edition, if you’re curious). I wrote the post after seeing the setup in action, and not only as the hypothetical setup that no one would actually commit to.

That was early 2014. Now it’s 2021, and things have changed quite a bit. I’m revisiting this idea as Stockholm (Sweden, where I spend half my time) continues to open up as the pandemic restrictions lightens up.

But first, this is where I’m at today, setup-wise, in the sense that it pertains to this experiment:

  • iPad Pro 12.9” (the 2021 2 TB M1 cellular version) with Magic Keyboard, Apple Pencil, and a couple of adapters. This is my main computer.
  • iPhone 12 mini.
  • Apple Watch Series 5 (with cellular, but that’s not activated).
  • AirPods Pro and Max, depending on the situation.
  • The Ricoh GRIII camera, which I don’t bring on a daily basis.

I picked the iPhone 12 mini for its size. I’ve longed for a smaller iPhone for quite some time, and while I’d like the mini to be even smaller, it fits the bill for me. Or, to put it this way: I can have the iPhone 12 mini in my pocket without being too annoyed by its size.

I don’t take photographs with my iPhone 12 mini, not really. I mean, I do snap the occasional one to remember something, or because it’s at hand, but most of the time I’ll carry the Ricoh GRIII street camera. Going from the 11 Pro Max, to the 12 mini, killed iPhone photography for me.

What I need during my day

The aforementioned setup takes me through the day. There are tasks that requires me to switch to a Mac or Windows PC, due to client needs or online services that just won’t work well enough on an iPad. I’ll disregard from these situations because there’s just no helping them just yet.

These are the tasks that my setup must accomplish:

  • Writing, editing, and publishing of various kinds. I use both apps and web interfaces for this.
  • Various planning and project managing for Divide & Conquer. This is done using calendars, to-do lists, web interfaces, and apps for the services used.
  • Design and development. I’m putting these together because they mostly consist of my projects, thus tailored to work on an iPad. Client work is often tied to other workflows, so while it does happen on the iPad, it’s not the norm.
  • Music listening is a big part of my day, either because there’s something I want to listen to, or to block out the world. Apple Music is my service of choice.
  • I watch YouTube videos occasionally, for research or just to wind down.
  • While I rarely use ride-sharing services, I do put taxi apps to good use, both for payment and hailing cabs. I hate calling for cabs, and I loathe paper receipts, so the apps serve me well.
  • Various authentication apps, for two-factor authentication, and some national things.
  • I play games.
  • Social media isn’t such a big deal for me during the day, but I do check Twitter and Instagram now and then. At times, more than I should, so it’s not necessarily something I need, so to speak.
  • Finally, there’s the communication needs. This means texts over various platforms (iMessage, SMS, Telegram, Signal), video calls (various services, including FaceTime), and the occasional phone call.

As you can see (and assume), most of these tasks happen on my iPad. Some, like music listening, social media, and communication, happen on both iPad and iPhone.

So, this is what we’re playing with. Now let’s see what we can do with it.

The experiment

The idea is to remove the SIM card from my iPhone 12 mini, leave it at home, and replace it with a dumbphone. The dumbphone (and I’m using that term loosely here) in question is the Punkt MP02, a 4G phone that’s very limited in terms of apps. In fact, there aren’t many at all. This is what it can do:

  • Phone calls. There’s a one-ear threaded handsfree that I won’t be using.
  • Texts.
  • Texts using Signal (via Pigeon).
  • There’s a calculator.
  • I won’t be using the calendar, I don’t think.
  • There’s a notes app, which sounds like torture without a proper keyboard.
  • Tell the time.

Dumbphones are limited in many ways, but the one that’ll be the biggest problem, I presume, is the input method. Going back to traditional hardware number keys, punching out texts in slow-motion compared to the capable on-screen keyboards on iPhones, will definitely limit text communication using the phone. On the other hand, all communication methods I’ve mentioned above works on the iPad, and are honestly preferred using a proper keyboard. That said, pulling out the iPad just because I get a text seems like a bother, so we’ll see how that goes. I won’t be able to rely on my Apple Watch either, since it gets its notifications from the iPhone. It might be possible to activate cellular on it and solve that problem, but I’ve honestly not looked into it yet.

Another thing that isn’t on the Punkt MP02 is Instagram, and there’s no iPad app there either. I can obviously use the iPhone app on my iPad, but that’s a horrible experience. There is a Signal app (called Pigeon) that I’ll give a go, but typing won’t be particularly fun, so that’ll most likely happen on the iPad. The same goes for all iMessages, which won’t arrive at the Punkt at all, but will work on the iPad. It’ll depend on the sender.

Unfortunately, there’s no way of using my local taxi apps on the Punkt. I might be able to find iPad apps, albeit doubtful, or I’ll have to call dispatch… What’s worse is the various authentication apps I use, I’ll have to see if I can get around that somehow. I believe signing in to my bank will be a hassle because it employs something called BankID, which (sometimes) requires you to scan a QR code. That’s going to be tricky using the device I’m on.

What’s the point?

I’ll be honest, I’m doing this out of curiosity, mostly. While I pull out my iPhone more than I should, just like everybody else, I don’t feel it’s gone overboard. I’m not scrolling Instagram, Twitter, or Reddit to any extreme extent.

Photography is different, though. Every so often I won’t bring my Ricoh GRIII camera out of habit: I know there’s a camera on the iPhone, and thus I’ll just cram it in a pocket rather than bringing a small bag. I’ve regretted this so many times, it’s silly, so many good photos that haven’t reached their potential. I want to break that habit, which means getting into a new one, carrying a bag, and the camera, on a daily basis. As mentioned, I stopped taking photos seriously with my iPhone when I left the Pro model behind.

I’ll tell you what’s not the stated point: Getting rid of my iPhone. That might be the result, but I’m setting out for anything like that. I just want to see what happens, change my habits a bit, and learn along the way.

📵 This post is a part of the Dumbphone Experiment, where I put my iPhone aside to rely on a dumbphone, and my iPad. You can read all posts here →