IPhoneless

The iPhone 7+ Is My Last iPhone, Ever! Did that grab your attention? Cause any confusion? Do you believe me when I say this approach will keep me off the grid and more secure than ever before? I can imagine it is confusing and surprising as this website’s sole focus is on iOS devices and for those of you who know me, I LOVE my iPhones, dating all the way back to the very first iPhone released a decade ago. So, what do I mean by no more iPhones? Well, it dates back to the year 2000.

FIRST PIONEERING VISION
In 2000, I had the vision of buying my first smart phone – the Neopoint 1000. It was a thing of beauty! I paid $500 for it, which at that time was just nuts. I cut my landline phone and when I made this announcement, family, friends, co-workers, colleagues…all them had this raging fear I was making a mistake, as if I was moving into the woods with no form of reliable communication. What if you lose your phone; what if your phone dies; what if it is stolen?

What really brought the vision to me was when I was first learning to screw up computers. I deleted a critical file, which made my OS inoperable and at the time, I didn’t have resources to easily buy a new one or fix the issue because I wasn’t savvy with computers at all. So, here I am one night, at a club enjoying myself and while sitting down at the bar to take a break, I feel my phone vibrate. That was the VERY first mobile email I had ever received, IN 2000! I had an epiphany! I am reading email on my Neopoint in the middle of the club, meaning I could read email ANYWHERE! Wow, this is the future of computing is what I thought, but the screen size, although the largest at the time, was going to be a hindrance. Here we all are now, 17 years later and the “cell phone only” movement is as robust as ever all over the world. Was I the first to do this? Certainly not, but I was definitely part of a very small, pioneering group at the time and it felt liberating!

SECOND PIONEERING VISION
In 2017, I have had my second vision – iPad ONLY. For myself, I keep both my iPhone 7+ and my 12.9″ iPad Pro set up almost exactly the same. So the nagging ulcer that was two iOS devices made me wonder, WHY do I need two of these things?! That’s right, I am making my iPad my only iOS device now. Yes, that means not having an iPhone or any phone for that matter, but there is a caveat to that; more later. Admittedly, I tried being iPad only / iPhone only when I bought the third generation iPad, but much like laptops couldn’t compete with desktops in the beginning, I discovered I couldn’t really make that happen for me at that time. Now, I 100% can make this happen, although I will still need to keep my MacBookAir for any major website changes and iOS local backups in iTunes. Otherwise, I will BARELY use it.

Anyway, this time around, when I unofficially made this announcement to about half a dozen people, the shock and surprise on their face (when in person) or the sounds of confusion or not being sure they heard me correctly (when on the phone), were a modern day reaction fitting for the time, but reminiscent of 2000 🙂 I received comments like, “I guess I will buy you a trailer to haul your iPad Pro around”, or “I guess you will need to buy a duffle bag to carry it around”, or “you are going to look funny with that iPad Pro stuck to the side of your head” 🙂

LET THE TESTING BEGIN!
The preface to the unofficial announcement was that I am in testing mode. Unlike 2000 where I just jumped off the cliff without looking back, this vision needed to have some planning involved due to the scope of what I was doing and all the people this would affect, in many more ways than in 2000.

CALLING
The first and most obvious thing I would need to test is the phone call aspect. What I realized though was, I don’t talk on the phone much anymore. Definitely not like I did in 2000. Today, texting in all the different forms, is king. I did a lot of reading and although phone calls on an iPad is nothing new, what I wanted to know was how reliable it would be. Skype is a joke and totally useless. Years of just using it to receive a few calls for a meeting, I have always hated Skype. Of course, there are other apps and the one that was referred to the most in my research was Google Voice. I didn’t want this because I don’t like using Google products. I ended up choosing Talkatone. The one lack of feature I don’t like about using this app is when I receive a call while not in the iPad, I get the notification, but I don’t have a way to answer the call until I am in the iPad and in the app.

The second thing is, you can’t make 911 calls from an iPad. This means I will need to add police station numbers of all the areas I typically hang out in. I can use a hashtag in front of the number to ensure they are at the top of the phone list. This is what I mentioned above about there being a caveat to being with an iPhone because although it is true, I have a work iPhone I could use for 911 if I really needed it.

UPDATE: Talkatone’s current version, 5.6.5 is turning out to be a total inconvenience because it crashes all the time now; texts I have sent don’t appear in the dialogue, but the person I am texting’s texts do appear; the app requires me to log in for no reason out of the blue, etc. I am probably going to end up ditching the app if they don’t fix it quickly, which may mean I will need to get a new number. Until then, for iOS owners, I have just been using FaceTime AUDIO calls, which works great. This is my preferred method anyway, as it is reliable and native to iOS.

DATA PLAN
The next step was to buy a data plan for my iPad Pro as it has cell capabilities. I am going to give credit to iMore for providing excellent information in using the Apple SIM, in their section titled, “What You Need To Know About The Apple SIM”. After reading that article, I was informed and ready to proceed. I HATE HATE HATE AT&T. Why? Ten years ago I signed up with them because they were the only carrier to have the iPhone. I was promised UNLIMITED DATA and of course, as time progressed, AT&T became crooks and began throttling data for iPhone users consuming more than 5GB of data a month. They eventually were fined $100M by the FCC for misleading consumers with unlimited data. So because they did this and basically snubbed all of us early adopters, I have wanted to leave them for years. What also spurred leaving AT&T is the current wars between the cell companies because now all of them offer the data cap limit at 22GB, which is what AT&T subscribers like me were given upon the FCC fine. All that said, I selected the T-Mobile data plan for $35 a month for 6GB of data.

T-Mobile has full circles for reception at home, unlike AT&T. Great start already. The next morning, I loaded my iPad Pro into the passenger seat, buckled it in with the seatbelt and then proceeded with my morning commute. I did a test call to the iPad from my iPhone and of course, it worked. The first thing I noticed though is, the volume of the ring tone was REALLY low. The 12.9″ iPad Pro comes with four speakers, but that didn’t help in this situation. So after further testing, I realized that Apple makes the iPhone volume for ringtones a heck of a lot louder than for an iPad. Makes sense. Not an issue for me, but could be for others if they are like me and don’t have a Bluetooth hands free calling setup in their vehicle. I imagine in a vehicle with those capabilities, volume won’t matter. The test for calling and receiving calls while being out and about and not connected to any WiFi connection was short lived because, well it works. The one feature I like about the Talkatone app is immediately after the calls ends, you are presented with a feedback feature where you can rate the quality of the call. If this feature really works and provides some quality data, this is a feature ALL cell carriers should implement as it would probably provide better data feedback than someone just complaining calls are being dropped or reception sucks.

UPDATE: Although I switched to Mint for cell service because I could get more GB per month than with T-Mobile, it turns out that for the three days I was with Mint, I could only get 3G cell service because I bought Mint as a cellphone service instead of their data service. It’s kind of odd that on my 12.9″ iPad Pro I was able to get LTE after a day, but on my iPad Mini 4 I was still not able to get LTE after 3 days. So, I have switched back to T-Mobile.

TEXTING
Next test was to text people on my iPad Pro using cellular, not WiFi. It just so happens that the first person I texted was an Android owner. The text was immediately “not sent” when I was using the native iMessage. I discovered that I had to turn on iMessage forwarding in my iPhone settings by going to Settings / Messages / Text Message Forwarding and then select iPad Pro. That fixed my issue and I still receive texts on my iPhone in iMessage, for now 🙂

UPDATE: now that my iPhone service is shut off, I can no longer do this. Texting through the Talkatone app, no matter who I text, is like texting from an Android and this will need to be used for all non-iOS owners going forward. For those of you who know me, you can continue to text me through iMessage by using the email address I provide you. Adding this development…I just discovered that Talkatone does not support automated verification services or SMS short codes, which are typically used to verify bank logins, two-factor authentication, etc. I will just need to ensure I am using my two-factor authentication app or my email for security verification.

APPS
Next up, apps. Although I have my iPad Pro set up pretty much the same as my iPhone, it’s not 100% exact. I discovered I actually needed to install about two dozen more apps on my iPad Pro. After all that was done, then I had to ensure any apps that contained content would need to be transferred over to the iPad. Overall, it took about an hour for all of this.

APPLE PAY
What about Apple Pay? I set that up on my iPad Pro. A couple of days later, I discovered that Apple Pay doesn’t work with anything other than iPhones and Apple Watches in a retail / kiosk setting. Apple Pay on an iPad only works for websites. Furthermore, I can’t use the Apple Watch anymore either as it requires an iPhone to be paired with as an Apple Watch can’t be paired with an iPad. Bummer! I LOVE Apple Pay and used it daily.

CUTTING THE CORD
What a happy day it was to cut the cord from AT&T! Woohoo! Second in line was now only having to manage and maintain a single iOS device. I’ll still keep my iPhone 7+ and not even wipe it. But it will be off and in safe storage. So now my phone bill of about $125 a month (WITH a discount) has now dropped to about $55 a month!

NO CELL PLAN = SECURITY FROM BIG BROTHER
Another realization came to me in this process. By not having a cellular plan tied to a phone number and instead, having a phone number tied to an app using a data plan, I have increased my privacy and security to substantially less of a footprint. How? There will no longer be any cell phone tracking of me and I will no longer receive ANY phone bills logging all the numbers I call. That’s right. By using an app, I have no cell phone bills, no paper trail, nothing. I am “off the grid” in that sense as my only real tie is the data plan with T-Mobile, but T-Mobile is not capable of capturing numbers I call or calls I receive as that capability is only through the Talkatone app, which is not a carrier. Pretty cool huh?! Sure, the number I am using will be logged in the billing statement of who I am calling or receiving calls from and that person’s carrier will be able to see that, BUT good luck trying to pin that number onto me. Additionally, if I want to, I can simply and very immediately change my number at anytime. Try doing that with your cell carrier! The only way I can be tracked now is if I allow GPS to be used on my iPad and T-Mobile allows triangulation of my last known cell tower pings. That alone will significantly reduce my digital footprint.

IPAD MODEL CHOICE
So what model of iPad will I use? At the moment, I am using the large 12.9″ iPad Pro. I used this as my testing iPad since I already own it and I bought it with data capabilities. I wanted to ensure the test would work before I decide to purchase a different iPad since at this point, I don’t know if I want to lug around that large of an iPad all the time, although I totally love its size. I have also owned the iPad Mini 4 and love that size as well. So the plan is, use my current iPad Pro and wait to see if the rumors are true about an iPad Mini 5 or Pro comes out in June. If so, I will buy that one and then sell my current iPad Pro. The iPad Mini is a perfect size to do ALL of what I need to do, so it is ideal. BUT, if the other rumors are true, Apple might kill off the iPad Mini and if so, I might have to buy an iPad Mini 4 and make it last as long as I can. Maybe I will discover the iPad Pro works just fine since I don’t make a lot of calls and of course, would use headphones to make / receive calls.

UPDATE: After the June 5th, 2017 WWDC announcement of the new iPad lineup, there was nothing mentioned about iPad Minis. So it looks like the iPad Mini 4 is going to be the last iPad Mini made. Next day, I went to Apple and purchased the 128GB iPad Mini 4 with cell service and have been using it ever since. I will admit, I have missed using the iPad Mini 4 as I have had a couple of them. I have now bought a Brydge keyboard and a very large capacity Anker battery power brick.

CONCLUSION
This approach is not for everyone. There is a mental and physical change of habit with this approach. There are people who can’t do this for other reasons, such as emergency responders and others. For myself, I am excited and happy that I will no longer need to buy a new iPhone every other release, that I would have to plop down over a $1,000 each time. Most importantly, I don’t have to maintain two devices that are practically the same.