Sometimes, you don’t want to be disturbed. You don’t want to take phone calls or IMs, you just want to get your head down and turn out some actual work instead of spending hours explaining or discussing that work with clients or co-workers or whoever it is you have to communicate with about a particular project. You also don’t want to have to chat to friends or sort out your social schedule for the next week.

You want to disconnect from all that.

A friend of mine, with two huge writing projects to complete in his final year of University, used to physically unplug his network cable in order to get stuff written. He’s not alone in seeking this kind of drastic solution to all the interference: Khoi Vinh’s Blockwriter concept and Hog Bay’s WriteRoom place this need at the centre of their design.

To recap: we disconnect from (or shut out) the multifarious distractions of the internet, like our RSS feeds and the BBC News site; we set our IM client to ‘Appear Offline’; and we concentrate.

Then the phone rings.

Now, a landline you can simply unplug (although this isn’t always a great idea), but this still leaves the mobile. If yours is anything like mine, it takes a small age to turn on again if you turn it off. This is irritating if, once you’ve done whatever it was you were doing, you want to get back to the business of communicating. I find I can only do one thing at a time, so either I’m coding or I’m talking, and if I’m talking I shouldn’t be wasting time pretending to code.

Anyway, my basic point is this: phones need an ‘offline’ mode, where incoming calls go to voicemail and text messages don’t cause an alert to be displayed until you change the phone’s mode back to normal. We have all these little ‘profiles’: General, Silent, Loud etc. Why not ‘Disconnect’? Why not let us unplug from our network of contacts, without losing all the functionality that our phones have? If I unplug my landline, I can still open my Filofax and look up someone’s address or phone number. A mobile shouldn’t be any different, despite combining the two functions.

9rules member

Tarski: an elegant, flexible WordPress theme


My phone has the option to suppress alerts, IIRC. Either that or I find the “you got an sms / voicemail” popup so unobtrusive I can dismiss it easily enough to forget whether it’s there.

Look for “Flight Mode”. On a Windows Mobile device (I’m guessing, based on your “small age” comment), tap the signal strength indicator to get the right popup.

That’ll turn off the radio, leaving the phone on but disconnected from the network.

Otherwise, put your phone on silent, turn on call forwarding to your voicemail, and put it in a drawer.

I can definitely relate to the IM ‘Appear Offline’ and the “Remove a network cables” tactics as I find people tend to be a bit of a nuisance when they see you’re busy.

I spend a lot of my time near a keyboard/pad and if I had a smartphone, I would definitely need a “disconnect” button!

That’s a great idea. I’ve really been enjoying the recent surge of applications that help you better focus on what you’re doing.

My phone does have a flight mode, but it completely kills the radio meaning I don’t get any text messages. If I do find the need to disconnect, I usually just go to the library at school and leave my phone at my apartment

I would like a disconnect feature that could also somehow be overriden by “urgent” or “emergency” calls, because I always get a little worried that someone might really need help and I wouldn’t have my phone on me.

Funny how we begin to learn how to live our lives from how we deal with our technologies, then finally adjust the technologies accordingly.

The way I look at it, rather than disconnecting from the outside, I connect with the inside. What a novel idea.

I like the layout of your site, refreshing in this world of flash and pop.

Smart phones have a flight mode or offline mode, symbian S60 and UIQ or windows mobile all do it

Stupid people accidentally putting it on and saying “my phone doesn’t work” are one of many sources of amusement at work

Thame: leaving the phone at home is something I find myself doing more and more often these days. After all, if I don’t have it with me, I can’t turn it on—we tend to be our own worst enemies, don’t we?

Thanks to everyone who posted the info about what different phones can and can’t do, it’s nice to have more of the picture. Not being a smart phone / PDA kind of person I didn’t realise the extent to which these features were already in place, although doubtless if I tried one out I could find something to complain about…