In May of 2020 after the "just two weeks" had already passed and it was becoming clear that Covid Mania was here to stay, I decided to cancel my phone service, cut my SIM card into pieces, and install GrapheneOS on my primary phone.
Sound extreme? Let me explain.

Unreasonable Search (early-2020)

A few months before ditching the SIM, back when we were still commuting to the the office, I recall one of my co-workers was absent one Monday morning. They explained to management that they had received a call on Sunday from the CDC (or some other alphabet agency). The agent explained that they had been to a restaurant on Friday where someone tested positive for COVID and they were asked to self-quarantine for 2-weeks.
If I recall correctly, this happened BEFORE contact tracing was rolled out to all the phones. In an unprecedented move, Apple and Google implemented a protocol standard that works on both iPhone and Android. The feature was called "Contact Tracing" and it would make your phone snitch on you and others using phones bluetooth and WiFi and sending that data to... who knows? At the time, GrapheneOS was being recommended by privacy-aware bitcoiners who also were worried about Contact Tracing.
With my co-worker's experience in mind. I imagined things might get way worse. What if lockdowns are enforced and breaking curfew was a punishable crime?
My favorite boba tea shop just told me I need to wear a mask to order a tea to-go. That was the final straw. The world was already going insane and the insanity was on my doorstep. So the decision to flash Graphene was a no-brainer. I needed to opt out as much as possible to avoid getting caught in the crossfire of this insanity.

Using Graphene (2020-2021)

Graphene felt like an objective downgrade in user experience at the time. I missed all my favorite features, like using voice to navigate Google Maps. Or backing up everything to Google Photos. But I wasn't taking many photos or driving a whole lot back then.
As the covid mania began to relax somewhat in 2021-2022, I had already gotten used to the new lifestyle. I got really good at learning which fast food chains, or franchise stores have FREE WiFi. When I am out of the house, I am dependent on these WiFi oasis for communications.


The SIM card is the primary method used to track and trace your whereabouts. Law enforcement and various agencies have easy access to this data in the USA because they have backdoors to every cellular provider's network. By removing the SIM, I was opting out of this means of track and trace. I wasn't doing anything illegal. I simply did not want to participate in any "Emergency Response and Public Safety" measures.
Other benefits of going SIM-less:
  • No geo-fencing or location-based marketing targeted to me (I have also worked really hard for years to completely eliminate all advertising from my life, but thats a post for another day)
  • No emergency Amber Alert or Flash Flood warnings (I think you can turn this off manually even if you still have a SIM)
  • No spam callers to interrupt me
  • No random calls from friends/family to interrupt me (they now know that I respond to text only. If you want to chat with me, schedule a call)
  • I never have to worry about SIM swap attacks
  • I have saved millions of sats by not having a phone bill

A second "Normie Phone" (2022)

At about this point I decided that I really do NEED some features that Graphene simply won't let me do (for good reason). I bought a second phone and kept the stock spyware installed. However, this "normie phone" is more like a crutch than an everyday-carry device. It lets me do mobile banking (my bank apps require Google Services) so I can upload photos of checks to deposit them.
The normie phone also let's me order food using the apps so I don't have to explain my highly customized order everytime. Also, I find that when you order custom menu items using the apps, they're more likely to NOT screw up your order. The food apps also let you stack rewards/loyalty points, etc. Many of these apps also require Google Services.
I almost never travel with the normie phone. It spends most of the time on my desk, connected to WiFi.


Many people think you need a SIM to use GPS. This is false, GPS works even without a SIM card. And GPS can be used to track you too!
I was using GPS on my graphene phone, but now that I have a normie phone, GPS is disabled on Graphene. Sure, its probably still trackable by Law Enforcement, but GPS is at least a little bit more difficult for advertisers and other public-safety agencies to use to track you.
Since my normie phone has GPS, I just use it when I need to. Although, I would also recommend getting a dedicated GPS for your car. I don't need GPS that much (I've gotten better at reading highway signs and navigation without assistance in general)

Self-hosting your Data

Since my graphene phone is my everyday carry, it's also my primary camera. If I want to backup my photos, I need to implement a backup service. I use Immich on Umbrel. It feels a lot like Google Photos and completely self-hosted on my server.
Using graphene means you can't use a lot of cloud services. So this nudged me to self-host my data even more.

Never Going Back (2023)

By this point, Covid mania has subsided, and the authoritarian response didn't get as bad as I had imagined when I decided to install Graphene. But I'm still rocking a SIM-less graphene. Our right to privacy (and unreasonable search) is still under attack and opting out as much as possible is a lifestyle choice I continue to make everyday.

Life After SIM (2024-now)

Going SIM-less still feels like a sacrifice -- especially when out of the house. I can't call for emergencies. I can't even send a low-bandwidth chat message unless I'm connected to some public WiFi.
Many public WiFi options now require accounts and password authentication, increasing the friction to get connected while out-and-about.
I'm also highly dependent on friend's hotspot, or even strangers if I'm desperate enough. Would you let a stranger borrow your phone to make a call?
This sucks. And most people are happy paying $20-120/mo for the privilege of using a SIM, even if they are being tracked and constantly interrupted by calls and occasionally SIM-swapped. So there isn't much economic pressure to change the status quo.
I'm hopeful for distributed mesh technology (like LoRa). And I'm hopeful that more people will opt out of SIMs for privacy/security reasons so the market for SIM-less mobile communications can grow large enough to sustain a viable alternative to SIMs.
I'm hopeful for distributed mesh technology (like LoRa).
We are going to build it, looking into it. SIM-less user here too.
In some ways reading your post felt like describing my past hahaha. I took a ham licence to communicate without spyware. In some sense with ham waves I am being monitored constantly since encryption is forbidden by law but at least it doesn't go to a server storing all data about me.
Totally agree that in the long run we feel some sacrifices. For example to call a taxi or order food in a foreign country, without their particular app it is not possible. I looked for alternatives and I found some but it is not developed at all.
At least now I don't have a sudden quizz from the State asking for my health. Even though the coronavirus story is over.
I use Photoprism for photos, but Immich looks good too!
Been doing that for about a year now. Highly recommend. It helps also having a hot spot for yourself, there's some good ones out there that last all day with great speeds. The key is to separate the sim/network from the general purpose phone that ties heavily into sim, so occasionally having a hot spot yourself is still most of the way there.
I like this compromise of using dedicated hotspot device. I may go this route for the insurance/peace-of-mind.
Also its great to know others are SIM-less too. There are dozens of us!!!
there's a sim-lesson here for all simlessness is the future! seamless privacy
How does a dedicated hotspot device (sim based?) different to just using a data sim card directly on your phone?
Is an option? Where you disable it 99% of the time and turn it on as needed/in emergencies?
This is a good option to buy a SIM with noKYC.
However, there is no such thing as "anonymous location data".
If an "anonymous" blip on the map is spending nearly every night at some residential address, then it doesn't take a genius to assume that SIM belongs to a resident of that address.
Interesting. I did the same concept with a burner phone. Old 3g brick, the phone company eventually upgraded me. I had that phone for 14 years!
You took the SIM out of a 14-year-old phone? Truly a brick, then? What functions did it have?
Simless phone. The older phones didnt have sim cards. It could call and text if you were patient.
Ahh. Those were the days
yes, it was a 3g phone. I replaced the battery twice, and the keyboard once. Kept a charge for a week! Monochrome screen. We should go back to that.
10 sats \ 0 replies \ @xz 20 May
I have no wifi in my residential location, re-exploring the joys of non-data services is quite interesting. I called a friend on regular minutes, bundled with SIM, and been listening to FM/AM radio while out exercising.
10 sats \ 1 reply \ @jos3 20 May
what do you primarily use the graphene phone for?
bitcoin ? email? web browsing?
Podcasts, Audiobooks, Music, Signal, Matrix, Email, Nostr, Camera, photos, password manager, 2FA, Web browser (SN, Reddit, etc.)
nice post, thank you. i been using a combo of silent link for esim data and for a phone #. i try and only turn the esim data on when i am needing to be reached for a phone call. its incredible how much cheaper it is than a trad setup and i never get any spam calls now cuz i guess no clear graphing of my phone # yet to my person.
Going SIM-less still feels like a sacrifice -- especially when out of the house. I can't call for emergencies. I can't even send a low-bandwidth chat message unless I'm connected to some public WiFi.
You could keep a cheap prepaid in a faraday bag in case of emergencies.
I think about it... but carry two phone... in some context it's not good, I like to move light.
Thank you for posting this! I'm so glad you found the time to do a write up. If anyone is curious about Graphene, @nullcount is your man.
111 sats \ 1 reply \ @anon 20 May
the way of the @anon warrior!
Great post!
And GPS can be used to track you too!
It's true only if you have an app that actually shares the GPS data. If you use a trusted (open source) app, or disable the network permission, you don't have any risk using GPS.
I would find it very difficult to function in society without a phone number.
Almost everything related to living in a society requires a phone number at some point.
Sure, if you are rich you could get away with it. But if you need to work for someone, it's usually (95%) required to have a phone number. Also for government stuff, and getting a rental place, etc.
Yeah, maybe you can get away with it, but you would have to compromise so much, I think it might not be worth it unless you are a rich person.
I have a self-hosted SIP-trunk for VoIP. I just pay $5/mo to keep the number. So I can technically make and receive calls on WiFi.
But, I do agree its not easy. Many services will automatically detect and block VoIP numbers as an identity verification method. Some services will lookup the name of the registered owner of a phone number and make sure it matches with whatever name you are using for the service (banking, etc.)
I've found that if a web form is denying your VoIP number, often you can call, or visit in person to verify your identity and register some other way. Then get a support representative to add your VoIP number to your account manually so you can still use it for 2FAs, etc.
Being rich is a state of mind. In most of life, the one who is willing to be the most uncomfortable is usually the one who gets their way.
With I pay less than $1/m to have a US phone number, so there are even cheaper offers. This price is US only though as in other countries depending on the regulations it can get quite higher. All messages can be redirected to an email address, which can be handy. And I am not rich at all.
I love this, thanks for the write up. I got a pixel 7, put graphene on it, and am planning on making it my daily driver, and will be switching my sim card from old to new phone tomorrow, haven't done that in a while so I hope everything works.
Could you just bring a portable hotspot with, and then use voip, when you need to make calls?
Can I ask why you didn't opt to get silent esim? Which allows for data I'm like you, I started a little after the COVID-19 mania in 2021. I NEVER, NEVER, EVER turn off airplane mode as this is a type of triangular mapping. I use for a phone number for $5a month(they accept XMR and btc(on chain- not sure for lightning)), I can technically receive calls. Have you looking into this? if you're interested I can give you a month free reference
use this code, get a month free try it out. 3A9B3C21
download cheogram from the F-driod store
Ty noble sir
Great review. I got bank apps to work (on CalyxOS) via Aurora.
I chose to keep my 'anonymous' sim, but have it in airplane mode unless I want to use mobile data.
0 sats \ 1 reply \ @OT 20 May
Why not get an old Nokia for calls?
Another valid option! Especially if it uses older tech, then I can still call myself "SIM-less". Bonus points for nostalgia, but reaching for old tech probably isn't the long-term scalable solution to going SIM-less.
Great post. Really admire and respect people with such tenacity.
amazing! great post