This Wired Article From 2007 About Throwing Away Your Mobile Phone Makes Some Good Points

Mobile phones in Tokyo, Japan in January 2007
Photo: Getty Images

Everyone gets frustrated with their mobile phones at some point, leading many of us to fantasize about throwing our shit into the ocean and just living without one. And back in the ancient world of 2007, that was a much more reasonable possibility. A Wired article from July 31, 2007 made the case that there were plenty of good reasons to ditch your phone. Many of those reasons still apply today.

The first reason on the list to ditch your cellphone was that “It makes your life more complicated.” And while that’s still pretty true, the reasons given might be a little different in 2019. See if you can spot what I mean.

A phone is just another thing that checks email, holds information and schedules events, and which has to be carefully kept in sync with all the other crud in your life that checks email, holds information and schedules events. The difference? This one likely has a 240 pixel-wide screen and a shabby interface spawned from the hellish loins of Windows CE.

Advertisement

Yes, even smartphones were pretty primitive back in 2007. The iPhone had just been released on June 29, 2007, and obviously hadn’t hit the masses yet, so that 240 pixel-wide screen was much closer to the norm.

The next reason on the list was, “It’s horribly expensive.” This one is still painfully true, even if you adjust for inflation since 2007.

Total Cost of Ownership. Apply that idea to everything, not just cars and mortgages. The fact is that most cellphones will cost you thousands over the life of the contract. Short of paying-as-you-go with a Wal-Mart crapdybar, you’re in it for a good $1,000, and about $2,000 or so with a smartphone.

The next reason was that having a cellphone “enslaves you to a one-sided contract,” something that is perhaps much less true than it was in 2007, but still an issue if you don’t buy your phone outright.

This is the magic that allows the previous item to happen, but is sufficiently vile to warrant an entry of its own. Everyone is at it, but the most iconic example of how times have changed is AT&T: Ma Bell has reglued itself together with almost Marxian inevitability, but now has the advantage of having countless customers under astonishingly abusive contract terms. Take that, deregulation.

Advertisement

The next reason on the list is perhaps the one that can be the most frustrating for those of us about to enter the third decade of the 21st century. The writer Rob Beschizza complains that cellphones make you “perpetually available.”

If it’s on, they can get you. If it’s off, they wonder why they can’t get you. It’s a lose-lose situation for your Zen.

Advertisement

Another reason that you were supposed to throw away your phone was that it was “boring.”

The hype tsunami surrounding Apple’s iPhone reveals that even something minimally inventive can completely wire public interest in what is otherwise a completely hidebound and risk-averse industry. Are we in the future yet?

Advertisement

The next reason was that mobile phones had to be “constantly recharged,” another thing that we haven’t grown out of quite yet.

Unless you want to hoik around a brick, the chances are you’re recharging it daily. Screw fuel-cells: with WiFi, BlueTooth, WWAN and whatever else, we need AAA-size disposable fission reactors to keep these buggers awake.

Advertisement

In fact, battery life has only gotten worse since 2007, as more features eat up more of our battery life—a technology that hasn’t advanced fast enough for our desires.

Another reason that you were supposed to throw away your phone was that “it knows where you are.”

GPS is in every box, but you can’t use it for much. The government loves to watch them without warrants or probable cause: if it’s in your pocket, you are Robocop and The Man is Dick Jones.

Advertisement

Of course, GPS technology has advanced in phones quite a bit since 2007. I remember trying to use my first generation iPhone for navigation back in 2007, before it had GPS, and it was an absolute disaster. But these days, we know a lot more about the ways in which all kinds of people, government and private actors, are trying to track us using our phones. And it’s as good a reason as any to ditch the stupid thing.

The next reason that you were supposed to get rid of your phone in 2007 was that “It encourages stupid people to become a public menace.”

Forget about whether talking on cellphones while driving should be illegal: the fact remains that it is stupid. I know that you are perfectly capable of the mental gymnastics required for all this — you are a hypercephalic Gadget Lab reader — but it’s best that you stop now, so as not to encourage lesser minds to attempt similar feats. Some are now being caught texting while driving. Just pull the car over, for heaven’s sake!

Advertisement

Using your phone while driving is now illegal in most states, but it often depends what you’re doing with it. 48 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, all ban texting while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, but just 21 states ban holding your phone to talk while driving.

Another reason the article wanted people to abandon phones was those “Ubiquitous pleather accessory shops” that were popping up in shopping malls across the country.

Mallbound Cellphone crap shacks are an offense to nature. On the bright side, they support the whitewashed pegboard industry.

Advertisement

The mall kiosks may have evolved somewhat, but the fundamental spirit of the tacky mall phone accessory hawker is still there. Pleather is out, but no doubt bootleg Baby Yoda iPhone covers will be the hottest stocking stuffers of the holiday season.

Alas, the last reason the article had for ditching your phone was maybe the least relevant to 2019.

Hell is other people’s ringtones.

I’m not sure the last time I heard a ringtone in the wild. The future is an annoying place with plenty of bings and boops. But most humans have learned to turn off their ringtones. At least we advanced on one issue over the last decade.

Advertisement

Share This Story

About the author

Matt Novak

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog