Removing Distraction from my Android Phone

I’ve been using a flip phone, which is a phenomenal way to avoid distractions. But I found the flip phone hard to use… the buttons weren’t responsive and the battery life was poor – so much so that I ended up not really using it and just relying on my landline. I’ve been using a half-broken smartphone with no sim-card to listen to podcasts and library audiobooks and track my exercise and fasting.

Disabling the News Feed

I find the swipe-left for newsfeed feature to be the most distracting. But it’s easy to remove!

  • Long-press an empty open area on your Android home screen.
  • In the menu that opens, select Home settings.
  • Once in the Home settings, toggle off Swipe to access Google app.
  • You have now disabled the swipe left feature.

Here’s a video showing the steps.

Eliminating Gmail and the Web Browser

I initially tried using Net Nanny to block distracting apps, but I found it would stop working whenever I reset the device. Net Nanny support told me to just reinstall, but that took time and didn’t fix anything. Pre-installed apps can be disabled but cannot be removed from your phone’s menu. It’s easy to enable a disabled app, but it can still be a useful thing to try since it might be enough of a barrier to keep you from checking a distracting app.

But I wanted a more robust solution, so I wiped my phone and installed Lineagos. Lineagos is an Android distribution that doesn’t included any bloatware like Facebook or Google Services such as the Play store, Gmail and Chrome). Then used adb to disable the default web browser. Since I didn’t have the Play store installed, I copied the SDKs from my laptop to the phone and installed them using the file manager on the phone.

The setup process took time, particularly since the laptop-to-phone connection can be finicky. But now I have a phone with just the apps that align with my goals… I can use my phone to summon an Uber, listen to an audio recording of Moby Dick, text and call, but I cannot go on Facebook or check email.

An Easier (but more expensive) Option

Another option is to buy a phone specifically designed for people who want some smart phone features but don’t want to be distracted. This is a simple and robust option, but the phones and plans here tend to be more expensive. There are numerous options in the US:

  • The Light Phone – currently $299. Music, podcasts, texts, calls, and directions but no newsfeed or email.
  • WisePhone – $399. Texts, calls, and calendar, and maps. Works with multiple networks, as shown here.
  • Gabb – $99 with 17.99/month contract. Marketed to kids, but could also benefit adults
  • Punkt – $169 phone doesn’t appear to have service available in the USA. and $379 phone works on T-mobile network.
  • Sunbeam – $195 for three different phone options, one of which includes navigation. I don’t understand why you’d want a phone for $195 which just does talk and text, since you can get flip phones for much cheaper on ebay.

Or Maybe and iPhone

I haven’t tried this, but a friend explained, “With iPhones you can do this through parental control settings and get it down to almost nothing if you want. The advantage there is that you could, for example, have just phone, texting, pictures, and maps, but all of it much better than with a flip phone.” You can probably find an older pre-owned iPhone for under $200.

A Cheaper Option with Fewer Features

Buy an unlocked flip phone and a RedPocket Mobile annual plan. If you need a GPS, you can buy a separate device.

Or Ditch the Cell Phone entirely and get a VOIP landline

Ooma has a great VOIP service. You can get a refurb device for $50 and the service for $7 / month. I use this in addition to my cell phone.

Other Options?

Let me know if you have other thoughts on eliminating cell phone distractions!

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