Going NoPhone

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Almost all cellphones are full of proprietary software and have other anti-features, like being tyrant devices. According to Replicant there is currently no ideal smartphone in terms of privacy, security or freedom. Even less-than-ideal devices can be too expensive for many. This article is meant to help people who are considering going (or maybe have to go) NoPhone.

Benefits of going NoPhone

While freedom, privacy and security are essential and good enough reasons to go NoPhone on their own, here are some additional benefits you might experience.

More presence

You are more aware of your surroundings. You find it funny when you look around and everyone is looking down at their smartphone.

More stable mental state

The dopamine rushes (and crashes) you get from checking messages, social media and playing mobile games will be gone. This leaves you generally calmer.

Your response time will be delayed, so you have time to calm down and think before you respond to a message. You won't have any more "User is typing" indicators or "seen" receipts to encourage you to be anxious or impatient.

More self-reliance

Instead of immediately reaching out for help, you have to face and solve your own problems. You might find that you are more resourceful, capable and sociable than you thought.

More money

Oh yea, almost forgot. Those things are expensive.

Making phone calls

If you have not used a landline in a long time (or ever), keep in mind that sometimes you may need to put 0 or 1 in front of a phone number to make the call and that sometimes you need to press 9 to dial out before you can dial the actual phone number.

Leverage phones in places where you spend most of your time

Make use of landline phones that may already be available in your home, at work, school, university, etc.

Know where there are phones available to you for gratis use

  • If you have a bank account, there may be a public phone at a branch that you can use.

Know where there are payphones in your area

  • Some shopping malls have pay phones
  • Some libraries have pay phones
  • Most airports have pay phones
  • Most Grayhound bus stations have pay phones

Asking strangers to borrow their phone

In a pinch, you might need to borrow a phone from someone. Try to exhaust all your other options first.

Meeting up with people

If you are NoPhone it might be a good idea to make more solid plans with people about when and where you're going to meet. This takes some social currency and maybe getting stood up once or twice.

When going somewhere with people, think carefully before splitting up. Do not split up without first establishing a few meetup plans. Pick a place to meet up at periodically at regular times. Pick a place to go if someone gets lost. If all else fails, go to a customer support desk and ask to page the lost person over the intercom.

Otherwise communicating with family and friends

If you cannot convince your friends or family to give up proprietary software, you might be able to convince then to use a matrix client like Riot.im. You can then use any libre matrix client to make voice and video calls, chat, and send files to them.

You might also be able to communicate via email.

You don't have to give up standard texting (SMS). JMP Chat is a freedom-respecting service that lets you have a real phone number to text and call with. Texts and voicemail go to your favorite XMPP instant messaging client, and calls can go to your home phone. It's very handy for sharing photos and chatting with lots of people.

Walkie talkies are great for when you are out somewhere and can't find each other after splitting up. Tell them which channel you'll be listening and talking on and make sure everyone is on it. Walkie talkies have no freedom issues, are more rugged and waterproof, have excellent battery life, provide weather information, and are decentralized. Many use the same chargers that cellphones do and have a decent range.

Keeping track of contacts

It is recommendable to have at least your most essential phone numbers on your person at all times.

Keeping track of events

Taking notes

Carry a pen and a small notepad with you.

Keeping track of time

A watch can be inexpensive and have additional functions.

Maps and navigation

Many maps are available. Some maps are laminated, durable, and allow drawing routes with dry erase markers. Keep common routes marked on your map for easy access.

Needing light

There are many little LED lights and flashlights that fit easily on a keychain.


Any camera that does not get firmware updates, run Android, connect to Facebook, or run applications should be fine. Some cameras are very small and can fit on a keychain.

Listening to music on the go

Since MP3 patents have expired, any cheap little MP3 player that does not get firmware updates or run apps will work well.

General tips and tricks

  • Whether or not you go NoPhone, you might find that it is a lot easier and quicker to tell a pushy sales or marketing person that you do not have a phone or email rather than you do not want to give it out.

LibrePlanet people who have gone NoPhone

Here are testimonials from people who have gone NoPhone.

Caleb: I have had NoPhone since 2013. I always carry with me a little calculator, a little keychain flashlight, a pen, and a notepad with phone numbers. Most places I go have a telephone, and I use the one that is there. For texting, I use JMP Chat with my personal phone number and instant messaging client on my laptop. I have never had to worry about losing contact.

Roberto: I have had NoPhone since 2019. When I leave the house, I usually take my wallet with a few contacts in it, my keys, and my Casio calculator watch. If I'm going to be away by myself for a while or I otherwise need it, I take my laptop. I mostly communicate via email or matrix and the desk phone I have at work. I'm definitely privileged as a man in a familiar area, but my experience so far has been one of increased focus and lower anxiety. While there have been a few difficult moments, what I've lost in security has generally been gained in moments of adventure and great humanity.

Schuyler: I have had NoPhone since 2008. When I leave the house, I carry only the following five things: (1) my house key, (2) my ID, (3) my health-insurance card, (4) my museum pass, (5) and $50 in cash. I communicate via e-mail, instant messaging on my laptop, or my landline phone. I spend the best part of the day outside, walking (a lot of walking), and really enjoy the time I get to spend away from electronics and unreachable. Not having a phone has never been a problem for me.

Pere: I've gone NoPhone in May 2022. I have a music player with Rockbox installed. When I have some trip to make via road, I look in advance at the map and bus/train schedule. I have a landline phone at home. I have a virtual phone number for SMS, Signal, etc. (not JMP but I just found JMP and considering to switch). I sometimes ask people for a phone call or about public transportation. If I leave my house for a few days, and need to be available or work etc., I take my laptop with me. On my self-hosted Matrix server, I have the Matrix-whats4pp, Matrix-telegram and Marrix-faceb00k bridges installed, which supports me in staying connected to the world and to people and communicating effectively, while using a Matrix client. Since Signal requires a phone, I have it installed on my laptop via Waydroid. The camera for linking devices doesn't work, as well as some other features e.g. changing phone number, but it didn't in a VM setup either (I wrote to Signal support to ask about that, they said it's not the supported use case so they won't fix it). For whatsapp, I have it installed in an android-x86 VM (since whatsapp is proprietary I really don't feel comfortable to install it via Waydroid, really prefer that it's separate in a VM), and I launch the VM for a minute once every 2 weeks or so, to avoid the Matrix-whatsapp bridge losing connection to whatsapp. People are used to last-minute messaging, so when I have an event/meeting coming, I sometimes need to ask about details in advance, e.g. the day before rather than the morning of the event. And I sometimes need to explain that I don't carry a mobile phone so I can't be reached when on my way to the event, but might borrow someone's phone for a call. A Matrix-Signal bridge exists, but it uses signald which seems much less secure and not audited etc., so I'm using Signal directly (via Waydroid). I use Signal for activism and I need it to be secure.

This page was a featured resource in June 2023.