The Ultimate Minimalist Phone Guide
Let’s imagine you’re at a crowded cafe, the noise of chatter and the clinking of coffee cups filling the air.
Then, the constant pinging begins – a symphony of smartphones notifying their owners of emails, social media likes, calendar reminders, text messages… the list goes on.
Now, imagine a different scene.
You’re in the same bustling cafe, but instead of the relentless pinging and buzzing, you’re sitting in calm focus.
Your pocket is blissfully quiet, but you’re still connected. Well, minimalist phones make it possible.
A phone doesn’t have to be a pocket-sized distraction machine. It can also be a tool that exists to serve you, not the other way around.
And in today’s article, I will dive into the world of these minimalist phones. It will discuss…
- The issue with dopamine-hooking phones
- The role of our phones in mental clutter and stress
- Uncovering the telltale signs that your phone usage might need a reboot
- The minimalist phone
- The 17 benefits of using a minimalist phone at a glance
- An overview of four minimalist phones
- How to turn a phone into a minimalist phone (13 tips)
The Issue With Dopamin-Hooking Phones
Have you ever thought about how your phone, that handy little sidekick in your pocket, might actually be playing tricks on you?
You and most of us using phones are likely caught up in this digital dance, and it’s all thanks to our brains and a little neurotransmitter called dopamine.
And dopamine is our body’s “joy juice,” helping us feel the warm fuzzies.
It’s like getting a gold star in school, but your brain dishes them out.
Whenever your phone pings with a new like, comment, or retweet, your brain’s pleasure centers light up like a pinball machine.
The crazy thing about these dopamine-driven delights is their unpredictability.
Will it be five likes or fifty when you next check your post?
This guesswork turns our digital engagement into a psychological slot machine. And just like in Vegas, the house always wins.
This article from Harvard University confirms this “slot machine – dynamic.”
So, in this case, the house is your phone, and it’s winning chunks of your time, attention, and, let’s face it, sanity.
This constant dopamine-driven disco in your brain leads to borderline phone addiction.
However, it’s not truly an addiction, as this scientific paper from 2018 describes it…
It’s more accurate to call it “problematic behavior” or, as I would name it, “compulsive phone behavior.”
The paper compares it to a person biting their nails compulsively.
While this behavior also leads to self-harm, loss of control, physical consequences, relapse, and craving, it shouldn’t be labeled a “nail-biting addiction.”
But no matter how you call it, it can lead to many issues, from being less productive (who can work when the phone is buzzing like a busy bee?) to feeling more stressed.
You might even start to notice signs of anxiety or depression…
The Role of Our Phones in Mental Clutter and Stress
Let’s imagine for a moment that your desk is a mess (which it isn’t, of course).
Paper stacks as high as skyscrapers, coffee cups vying for space, loose cables snaking across like jungle vines – overwhelming, right?
Imagine that desk is your mind, and all those things are your smartphone notifications. That’s mental clutter for you…
“Mental clutter” is another word for information overload or brain overload.
According to an article from Lesley University, it is caused by indecision in prioritizing tasks and activities.
And this digital noise can create a lot of mental clutter.
It’s like your brain’s trying to juggle flaming torches while riding a unicycle…The thing is, mental clutter doesn’t just hang around like a bad smell.
It amplifies our stress levels (confirmed in the above article from Lesley University).
By the way, you can read more about digital clutter in my article “From Digital Clutter to 17 Benefits of Digital Minimalism.”
It kind of makes sense…Every notification, every buzz, or beep is demanding your attention.
It’s like your phone is that demanding child at the supermarket, constantly pulling at your sleeve and yelling, “Look at me! Look at me!”
And then you not only have the “look at me” notifications from your device but also the “look at me” content you find on social media…
“Look at me; I’m having a great meal, don’t I have a great life?” “Look at me, I make a selfie inside my nice car…” “Look at me now I am in front of my yate smoking a fake $1,000 Cubano.”
If you see it from this angle, it’s like the kid constantly begging for the parent’s attention..or in other words, a constant need for approval…
But I digress a bit into layman psychology social media behavior rant…So, in a nutshell, this “look at me” stuff splits your focus (like trying to watch TV while doing a crossword puzzle), but it also cranks up your stress levels.
Each notification can feel like another task on your to-do list, another thing you must respond to or deal with…so adios, Eisenhower Matrix…everything is urgent and important now.
Each notification is a tiny worry-wart, poking and prodding at your peace of mind.
Uncovering the Telltale Signs that Your Phone Usage Might Need a Reboot
In my article “Are you Ripe for Minimalist Technology Use,” I’ve covered 71 signs of digital fatigue in-depth, so I won’t go too deep into these signs again.
Still, let’s cover some telltale signs here again…
Firstly, think about how you feel when you’re away from your phone.
Do you start getting twitchy when it’s not within arm’s reach?
If you’re checking your pockets every few minutes or feel a jolt of panic when you can’t see your phone, you’re probably a little too attached to it.
It’s like when you leave home without your keys…except those keys are to the virtual world.
Secondly, pay attention to your screen time.
If you’re clocking up more hours on your phone than a full-time job, that’s a pretty clear red flag.
You wouldn’t spend 40 hours a week just staring at a wall, right?
And yet, that’s kinda what’s happening here…
Another clue might be your sleep.
Do you spend your last moments scrolling through social media or reading the news on your phone?
Is the first thing you reach for in the morning your phone, even before you rub the sleep out of your eyes?
If your phone has become your unofficial sleeping partner, it might be time for a digital detox.
Lastly, check in with your emotions.
Do you feel anxious, irritated, or even slightly depressed after spending time on your phone?
That’s a sign that your digital consumption may take a toll on your mental health.
It’s like overeating junk food – sure, it’s yummy at the time, but you usually don’t feel so great afterward.
And long-term, you know what happens with junk food consumption…metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes…fill in the blank…
So is your phone causing you more stress than joy, leaving you feeling drained instead of fulfilled?
Yes? Then, it might be time to hit the reset button on your smartphone habits.
After all, our phones are supposed to be tools to help us, not sneaky little stress-inducers we carry around in our pockets.
The minimalist approach to smartphone use might be the refreshing reboot you need, and there is a device that can help with the whole reboot and detox thing… It’s…
The Minimalist Phone
If you apply minimalism principles, hence digital minimalism, and apply them to a phone, you get a minimalist phone.
It’s a phone with only the essentials, no fluff or distractions.
No social media apps buzzing every two seconds, no pointless games sucking up your time.
It’s just the basics like calls, texts, perhaps a calendar, a note-taking app, and maybe maps for navigation.
It’s like your phone went on a digital diet and now looks lean, mean, and clean.
A minimalist phone doesn’t have you endlessly scrolling through a sea of apps and social media feeds.
Instead, it’s purposefully designed to reduce distractions and information overload.
This doesn’t mean a minimalist phone is a “dumb” phone.
Minimalist phones can still have smart features, but they’re cleverly designed to respect your time and attention instead of constantly demanding it.
The 17 Benefits of Using a Minimalist Phone
Now, let’s discuss the 17 benefits of trading in your ‘do-it-all’ smartphone for a sleek minimalist model.
You can think of it as swapping a Swiss army knife for a precision-crafted scalpel, and here’s why:
1) Goodbye, Distractions
A minimalist phone is like a personal doorman, keeping unnecessary distractions at bay.
You’ll find your concentration soaring without the constant flood of notifications from countless apps.
Ever imagined finishing that book you’ve been holding onto for ages? This could be the moment you finally make it…
2) Less Screen Time, More Me Time
You may remember when you had hobbies that didn’t involve a screen.
Now, with a minimalist phone, you can rediscover them.
Whether it’s dusting off your guitar, painting, or just watching the clouds go by, you’ll find pockets of time you never knew existed.
3) Zen Mode, Activate
It’s easier to achieve peace of mind when your phone isn’t constantly vying for attention.
Without the constant digital noise, your mind can breathe, reduce stress and boost your overall well-being.
It’s like a spa day for your brain every day.
4) Quality over Quantity
A minimalist phone helps you focus on meaningful interactions over mindless scrolling.
You might have more quality conversations and less time getting lost in the virtual world.
5) Back to Basics
With a stripped-down device, you’ll appreciate the fundamental things a phone is meant to do – keep us connected.
Calls, texts, emails – simple and straightforward. It’s like returning to your roots in the best possible way.
6) Improved Sleep
Without the constant pull of checking notifications, scrolling through feeds, or that ‘just one more episode’ on your phone before bed, your sleep can seriously improve.
7) Digital Detox
A minimalist phone serves as a gateway to a broader digital detox.
You’re encouraged to limit your overall digital consumption by eliminating many time-consuming apps and features.
It’s sort of giving your brain a well-deserved vacation from the constant influx of information.
8) Boosted Productivity
With fewer distractions, you can focus on what truly matters, whether it’s a work project, personal goal, or spending quality time with your loved ones.
It’s akin to having a personal assistant who removes anything non-essential from your day.
9) Healthy Boundaries
A minimalist phone helps to establish healthier boundaries between work and personal life, particularly with the rise of remote working.
No more late-night email checking or unnecessary work messages intruding on your family time.
Minimalist phones are often cheaper than the latest high-end smartphones. Plus, you might also find savings in time and mental energy.
11) Physical Health Improvements
Less screen time means more opportunities for physical activities.
Instead of falling into the social media (doom/comparison) scroll hole, you might go for a run, hit the gym, or take a leisurely stroll in the park.
12) Fosters Creativity
With less time spent consuming content, you have more time to create.
That could mean painting, writing, cooking, producing videos, coding – whatever stirs your creativity.
13) Rediscover the Real World
Instead of living vicariously through people’s highlight reels and pimped-up and “flexed” life moments on social media, you get to engage more fully with the world around you.
(Remember the “look at me” kid from earlier).
You’re more present in the real world, from simply appreciating nature to having more face-to-face interactions.
14) Improves Patience
In our instant gratification culture, waiting for anything seems like a nuisance.
Without a smartphone to distract you, you’ll learn to appreciate downtime, fostering patience and mindfulness.
15) Cultivates Deep Work
With no push notifications or trending news alerts to distract you, you can enter a state of deep work or flow states more easily.
This level of concentration can significantly boost productivity and satisfaction in your tasks.
16) Reduces Comparison
Social media often triggers comparison, leading to discontentment and a warped self-image.
By minimizing exposure to these platforms, you can focus more on appreciating your own life and progress.
17) Encourages Self-reflection
With less input from the digital world, you’ll have more opportunities for introspection.
Understanding your thoughts and feelings better can lead to personal growth and improved mental health (source).
Overview of 4 Minimalist Phones to Consider
If you like the idea of minimalist phones, you may now wonder which ones are available on the market.
I’ve already identified the ones I would consider minimalist phones in my past article about digital minimalist tools.
You may find other articles listing more minimalist phones.
However, as I have discussed earlier, many of them aren’t minimalist phones yet.
So below, I will give you some additional information, including an overview table.
|Punkt MP02||$379.00||4G LTE Connectivity, internet access to secondary devices through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB, end-to-end encrypted messaging, 2-inch Gorilla Glass screen, and a glass-fibre reinforced body, Bluetooth, contact list, alarm clock, notes with reminders, calculator, and a basic calendar|
|Light Phone 2||$299.00||Calls, messages (including group texting),hotspot functionality, alarm, calculator, simple music player, podcast tool, notes tool, calendar, and directions|
|Boring Phone||$499.00||Calls, messaging, camera, GPS and navigation, FM Radio, music player, podcasts, calendar|
|jitterbug flip 2||$89.49||Calls, texts, dedicated urgent response button, access to exclusive health and safety services including Lively urgent response, Lively nurse on-call, Lively rides, Amazon Alexa, 8 MP camera|
As the simplest phone for seniors, I identified the jitterbug flip 2 from the above table.
It comes with a range of service packages from the service and care company for seniors, Lively.
For instance, the phone gives access to emergency help, nurses, and doctors around the clock via its dedicated “urgent response button.”
So you could consider it as an exclusive Lively company communication extension.
How to Turn a Phone Into a Minimalist Phone (13 Tips)
You may, however, not be ready yet for a minimalist phone. One step in between could be turning your existing phone into a minimalist one.
How do you do that?
Do a Deep Clean: Start by deleting apps you don’t use or suck up too much of your time.
Silence is Golden: Turn off non-essential notifications. Picture your phone like a chatty parrot.
We will teach it to squawk less, only letting you know when there’s something you genuinely need to pay attention to.
Keep it Simple, Keep it Organized: Organize your remaining apps into folders or use your phone’s in-built options to keep your home screen clean.
Mindful Communication: Keep only necessary communication apps.
Decide which platforms are most beneficial to you. Do you really need Messenger, WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram?
Gray Matters: Consider setting your phone to grayscale. Without the allure of vibrant colors, your phone becomes less hypnotizing and easier to put down.
Bedtime Routine: Don’t use your phone for one hour before bedtime to help improve your sleep.
Your phone shouldn’t be the last thing you see at night or the first thing you see in the morning.
Time it Right: Use screen time tracking features on your phone to become more aware of your usage habits and set limits if needed.
Limit Social Media: If deleting social media apps seems extreme, try setting specific times to check these apps rather than having constant access throughout the day.
Use a Physical Alarm Clock: Consider using a standalone alarm clock instead of using your phone to wake up.
This reduces the temptation to check notifications first thing in the morning.
Be Selective with Updates:
- Don’t update apps automatically.
- Check out what new features are being added with updates.
- If they’re likely to create more noise than value, skip the update.
Privacy Settings: Review the privacy settings on your phone and on individual apps. Limiting the amount of data, you share can simplify your digital footprint.
Opt for Single-Tasking: Resist the urge to multitask, which isn’t a real thing anyways…
When you’re on a call, just be on the call. When you’re checking emails, just check emails.
This can help you be more present and reduce feeling overwhelmed.
Cloud Storage: Use cloud storage to keep your phone’s memory uncluttered.
This also makes it easier to switch phones in the future since your files won’t be stored.
For additional tips, you can also check out my article about a minimalist tech setup.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication per our editorial policy.