Under what I call the “constant companion model,” we now see our smartphones as always-on portals to information. Instead of improving activities that we found important before this technology existed, this model changes what we pay attention to in the first place — often in ways designed to benefit the stock price of attention-economy conglomerates, not our satisfaction and well-being.
We’ve become so used to the constant companion model over the past decade that it’s easy to forget its novelty. As a computer scientist who also writes about the impact of technology on culture, I think it’s important to highlight the magnitude of this shift, as it seems increasingly clear to me that Mr. Jobs probably got it right the first time: Many of us would be better off returning to his original minimalist vision for our phones.
Practically speaking, to be a minimalist smartphone user means that you deploy this device for a small number of features that do things you value (and that the phone does particularly well), and then outside of these activities, put it away.