i reduced my phone screen usage by 50% using this one weird trick

well, to be fair, it was more of an accident. i bumped into the metal corner of a table quite hard with my phone in my pocket, and it busted a huge hole in the screen. due to some unknown quirk of its engineering this also broke the entire bottom half of the phone screen, hence my phone now only uses 50% of its screen for display. but for whatever reason the touch screen still works down there, even right over the massive hole, so the phone actually remains completely usable. obviously, though, it is now extremely annoying to use so my phone usage/screen time has correspondingly declined by 50% as well. this means that not only is the title not clickbait, it's in fact TWICE as true.

this kind of breakdown would probably be extremely distressing to your average smartphone user (that is to say, everyone). however i am used to it happening because it's almost become a routine occurrence around this time of year, catastrophically breaking my phone. it all started back during the sordid early winter days of 2020, when i set my phone in the little hole in the passenger seat door of a friend's car. i'm not sure what it's actually supposed to be, maybe the vestigial remains of an ashtray, but either way it's just deep enough to leave a phone propped up in as long as there are no major shocks, like driving off a cliff or opening the passenger door. the second one is exactly what i did, leaving my phone to plummet several feet and collide with the pavement. everything might have been just fine, except that i never use a phone case for aesthetic and tactile purposes, since normally i somehow rarely drop my phone despite being phenomenally clumsy. this passenger door incident was a blind spot, and i finally picked up some cracks after years of retaining a pristine screen, all while using no protection.

but my phone was not out for the count yet. the true catastrophe would come a couple weeks later, while i was sitting cross-legged on a stool in front of the oven, nursing a boiling pot of pasta. with one hand stirring and the other hand holding my phone in front of my face, there was nothing i could do to steady myself when i started tipping back. stirring spoon and phone both went flying as i fell and landed flat on my back. perhaps already weakened by the prior door drop debacle, the phone screen was unrecoverably damaged, completely black. a glimmer of hope was that the phone still buzzed when i plugged it in to charge, so there was a chance that it was still completely functional and all i had to do was replace the screen. when i brought it into the repair store, though, they quoted me an unconscionable sum ($200) for the repair. instead, i bamboozled them into lending me a sim card extraction tool and swapped my sim into my old phone, something only possible because my prior phone had still been fully functional when i abandoned it. usually i use them until they are completely destroyed, but this time around i had a new phone foisted on me.

for the next year or so, i just used my old phone. it was already in relatively poor condition when i started using it again and only got worse as the months wore on. the front-facing camera was broken and normally wouldn't focus, unless you managed to drop it just right. this would somehow fix the focus until the next time the phone was dropped or jostled too hard. luckily i'm rather reserved when it comes to taking photos in the first place so it didn't bother me that much, and for things that absolutely needed to be photographed i became proficient at angling the selfie camera outward to capture them (most photos i took during that era do have a distinct wonky feel to them, though). any modern app would take an eon to open up and load, and towards the end some just straight up said they no longer supported my phone. the battery life had to be carefully rationed, and what’s worse the percentage indicator would sometimes randomly rise and fall by increments of 5% as you get into the 20% battery danger zone.

just as the condition was getting bad enough that even i was considering a replacement, one sunny december morning last year i climbed into the passenger seat of the SAME FRIEND'S car from before, and when i pulled my phone out later, the entire screen was dyed the most peculiar shade of purple. then it acquired a random pattern of scattered black blots on the screen like some kind of disease before finally letting out a few dying flickers and going completely dark. i was most perplexed because i hadn't even dropped it this time, it just sort of... occurred. i inspected it for damage and found nothing obvious, before lifting it up flat in front of my eyes and realizing that the entire phone was bent into a very subtle arch. i tried to bend it back, which only resulted in a somewhat concerning crunching noise. the phone was well and truly bricked.

after that, i went a whole month without any sort of phone. eventually i relented and took the newer phone i had broken in the pasta plunge back to the repair shop, where this time they quoted me a somewhat more conscionable price ($150). by waiting a year and subjecting myself to my old phone i had managed to save a princely sum of $50, i bragged to everyone who would listen after i got it fixed. as i had suspected, it was completely fine after the screen was fixed, and for a few months i enjoyed the significant boost in camera acuity, speed, battery life, and viewing the time capsule of memes i had been into a year ago and determining which were now cringe and which were still good.

and now we come forward a year to the present day, where i have broken my phone once again. incidentally this latest incident was also precluded by a prior damaging drop from a passenger car door, although this time it was not from that one friend's car. as usual when i show off my phone’s newly-decreased screen real estate, people are immediately begging, BEGGING me to get a new phone. why would i want to do that? "this is your chance to finally upgrade to a shiny new ball and chain from apple! it's 15% heavier but you can choose from six sleek colors and also all the cool, hip people have one!" really, this is actually my chance to stop using my phone as much, something i've recently become concerned about. i think on some subconscious level, that's why i returned to using my crappy old phone for a whole year despite all reason. there were absolutely no material considerations involved, i could have easily afforded a new phone. i simply chose not to do so, perhaps because the limited battery life and other inconveniences like slow loading times stopped me from using it as much. i also had a great time during that month last year when i didn't have a phone at all, however before long it became clear that one of the reasons you "NEED" a phone is not to scroll social media or play lame gacha games/cow clickers, but because We Live In A Society that now expects everyone to be easily contactable if they want to participate at all. alas i am not quite at the "leave society" stage...

one month update


here is a neat photo i took of the damage using a mirror and the phone's own selfie camerai know what you're thinking: "surely you have not kept up with this silly broken phone thing for a whole month". dead wrong! it has actually been slightly longer than a month now if we're being precise! the indignation of my doubters only fuels my deranged ambitions. "please, PLEASE get a new phone, i will even pay for it, i beg you, you can't keep living like this, it's inhuman, it's insane, it's NOT RIGHT". although if i'm being entirely honest, by now everyone i know has gotten used to it and no one really brings it up anymore.

i will say that it's been a bit less successful at reducing my phone usage than i'd hoped. the damage makes apps like tiktok, instagram, and youtube pretty much completely unusable, but alas those were never my demons. in fact, i've never even had the first two installed. i pretty much only scroll sites that are primarily text-based, which the screen damage doesn't have much of an effect on. i barely even notice it sometimes. what has suffered, unfortunately, is some of my "good" phone usage like communicating with people i know via text, which has gotten annoying as i can't see the keyboard to type. this is fine for the most part since i have muscle memory for the letter locations, however i can't for the life of me remember where any punctuation is. oh well, i suppose there are no easy shortcuts like hoping some random screen breakage will just magically make me use my phone a lot less, although it has helped a bit.

three month update


i was able to retrieve this image that accompanied the lost update howeverso turns out i've completely lost the contents of this update to that incident when i deleted the whole "writings" folder, it wasn't saved on any archive sites and i didn't have any backups on my end since i wrote the entire thing directly in the editor. i am pretty sure i mostly talked about the ominous signs that the end may be nigh, such as the broken black area of the screen slowly spreading out like some kind of sinister creeping corruption, or all the times it would randomly reboot and sometimes even get stuck in a bootloop for a few minutes. there was also a few times when i pulled it out only to be greeted with the green android robot keeled over dead on my screen, which is certainly not reassuring. it would go into a hacker terminal type thing and fix itself after a few minutes, but still, not a good omen. little did i know, however, that i was still only at the halfway point while writing that bleak update.

six month update: THE END OF AN ERA


IT IS DONE. the phone situation was starting to get a bit absurd even for me, especially due to some concerning new developments regarding the extent of the damaged area. i had kept the Darkness at bay for a good while by being somewhat careful, but then just one moment of carelessness (dropping the phone onto a parking lot from the car AGAIN) opened up a new crack that the Darkness quickly made use of to extend a huge dark tendril into the Functioning Zone. the result of this new incursion was that now in the default split-screen mode, i could no longer see what i was typing unless i shrank the top window even further. now i could see neither the keyboard nor what i was typing, which meant that i ended up sending a lot of messages that fell everywhere along the scale from "slightly garbled" to "summoning cthulhu". some people who weren't kept up to date on the phone situation thought that i might be suffering some kind of stroke.

then, during my trip there were also relentless assaults from various iphone cultists, who i somehow ended up completely surrounded by. i pressed them to give me a some good reasons to switch, and all they were able to come up with is that i should do it so they didn't have to look at different-colored chat bubbles in group texts. even my friend who was railing against credit cards the other day is somehow under the apple spell and wouldn't come to my support. frankly i have to hand it to apple for coming up with such a simple yet effective method of creating peer pressure and enforcing a group mentality. anyways one way to shut them up, at least to an extent, would be to no longer have a phone that is an obvious candidate for replacement.

so, for those reasons and the boring one that it was simply hindering my ability to Get Stuff Done, after a harrowing spiritual journey through the Desert of the Real (please restrain me if i use this expression again) among other places real and imagined, i arrived home with ten new coffee cans and a determination to Finally Do Something about the Damned Phone. the next day, i promptly went out to the reliable old phone repair shop where i am not-quite-yet a regular and asked them if they thought it was fixable. from the beginning, i was relatively sure it was, since the touchscreen still worked even in the Dark Zone. indeed, they told me it would be a quick screen replacement and to come back in an hour. an hour and $140 ($10 less than last time!) later, i walked out with a basically good-as-new phone. in fact the difference was so dramatic that nearly everyone i showed it off to thought i had bought a new phone.

the first few minutes of being able to see the lower half of the screen while using it felt extremely disorienting, but after that i quickly adapted and it was as if the whole broken-screen episode had never happened. i would like to say i learned some lessons or have some takeaways from this whole experiment/experience, but i really don't. i deliberately sabotaged myself for months with silly stunt because i'm stubborn and cheap and thought it was funny to see people's reactions, and there's no deeper meaning to it than that. the effects on my phone usage habits were surprisingly minimal (as i have already said) and i haven't really felt any change in them since getting the screen fixed either. in terms of phone addiction, i don't think i ever had it very bad or maybe even at all compared to some of the horrifying stuff i've seen in my time: my brother sharing pictures while on vacation of his 19hr daily average screen usage, the friends whose hotel room i crashed in one time who would fall asleep by watching youtube/tik tok until they lost consciousness, phones still clutched in their hands playing on a loop, etc. from the start i wasn't somebody who really "needed" something like this to happen, which is also probably why i was able to keep it going for so long, because a true phone addict would have been at the store buying a new phone within the hour.

annoyingly the new screen ALREADY has a couple of mildly annoying scratches towards the bottom. truly we are living in a fallen world. (update: i noticed that the scratches were all appearing right where i swiped most often, like they were being caused by my fingernails. really, i thought, phone screens are so fragile these days that my FINGER NAILS are scratching them. then, on closer inspection, i realized that there was actually still a very thin plastic wrapping over the whole screen which is what i had been actually putting scratches into, so i peeled it off. "nooo that's the screen protector", a nearby friend protested. what the heck is the point if it gets covered in annoying scratches? i have seen simply too many people who swear by screen protectors but seem to completely miss the point of them by not replacing them when they get too damaged, and continue to use a phone with a gross and scuffed screen protector for months that honestly looks WORSE than just using a phone with a cracked screen.)