A bunch of phones now have these new “time well spent” options, which tell you how much time you’re spending in all of your apps, and it gives you an option to lock yourself out of the app if you use it for too long.
Here’s mine, and… wow. I watch a lot of TikTok, and I make a lot of puns on Twitter, and I play a lot of holedown. But the holedown shouldn’t count because I do it on my commute, and so it’s time I would have wasted anyway, and… (sputters) (sighs) Okay, fine.
This is bad. And the truth is, I’ve tried setting limits on all of these apps, and you know what I do every time I hit that limit — and I mean every time? I go back into the settings, I turn off limits, and I just keep using the app.
That’s a problem. It’s a problem I really need to solve. I need to be frittering away less and writing and making videos like this one more. And it turns out that there are gadgets that promise to help solve this problem, like this Palm phone right here that was released last year.
It’s a second phone that’s designed to help me leave this attention-sucking phone behind. But here’s a question: can a gadget really save me from my phone? So, yeah, this is the Palm phone, and maybe you’ve heard of it.
It’s super cute, right? Like, it’s adorable. In a way, this Palm thing is a phone that’s designed to not be that great but be there if you need it. Here’s how it works: you pay Verizon — and it’s only available on Verizon — $10 a month, and it shares your phone number with your main phone.
It runs Android 8, which means that you can install any app you want on it, but you shouldn’t do that. Just install what you really need when you’re out with just this phone. The idea behind the Palm phone, it’s, you know… it’s not that bad.
In fact, it’s so good that when people look at this thing, and they see it, and they think it’s so cute, they don’t actually want to believe me when I tell them that this phone is bad. Some of the design choices on this phone are just off.
The software skin has this thing that’s supposed to remind you of the original Palm OS, but it just doesn’t work. And it defaults into this kind of airplane mode whenever the screen is off, which is theoretically there to help stop alerts.
But really, it’s there to stop battery life-sucking because the battery life, it sucks a lot, almost as much as the camera sucks on this thing. Now, there are other light phones out there or even straight-up dumb phones, but they don’t run apps, and so that’s the point of this phone.
Sometimes there’s just one app that you really need to have with you, like, say, Uber for calling a car, and this lets you have it. And then it’s on you to not install apps that waste your time on it, like holedown.
I installed holedown on it. Yeah. Look, the Palm phone is badly designed, but even if it were perfect, it would still have problems because our cellphone networks aren’t set up to allow something like this to exist.
Just as one example, getting texts on it is super complicated. You have to use Verizon’s terrible Message+ app. But also, if you use iMessage on your main phone, or RCS on a Pixel or WhatsApp or Signal or whatever, you don’t get those text messages on here.
They only go to your main phone, so… yeah. A phone for your phone. It’s a nice idea, but it’s impossible to make it right unless all of our carriers change all of their rules about how phone numbers work.
You know, maybe I should make a video about that. Now, there are other gadgets that could help you use your phone less. LTE-connected smartwatches like the Apple Watch or the Galaxy Watch can actually help.
If you have one, it does just enough to let some people leave their phone behind for short trips or going for a jog or whatever. It can get your texts and your phone calls and even notifications, but it’s still not as good at doing most things as a smartphone is.
There’s no getting around the fact that you’ve just got this tiny screen on a watch, and Siri just won’t do everything you want it to. Another category that you might not think of as keeping you away from your smartphone: smart speakers.
Now that I have a few of them in my house, I pull my phone out of my pocket just a little less often. On a speaker, you can’t check your email or, you know, play holedown. “Hey, Google, play holedown.
” [Google Assistant] Okay, “Hold On” by Chord Overstreet. Here it is on Spotify. Who the hell is Chord Overstreet? (acoustic guitar music) Whatever. “Hey, Google, stop.” It means that you use the speaker to get a quick calendar reminder or check the news or send a message without getting distracted by the rest of the crap that’s on your phone.
It can just stay there in your pocket. Oh, hey, I really do want to mention one thing here. You haven’t heard a particular word in this video, and that word is “addiction.” You’ve heard the term “smartphone addiction” all the time, everywhere, but the science on whether or not it’s a real addiction is still unclear.
In fact, Rachel Becker has written a really good article about this. So one of the problems with calling it “smartphone addiction” is that there are so many things you could be doing on your smartphone.
You could be shopping, you could be playing games, you could be checking social media or gambling or watching porn. And so it may not be the phone itself that’s the problem. It could be any of the things your phone allows you to do.
Where does all of this leave us when it comes to escaping these attention-hoarding monster machines? Well, sorry, Chuck. You’re on your own to figure that out right now. Maybe all of these screen time settings that you can get on iPhones and Pixel phones, maybe they could work for you.
Maybe you’re strong enough to just leave your phone in your pocket all the time. Heck, maybe even one of those gadgets that I mentioned could help you with that, if so, bully for you. They don’t work for me, though.
I see the behavior that I want to change, but I’m just not changing it. So here’s my plan, at least right now: it doesn’t help me to learn that I screwed up and wasted a bunch of time on an app when I hit a time limit from a “time well spent” thing.
I need a barrier before I start, and that barrier is probably obvious: uninstall the apps. That way, if I really need them, I’ll have to go through the hassle of reinstalling them before I use them. And I’m also going to move a bunch of apps off my home screen so I don’t see them most of the time.
Do you have a plan? Do you think you need one? It’s worth thinking about, and it’s probably worth doing something about. There are a bunch of software solutions, and there are those gadget solutions. But, I don’t know, for me — and trust me because I’ve tried it dozens of times — there is not a gadget that currently exists that has really saved me from the gadgets that I already have.
And I’m betting it’s the same for you. Hey, thanks so much for watching, and let me know in the comments what’s your guilty pleasure app? Mine is definitely holedown, obviously. And if you haven’t seen it, The Verge has been running this series called Better Worlds.
It’s a fiction series that imagines a future where things are actually, like, good because of technology, instead of being completely destroyed by it. We’ve got videos, we’ve got podcasts, and we’ve got short stories, and you should definitely check them all out.