You’ve probably seen plenty of "I spent a week without my smartphone" articles on various outlets in the past. They’re often social experiments designed to show how addicted we are to our mobile devices and that, deep down, they hinder creativity and destroy the art of conversation.
Two things make this article different from all those others. First, I’ve been without my device for over a month now, not a week. And second, I didn’t choose to go this long without my phone, it was taken from me -- in a way.
Note: This feature was originally published on 05/09/2016. We have bumped it as part of our #ThrowbackThursday initiative because reading about someone else's pain of going without a smartphone for a month is way cooler than going through it yourself.
Having had a brief glimpse of the Galaxy S7 Edge at Mobile World Congress last February, I decided I couldn’t wait for my current Note 4 contract to end so I could get my hands on Samsung’s new flagship. Once it was available for pre-order here in the UK, I rashly threw caution to the wind and spent around $280 for an early upgrade.
Several days later, I got a text informing me that the S7 had arrived. After rushing to my local store to collect it, I spent the next hour or so setting everything up and the rest of the day admiring the phone. Later, I decided to sell my Note 4 at a local trade-in store and use the money to buy a Gear VR. Of the several mistakes I made throughout this whole saga, getting rid of my old Galaxy Note was possibly the worst.
It’s March 26. I’ve had my S7 Edge for just over two weeks and have no doubt that it’s the best smartphone I’ve ever owned. I love the camera, its speed, the display, the design – there’s nothing I dislike about it. If I could marry an electronic device, it would be this one.
I never took out the optional insurance on the S7; I reasoned that, as I’ve never accidentally broken any of my previous cell phones, I’m unlikely to start with the most expensive one I’ve ever bought (I realize now that this wasn’t the best logic). But as a sensible precaution, I’m checking out the new Edge cases. The only reason I never bought one earlier was because I had spent the rest of my spare money on the actual upgrade. It turns out that not purchasing the insurance and not forking out for a case sooner were also poor decisions, very poor decisions.
The moment came when I picked up my S7 off the glass coffee table where it had been sitting. I can’t say exactly how it happened, but the combination of me stretching across the sofa, a poor finger-and-thumb grip, and the S7’s slippery curved front glass meant that, at about 10 inches above the table, it fell out of my hand.
When the glass edge of the phone collided with the glass of the table I initially didn’t panic. It was, after all, a small fall. I’d already watched YouTube video showing that while the S7 wasn’t exactly durable, it can survive drops from a much greater height. The caveat being, unfortunately, that the device is very vulnerable if its edge hits a surface at a certain angle, which, as my luck would have it, is exactly the way mine landed.
As I turned my beloved phone over, my calm manner instantly turned into abject horror. There it was, a crack on the edge that ran down into the middle of the screen. My thoughts quickly turn to the large number of articles I’d read explaining that due to its construction, repairing a broken S7 is a total nightmare that costs a fortune. I start to think irrationally: maybe I could live with it like this. I suspect the VR experience may be adversely affected, but perhaps I could learn to endure a migraine-inducing crack running through the middle of all my virtual reality content.
At this point, I turn the phone over and see that the entire screen is a flashing mess of green, damaged OLEDs; the sickening hues mirroring the sensation that’s now growing in my stomach. My S7 Edge is utterly destroyed, and yet, somehow, things get worse.
The accident happened late on a Saturday night. It didn’t take much investigating to realize that the phone is going to require some professional repairs, asap. Surprisingly, the touch screen and fingerprint sensor are still working, which means I’m able to unlock it. The problem I face is that 90 percent of the screen is an impenetrable mass of green. You don’t know frustration until you can see your notifications but can’t find out what’s in that text/email/Facebook message.
I go to bed despondent. Upon waking the next morning, I experience a pleasant few minutes where I forget the fact that my S7 is now an expensive paperweight. Sadly, the amnesia passes and the awful realization comes flooding back. Normally, the first thing I do when I open my eyes is check my phone; today, I just lie in bed and try to convince myself that I’ll have it back in my hands and working by the end of the coming week. I could not be more wrong.
The second instance where I feel my device’s absence comes later in the day when I answer the call of nature. Like 75 percent of people, I’m a toilet texter. When I realize I don’t have a working cell phone I panic slightly and try to remember how I went to the bathroom before the year 2000. I’m sure I used to take a book. I briefly wonder if I could get my MacBook Pro in there with me, before concluding that it would be disgustingly unhygienic (more so than a phone) and massively impractical.
Even though it’s a holiday, I decide to brave the roads in an attempt to find somewhere that can fix my annihilated S7. My first stop is the carrier store where I bought it. After I explain what happened and admit that I never took out the accidental damage insurance, the store assistant shakes his head and tells me: “Oh dear, that’s... not good.” I feel like a patient receiving bad news from a doctor. I’m told I need to try a local repair store, and if they can’t do it I need to go to the Samsung outlet, which is 15 miles from my house.
The local electronic fix-it store seems horrified when I show them the S7, and I'm promptly shown the exit. A trip to the Samsung outlet it is, then. One stressful, 15-mile drive through heavy traffic later and I arrive. My hope that this is the first step toward getting my phone back in working order by the end of the week is quickly shattered when I’m informed that the store can’t fix S7 Edges “yet.” I’m given a phone number for Samsung Direct and sent on my way.
When I call Samsung, I’m told the repair process involves the company sending out a UPS courier to pick up the Edge from my house, taking it to the depot where it will be fixed, and then returning it to me. Finally, I’m getting somewhere. But then I get more bad news: as it’s a national holiday, it won’t be picked up until the day after tomorrow. I’ve started to reach Hulk-like levels of fury.
I’m becoming aware of how often I check my phone on a daily basis. Normally, I’m not even conscious of the fact that I’m constantly inspecting it, but now I’m noticing how many times I forgetfully pick it up, let out a stream of profanity, and put it back down, only to do the same thing again 10 minutes later.
After the lack of a phone alarm caused me to sleep in yesterday, I opt to use my iPad's clock to wake me up. When it goes off in the morning, I reach down from the bed and aim for the snooze button, managing only to mash my hand across the screen and achieve nothing. Irritated, I pick it up to get a better look, but in my half-asleep haze I hold it awkwardly by the cover, causing the iPad to swing out and smack me in the face. I wonder at what point my hands turned into useless claws.
They say that the third day is the worst when it comes to quitting addictions. I can testify to this; after I stopped my 15-a-day smoking habit, it was around the 72-hour point when I started climbing the walls and chewing off my fingernails. I’m beginning to feel the same sensations now, albeit not as severe as nicotine withdrawal, admittedly. I keep the phone turned off, but I continue to instinctively reach for it, each time feeling a pang of misery when I remember why it’s silent. I actually crave the S7, and wish I had the equivalent of a nicotine patch.
The UPS man arrives later in the day! I’ll have my phone back by the end of next week, maybe even earlier...
Yesterday, I believe I was developing what could only be described as an electronic version of phantom limb pain. Even though my phone was gone, I swear I could feel its vibrations through my desk. It seems that after only five days my psychological withdrawal symptoms have reached levels of delusion. Later I learn "phantom vibration syndrome" is actually a thing.
Later I learn "phantom vibration syndrome" is actually a thing.
Today, I realized that there was something else I’d been relying on my phone to provide: directions. Upon hearing that I needed to drive to a far-off location that I’d never visited before, I decided to go old-ish school and grab some Google map printouts. Anyone who says that using sat navs while driving can be distracting has obviously never tried to read directions from a piece of A4 while navigating a busy city road network.
Tonight was spent in the city celebrating a friend’s engagement. I worry that not having a phone may be a bit of a problem should I need to contact people, so I borrow one. While this may contradict the whole “month without a smartphone” premise, I’d like to point out that the Doro PhoneEasy 632 clamshell I used for the night was far from ‘smart’ and barely qualified as a phone.
It’s probably been over six years since I last used a numerical keypad like the one on the Doro. It feels even longer as I struggle to send my first text, occasionally stabbing at the display when I forget that touchscreen functionality is beyond its capabilities.
After several vodka and red bulls, typing becomes even more challenging. It takes around 10 minutes to write a single sentence. At this point in the night it genuinely would be quicker to send messages using carrier pigeons. Worst of all, random people keep pointing and laughing at my Doro, many asking if I’ve just wandered in from 2005. I try taking some photos but most of them look like a Minecraft screenshot, which is lucky as the phone's 67 MB of internal memory gets used up pretty fast.
I miss my S7.
My TechSpot colleague Tim Schiesser posts a video on the site today called “This is what happens when you drop your Galaxy S7 Edge on the edge.” Confirmation that the S7 is easy to smash comes as something of a relief, and I wonder if he’ll have to wait as long as me to get it back from the repair center. The article reminds me that tomorrow will mark one week since UPS collected it. I decide I’ll contact the company in the morning to find out how much longer I’ll have to wait.
Have you ever had that horrible sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach that comes with finding out something really awful? That’s what I experienced today, and it was even worse than when I first smashed the phone.
It all started when I rang the Samsung customer service helpline. I’m told, after a very long process of checks and being put on hold for ages, that there is no record of my S7, and I need to call the repair center. After more waiting I finally get through to the UK site where faulty Samsung devices are sent. They tell me that my phone never arrived. At this point I’m starting to feel a sweat develop on my brow. I’m advised to contact UPS.
I ring the company and experience the kind of customer service courier firms are so famous for. In an almost accusing manner, I’m snappily told that as Samsung paid for the delivery it’s up to them to sort it out. I’m informed that I need to call the phone manufacturer, again. Why is this happening to me?
I make my fourth phone call within 30 minutes - the second one to Samsung - and I finally speak to someone who does the company proud. She apologizes profusely, even though it’s UPS’ fault, and tells me that an investigation will be launched - this is good news! Unfortunately, it will take eight working days to conclude - this is bad news. I’m assured that I’ll be kept up to date throughout. I thank her, hang up, and wonder if I accidentally smashed any mirrors recently.
At this point, I’ve started to forget what it’s like to have a phone with me all the time, constantly checking it.
It’s been just over two weeks since I last used a smartphone. Yes, I know I could have bought some dirt-cheap temporary replacement (and a better one than the Doro) but I keep convincing myself that my S7 will be back with me soon enough.
At this point, I’ve started to forget what it’s like to have a phone with me all the time, constantly checking it. They say people can get used to most new situations after a couple of weeks, and I think that’s what’s happening to me. I’m obviously furious about UPS losing it, but I don’t miss the S7 that much right now, certainly nowhere near the way I did in those first 10 or so days.
I take in a delivery and can’t remember what it is I ordered. It turns out to be the Android controller I purchased from eBay to use with my Gear VR; the one I bought the day before the accident. After everything that’s happened, and the incredibly long delivery time, I’d forgot all about it. I miss my phone again.
I’ve now waited eight working days and haven’t had a single update from Samsung. Somehow, this doesn’t surprise me. I decided to call the support line, as I’m starting to suspect the company is adopting an 'if we ignore him, he might go away' attitude.
I finally get put through to the right department and explain my predicament, which, by this point, takes some time. After about a minute of my non-stop talking, I’m told “I’m sorry sir, I can’t understand you,” which I find quite perplexing. “You’re on a bad line; I can’t hear a word you’re saying,” I’m told. Strangely, the person who transferred me had no issues with my ‘bad line.’ I try speaking louder and clearer, but to no avail. “Should I just hang up and call this number again?” I ask, exasperated. “That would probably be for the best,” he replies. Surprisingly, he heard that last question.
I hang up, redial, and go through the entire process of menus and transfers before reaching another customer service rep. I explain everything again, half expecting her to put on a fake French accent and tell me I need to ring back so I can talk to someone who speaks better English. Thankfully, I’m told UPS has refunded Samsung for the lost phone and I will be given a new device – as soon as I email my original receipt, contract, UPS delivery receipt and any other proof of purchase to Samsung support.
As you can imagine, by this point I’m starting to wonder if I’ve ever criticized Samsung in any previous articles, and maybe the whole thing’s a conspiracy.
After spending some time pacing around in a rage yesterday, I finally tracked down all the requested documents, scanned them, and sent them off to the email address I was given. Early this morning I receive a reply. Am I nearing the final stages of getting my phone back? By now I worry that I’ve forgotten how to use it. I certainly struggle to recall how it looked and felt, and even why I was so obsessed with it.
My excitement at receiving the email, which I assumed would tell me when my new S7 will arrive, quickly turns into blinding fury as I read the seven - yes seven - points that explain why I’m still not getting a new phone. These include the sent documents not showing certain details (they did), files not being in .PDF format (they were), an empty file being attached (it wasn’t), and no reference number (I was only ever given a Samsung service order number, which I included).
As you can imagine, by this point I’m starting to wonder if I’ve ever criticized Samsung in any previous articles, and maybe the whole thing’s a conspiracy. So, I write a response, pulling apart the email and pointing out that I sent my device away for repair three weeks ago and now it looks like I’m never going to get another one. My strongly worded reply (and the re-sent documents) seems to have done the trick; I receive another email thanking me and I’m told a customer rep will be in contact via my home telephone.
In 2 to 3 working days.
It’s been three working days since the email. I’ve waited until the late afternoon and, would you believe it, no phone calls from Samsung. I fire off another message which basically asks why the company hates me.
It’s close to a full month since I last used a smartphone. I’m now completely accustomed to living without one. Sure, I do miss checking apps like Facebook when I’m away from home, and only being able to contact friends via messenger on my desktop and MacBook is a pain, but I don’t feel distraught by not having access to a phone. Many people think they wouldn’t be able to go without one for this long, but it’s not an essential we require to survive.
Don’t get me wrong; I am looking forward to getting it back, but only in the same way I would look forward to enjoying TV/movies/games again if they had been taken from me for a month. I think addiction is sometimes too strong a word for our attachment to these devices. I love technology, obviously, but I believe it enriches our lives and isn’t some kind of electronic heroin.
I get a phone call at 9 AM. I feel nerves in my stomach. I answer it and yes, it’s Samsung. Everything has been sorted out - I’m getting a brand new S7 Edge. I’m even asked what color I want. It’s over. The journey is finally over. I feel like Frodo at the end of Lord of the Rings. I thank the customer service rep and tell her I’ll stick with black, thanks. She says it’s no problem and my new phone is being processed.
When will it arrive? In eight working f****** days!
So, what have I learned from this experience? Well, I know that going without a smartphone for nearly one and a half months - the total amount of time that will have passed when, or if, it finally arrives - is a pain and something I wouldn’t recommend, but I did get used to it after the first couple of weeks; mobile devices don’t have such a hold on us that we simply can’t cope without them.
There were no life-changing revelations; I didn’t suddenly decide to abandon all technology and go live in the woods somewhere, which would have no doubt made work difficult. But the experience did show me just how much time we spend gazing at our phones.
Will I take mine out of my pocket less often after this experience? Probably, and maybe we should all check our smartphones less - if only to prove to ourselves that we can do it. And, the most important lesson of all, at least for me, I'm definitely using a protective case moving forward.
I've also developed a hate for time measured in "working days."
I've been rocking my S7 Edge replacement for the better part of the last year. I'm happy to report there have been no further incidents since last time.