A few years ago I set aside my iPhone and returned to a dumbphone. I liked it. The Punkt is well made and has an elegant design, and I might — might, I say — have switched to it permanently except for one thing: it’s a 2G phone and my carrier, AT&T, dropped support for its 2G network. So the phone was bricked.

I thought about changing carriers but that would have required me to shift my whole family over; and in any case there was no guarantee that any carrier I switched to wouldn’t drop their 2G network eventually. So back to the iPhone I went. 

It took me a while, but I have figured out how to use the iPhone in a way that works for me. Here are the key elements:

1. I deleted all social media apps from the phone, including email, with the sole exception of Instagram. Also, the only notifications I get are for communications (phone calls, texts) from my family.

2. My favorite recreational activity is hiking, and I have replaced those social media apps with some absolutely wonderful apps for spending time outdoors: AllTrails, PeakVisor, Night Sky, and Rockd. I really cannot overemphasize how dramatically these apps — along with Google Maps, which may be the very best app yet made for iOS — have increased my enjoyment of being out in the world.

3. I deleted most of my music from the phone, keeping only ambient stuff I listen to while working and trying to sleep — and also for the latter the SoundCloud app (there’s a lot of wonderful ambient music on SoundCloud) and Naturespace, whose nature recordings are the best I’ve heard by far. 

And that’s basically it. With this setup, the absolutely essential element of which is the deletion of social apps, I actually enjoy the iPhone. Turns out it’s a pretty cool device when you get rid of … um … people. 


  1. Alan, do you happen to have a list of the ambient music you like? I've enjoyed the recommendations you have made in the past (e.g., Nils Frahm, Karl Richter).

  2. Hey Alan, a PeakVisor developer here 🙂 Thank you for using it! Feel free to send me feedback and feature requests at denis@denivip.ru. This week 3D maps are coming into PeakVisor – one of the first versions, so don't expect it to be polished, but the team here is excited to ship it 🙂
    Thanks, Denis.

  3. Thanks, Alan. I'll look forward to that.

    And I should correct my comment for those that might go looking for "Karl Richter". It's actually Max Richter's *Sleep* (abridged) that I meant to mention.

  4. It's comforting to know that even for an intellect of the highest caliber the fight against tech distraction is often only a *few* degrees above a hapless flail.

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