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


after i photocopied my phone, obviously i fed the photocopy right back into the printer and scanned it to my computer to get this imagewhen i was fooling around with the printer the other day scanning some stuff, i stumbled upon the brilliant idea of taking a photocopy of my phone screen, so i figured why not make that the basis of another update here. yes, i'm still at it, and at this point i'm starting to think the only thing that's going to stop me is the inevitable day when the phone bricks itself completely. there have been a lot of ominous warning signs lately, like when i pulled it out of my pocket while walking only to be greeted by a graphic of the poor little android mascot robot guy keeled over dead. a restart fixed it right away but i wrote down in my notebook on the spot "BACK UP PHONE DATA SOON!!!" underlined three times (since then it has been a week and i have made no effort to do so). then there's also this annoying tendency for it to randomly reboot if i lay it horizontally in just the right way, something that it's actually done (albeit far more rarely) since even before i broke the screen. then there's the screen itself, if you compare the photos on this page you can see that the dark area around the impact point has been steadily growing a little bit at a time, like some kind of creeping contagion. first a small region of the screen in an adjacent to the infection would start looking a bit messed up, then it would acquire this sickly blue tint, then the blue tint would turn into a grid of blue lines that gradually got darker and thicker until the whole area was just blue, and then finally the blue would darken into black and that would complete the expansion. grisly stuff.

another usability concern i've discovered is related to the payments app venmo, which my friends and peers are rather fond of using to pay each other. out of all the apps i use, for some reason this is the only app that is completely incompatible with split screen or pop-up mode which are very handy for shrinking whole apps to just the top half of the screen. additionally, all of the venmo UI buttons are at the bottom of the screen, which means they are covered by the fog of war in my case. this is really not an ideal situation to be in considering that the app is used for sending payments. i've come up with a few workarounds like consulting the venmo app on someone else's phone for reference, but mostly i'm back to using cash. this broken phone thing is really starting to become a way of life...