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Going Phoneless

Life in the 21st century without a cell phone


Category: Technology

Part of the equation that made going phoneless a reasonable possibility for me was the addition of Google Voice calling inside of Gmail. I have been using Google Voice for over a year, and I have been quite fond its voicemail transcription and SMS features. I can send and receive SMS messages for free from my Google Voice account, and if someone calls (and I don’t answer) their voicemails are transcribed and emailed to me!

The only missing detail, though, was the ability to make calls. But last month, Google added voice calling to Gmail. So now in addition to SMS and voicemails, I can make and receive phone calls, all from within a service I already use: email. (Okay, technically, I have to switch over to Voice to send an SMS.)

And even better, the service is free, and calls made within the US are free. So if you’re not making international calls, there is no cost whatsoever. But if you do make international calls, the rates are still pretty good.

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For most people, I believe that Google Voice could, on its own, completely replace their phone service. In a future post, I’ll talk about why it’s only 80% of the equation for me, and why Skype makes up the last 20% of my plan.


It’s impossible to foresee how long I’ll be able to do this, or how successful I’ll be. For now it’s an experiment, and here’s how I’ll be doing it.

I still have several months left on my 2-year contract with AT&T, so I will be hanging on to my phone for a while. For the past week, I’ve just been exercising self-control, trying to only use the phone and internet when I’m in the presence of WiFi. This was in order to build new habits regarding phone use in general.

This week, I’m switching off the 3G and Cellular Data options, perhaps turning them on once at the end of the day to check for any missed text messages from people I still need to inform about my new contact information.

I have already begun giving my new contact information to people. I expect that by next week, I should feel pretty comfortable leaving my phone in airplane mode, or completely turned off… or even just leaving it at home.

Of course I will probably elect the “airplane mode” option so I can continue to use the iPod features and any apps I have on the phone. And I can switch off airplane mode when I’m in the presence of WiFi if I want to use the internet. This is also nice in case an emergency comes up and I need to use the phone… but I expect to find better alternatives for emergencies before long.

So far, I’m not really finding this to be terribly difficult. The biggest adjustment is how to deal with answering skype phone calls — especially when I’m at work. I’ll get to that in a future post!

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