One of the things that I did very early on after arriving in the States last year was to get a smartphone. I didn’t necessarily want to get a smartphone, but I no longer had a choice, as my Korean stupidphone would not work in the US (unless I wanted to pay for roaming for an entire year). So I gave in and, out of necessity, got my first smartphone.
I intended to write about my experience after a few weeks, or maybe a month or so, to see if having a smartphone changed me in any way. Many of my friends warned me that once I got a smartphone I would become addicted and wouldn’t be able to live without. I was skeptical and fairly certain that I would not become addicted. Although I never did get around to writing that initial report, I think the time has finally come for me to sum up my experience. The first thing I can say is that I did not, in fact, become addicted. I know this because I have been back in Korea for three weeks now, and for that entire time I have not had a smartphone—and it doesn’t bother me at all. Yes, it is somewhat inconvenient not to be able to glance at my phone for the weather, for example, but this is a minor inconvenience at best. I am suffering from no symptoms of smartphone withdrawal.
(Why I do not have a smartphone is a bit of a tangent, but I will explain in brief. When we bought our phones from Verizon in the States, we were explicitly told that we would be able to take the phones back to Korea and use them here. I’ve done a little research on this since then, and apparently Verizon is the only carrier that doesn’t lock their phones—which means that, as long as your plan is paid up, you should be able to take your phone anywhere and use it there. Well, as you have probably already guessed, this has not been the case; when we tried to put new sims in the phones here, we got an error message saying that the sims were not Verizon sims and thus unusable. This directly contradicts what we were told and everything I’ve read about Verizon phones. Anyway, my little bro (aka, “family tech support”) is looking into this, so hopefully this will be worked out at some point.)
Now, don’t get me wrong—having used a smartphone for nearly a year, I definitely see the advantages of having one. For one, my old stupidphone (which I am using once again) requires keypad input for texting, which is painful enough in and of itself, but since it is an old phone the buttons aren’t as responsive as they once were. Texting on a smartphone became very easy to do once I learned how to swipe (I even did this successfully in Korean, even though HJ swore that it didn’t work well). There is also the convenience factor of having an internet-connected device at hand all the time. Weather, maps, calendar... all these things are very useful, and it would be nice to have them again.
That being said, I was not the type of person who was glued to my smartphone screen all the time. The first thing I did when I got the phone was to delete every game app and every app I considered non-essential—and there were a lot of non-essential apps (news, sports, etc.). I rarely used the phone to access information online, and I never did any lengthy reading on my phone. Maybe this is just me being old, but the idea of sitting on the T hunched over a tiny screen did not appeal to me at all. If there was some bit of information I desperately needed to know, I would look it up. Most of the time, though, I just waited until I was at my computer, or I just contented myself with not knowing.
Looking back on my smartphone usage now, I think I struck a good balance. I used it as a convenient tool, but I did not rely on it too much or find myself spending too much time on it. In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that there is one app I did end up using a lot: the beer app Untappd. People would sometime tease me when I whipped out my smartphone at a restaurant or bar, but I didn’t mind. This was my one indulgence, and in the greater scheme of things I didn’t spend that much time on it. I would probably be missing that app the most right now, but I have had exactly two beers since coming back to Korea (which I have recorded in the app, because my phone can still connect to wifi). This is OK, though, since not drinking as much beer this year was sort of a new year’s resolution (or would be if I believed in them), as I’m pretty sure I drank way too much beer last year. Here, I have the air to kill me via my respiratory system—I don’t need to destroy my liver as well.
Anyway, this was something I said I was going to write, and I never did get around to writing it, so here it is. At least now I know that I can use a smartphone responsibly and not become addicted. This is what I was expecting, but it’s still good to know.