Using An iPhone, Without The Phone…

In my never ending quest to do more with less, I bring you the story of the iPhone and the changes I have made regarding said device.

I’ve been a fan of the iPhone since it first came out and it has become a very important piece of equipment for my day to day existence.  I bank on it, do emails, text, social media, and a bunch of other functions.  In fact, I could almost get by with just the iPhone as my only device, getting rid of the computer, but not quite.  There are still some things I do which requires said computer so for now, I have both.

My current iPhone iteration is the 5S.  It’s about 3 years old now and has held up well for all the banging around I give it.  The only real issue I have had was the battery over heating in the Key West climate.  It was an cheap and easy fix and since then the 5S has worked as well as it did when I first got it.

But last fall I was all set to purchase the next new iPhone, namely the 7.  I, as did many others, anxiously awaited the announcement on what new and wondrous features the new device would have.  But after seeing it, and studying what it did, and what I was doing with the iPhone, I changed my mind, for a variety of reasons.

I guess the number one reason most people get a smartphone is for the phone.  You know, making calls to other people.  I see them doing it all the time…while sitting, walking, driving, or doing other things which require one’s full attention but dammit, this call is important and they have to take it right now.  Beats me what everyone is talking about.  Anyways, I hate actually talking to people, especially on the phone.  I don’t really verbalize very well, preferring to express myself with the written or digital word.  So I began to take a closer look at how much I was using the phone on the iPhone.  Turns out, not much.

My phone was originally bought from Sprint.  It had the usual contract which I had paid off a year early, and came with unlimited everything, minutes, text, and inter webs.  It seemed nice to have all this but it also cost upwards of $90 a month.  As always, I was looking to eliminate bills so I began to study how much I was using all the features.  Turns out I was barely using 100 minutes a month for phone calls.  I averaged one call a week, to family, the occasional call to a friend, and once in a great while, when I really wanted to torture myself, I would have to call customer support at some corporate hive and argue with a clueless worker bee who could only follow a script.  I began to question why I was paying all this money for something I didn’t use.  A bit of research revealed a lot of people were doing the same thing and dropping said carriers in favor of cheaper ways to communicate.  So here is what I did.

Firstly, I unlocked the iPhone.  All carriers will allow you to do this.  Unlocking means you are no longer tied to their networks unless you want to be and are free to use your device with other networks, or in my case, no networks.

Next I closed my Sprint contract out.  No more paying them all the money for stuff I could do for free or nearly free.  Once the contract was closed I yanked out the sim card.  What I now had was essentially, a glorified iPod.  All the same features of the iPhone, just without the phone feature.  But a phone was still a bit necessary.  It’s almost impossible to function without a usable phone so I went to the next best thing, an old tactic many people are using today.

I reopened my Skype account.  Skype is a VOIP service allowing one to make phone calls with or without video to just about anyone else, as long as one has an internet connection.  Calls to others in your Skype network are free and you can buy a number, which I did for about $60 a year, and pay for some minutes, which are cheap, and you can pretty much call anyone in the U.S.  International calls are different, but I never call international.  So, armed with a Skype number, and some minutes on hand, I can continue to make my few calls every month as long as I have internet.  For now, I have good internet here at the place I am renting, and finding a hotspot is pretty easy.  Most restaurants, coffeeshops, and other places usually offer some sort of free internet.  While the quality of the calls are not the greatest, Skype functions well enough to work for my needs.

However, Skype has one minor defect.  You cannot receive text messages.  I have no idea why the rocket surgeons at Skype have not figgered this one out yet, but it don’t.  So, again after some careful research, I found a free solution to text messaging…namely, Pinger.

Pinger offers free text messages in a simple and easy to use format.  You sign up, chose a phone number, and you are set to go.  They have an app as well as a website.  You can text all you want and receive the same.  It’s free, all you need to do is put up with some ads in your timeline.  No big deal.  And, if needed, you can add minutes to your phone number ($10 buy 100 minutes) and have VOIP call option, just like Skype.  So, I got set up on Pinger and now have two phone numbers, which comes in handy as one serves as a personal, the other business.  All this for less than $100 a year compared to spending $1200 a year with Sprint, plus the cost of the iPhone, which brings up another issue.

After taking a close look at the iPhone 7 and comparing it to my 5S and what I currently do with said 5S, I realized there was very little justification to dropping $650 or better on an unlocked phone.  I was not about to go to any of the major carriers again, so what would the point be to upgrading?  The iPhone 7 has a few features I would like to have:  ApplePay, a more better camera, and it’s water resistant (something which comes in real handy in my lifestyle).  But none of these features is enough to warrant dropping hundreds of dollars on a new phone, at least not yet.  The 5S does everything else I need it to do and it does it quite well.  So why fix it if it ain’t broke?

If I did need to replace said 5S, I would more likely get a new iPod, which does everything the 5S does, without the phone feature (but Skype and Pinger will work fine on it).  The iPod has a less fancy camera, no ApplePay and no gps, but it also can be had for $200.  A big difference in cost.

The only other real reason I had intended to upgrade to the fancy new iPhone 7 was so I had an up to date testing platform for my apps.  Since I have all but abandoned app development, given it ain’t making any money, there is no reason to upgrade.

So, for now, I will continue to use my trusty old 5S until the wheels fall off or I decide to come up with a legitimate reason to upgrade.  One nice thing is now, I can sell said 5S on a site like Gazelle, get $85 back, or sell it direct online, and have a significant amount to put towards a new device, be it the iPhone 7 or 8, or just simple iPod.  But it just ain’t necessary right now.  I can still make phone calls, all other features of the iPhone are still there, I can get by with all the features of the new version, so why bother.

In the end, I can still get all I need out of the iPhone without spending anymore money.  Simplicity from complexity.

Capt. Fritter

If anyone has any questions on how to do any of this stuff or has a more better solution than what I have written about here, please, by all means, drop a comment and share.