Why I'm Unironically Carrying This Small, Older Android Phone

I thoroughly enjoyed my last night in Berlin a little over a week ago; so much that I didn’t notice my phone was missing until the end of the night. Shake your head and say it couldn’t happen to you. I thought the same thing until it did. Normally, I keep my phone in one of my front pockets, but I was wearing a coat that covered the pocket, making it a bit more difficult to grab my phone quickly to check Google Maps. Since my coat has a side access pocket in the chest, I stowed my phone there while walking around. I’m guessing a skillful thief at the last bar spotted my phone in that side pocket and was able to slide it out without me knowing. I was in a crowded room and often looking to one side as I talked to different people. Self-shaming thoughts aside, sometimes it happens.

Pro Tip: When traveling abroad, keep your main SIM card with your luggage at your hotel/rental. Buy a local SIM if possible for faster data. Losing my phone but not my main SIM card made a bad situation a bit better.

Once I noticed my phone was missing, I faced all manner of unusual challenges. Did I remember the address of my AirBnB flat? How will I wake up on time for my train in the morning without an alarm? How will I get to the train station? Luckily I was able to get back to the flat without a problem. I did wake up too late for my train the next morning, but had no problem navigating to the train station after checking the route on my laptop before leaving.

I arrived at the train station and learned that there was another train a couple hours later. Not bad. This gave me time to grab a flat white & croissant and then do some phone shopping. With the self-shaming level still high, I decided I didn’t want to spend more than 200€ on a (possibly temporary) replacement. At that price level, a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini was pretty much my only choice. It shipped with KitKat (4.4.2) and withholding Samsung’s TouchWiz UI nonsense, it’s proven to be a pretty decent little phone. Installing the CyanogenMod 12 ROM got me a stock Android UI and that sweet, sweet Lollipop.

The more technically savvy among you may ask whether I was able to track my device using the Android Device Manager. This is all it’s shown for the past week:

Android Device Manager


After carrying the S4 Mini for a week, I've realized a few things:
  1. I miss small phones. I don’t need a phone with a five inch screen for most things. I have an Android Wear watch, so a large portion of my interaction with my phone occurs via my wrist anyway.
  2. Doing Android development on a flagship phone blinds us to what most of our users (even more so for global apps) are experiencing. Who has phones that old/small/underpowered? Most people.
  3. Paraphrasing Tyler Durden, “You are not your smart phone.” Who cares what phone you have. A more interesting question is, “What do you do with it?”

So why am I unironically carrying this small, older Android phone? I think it will help me build better apps. And it may annoy me just enough to spend less time on my phone and more time experiencing the world around me.