Turn Your iPhone Into a Dumb Phone: The Simple Guide (2023)
by Ben Pages on Aug 3, 2022
Turning your iPhone into a dumb phone is a nuclear option for bringing back focus and intention into your life.
Once you're through with this tutorial, your phone will have no apps, no browser, and no colors. It will be as dumb as a flip phone.
A dumb phone is boring.
It can’t find directions. It doesn’t know Dave Chappelle’s birthday. And it won't teach you how to roast a chicken. At most, it will be able to wake you up in the morning and keep track of your appointments.
In this tutorial, we’ll focus on the cleanest setup possible. We’re going back to first principles to show you how to turn your iPhone into the dumbest of all phones.
How to Dumb Down an iPhone
1. Delete All Deletetable Apps
Yes. All apps. You can always add back whatever you need later.
Swipe left from your home screen until you reach the App Library. From there, hold your finger down on an icon until a menu appears. Select Delete App and confirm when prompted. Repeat until all apps are gone. Some apps, Apple won’t let you delete, like Safari and the Camera. We’ll take care of those in the next step.
2. Disable Safari
Although you can’t delete Safari from your phone, you can tweak your phone’s settings to disable access to the app. This will remove it from the App Library.
Open Settings Look for Screen Time and turn on Screen Time (if not already activated) Then select Content and Privacy Restrictions and turn the restrictions on. Go to Allowed Apps and toggle Safari off
If you want you can also deactivate the Camera, although we consider it more useful than distracting.
3. Turn off notifications for all apps
We only want to be notified of phone calls and messages. You want to turn off notifications for all other apps that remain on your phone.
To turn off notifications, open your Settings app and navigate to Notifications. All apps should be marked as Off. If they aren’t, open them one by one and toggle notifications off.
If you absolutely need to keep notifications on for a particular app, make sure to toggle off badges. They are the red dots that appear on your home screen to indicate new activity in an app.
These are designed to steal your attention away and should be deactivated for all apps.
4. Turn your phone to grayscale
The colors of your phone are yet another distraction. So let’s turn our iPhone to grayscale so we’re not tempted to tap on anything that doesn’t serve our interest.
In the Settings app, find Accessibility -> Display & Text Size -> Color Filters. Toggle Color Filters on and select Grayscale.
5. Add apps that bring value to your life
Congrats, you’ve dumbed down your phone. The apps that remain should be your camera, photo album, wallet, clock, and not much else.
It’s time to test drive your new phone and make adjustments. Take it out for a full day and notice what apps you are missing.
Don't reinstall them just yet. First, try to find workarounds.
If you are tempted to add Google Maps back to your phone, see if you can figure out your way to your dentist somehow else. Maybe ask someone for directions. Or leave earlier so you can afford to get lost for some time.
Think of other devices you might be able to leverage for other tasks, like music (iPod), reading (Kindle), and calendar (binder calendar) in order to keep your phone as dumb as possible.
Social media apps like Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube are off limits. News and shopping apps too. Stay away from any app that forces you into a reactive state. These apps aim to manipulate and monetize your attention.
Instead, favor apps that facilitate productivity and creative output. Like Notes, Reminders, Voice Memos, and the Calendar.
Why a dumb phone?
With the resurgence of light phones, lots of people are trading their smartphones for simpler options.
Mental health is a growing concern, especially amongst younger generations. And smartphones and social media are at the core of the growing insecurity we all feel.
Smartphones are a constant source of input and dopamine. They leave us at the mercy of advertisers and UX researchers.
Not only do we numb ourselves away from the areas of our lives that most need our attention, but we also trade our happiness for brief dopamine hits.
With a dumb phone, you’re not able to do most things that phones are designed to do these days. You won’t be able to listen to music, scroll through Reddit, or look something up on Google.
And that’s ok.
What you’ll gain in exchange is the ability to think again. You’ll be more productive. You’ll feel less anxious. And you’ll be present with the people you love.