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Gadgets and Gear Science & Technology The Internet & Media

The Light Phone Experiment That Wasn’t

So if you’ve been paying attention to my posts at all, you’ll know that I was planning on running an experiment based around using a Light Phone 2 provided by a buddy of mine with the intention of seeing what it was like to be ‘smartphoneless’ for some given period of time. Well, that idea has crashed and burned or perhaps more accurately, fizzled.

First off, it was taking awhile for the Light Phone folks to ship their product – a not-unexpected occurrence – given that this was an Indiegogo thing and these things take time. Not an un-ironic comment on how our everything-immediately-on-demand world has influenced our expectations and perceptions of time. Still, the length of time it was taking started to sap interest in the desire to play around with the device. Steve – the guy who was going to loan me his version of the phone – and I remarked on this a few times in our correspondence. Still, I remained committed to giving it a shot and he still felt I was a good candidate to put it through its paces.

When the phone finally shipped to Steve, once he received it, decided he wanted to give it a temporary spin so set about trying to get it up and running with his cellular service provider. He hit some snags though, and then decided to try using the Light Phone’s own SIM plan and ordered up a card – only to have issues with getting the SIM to be recognized once it arrived. Last we spoke, he still didn’t have the thing up and running.

In the meantime, I had my own circumstances change in that I agreed at the last minute to coach my kids’ hockey team this winter. Based on my previous experiences coaching, the prospect of trying to run the team as well as coordinate with parents and league staff all without a ‘smart’ phone (one with a calendar and access to a web browser and email) seemed like an exercise in futility and one that would only make life miserable. Due to the time it was taking to get the Light Phone into my hands, my interest in the experiment as it was initially formulated had waned. Being faced with this new organizational challenge – I told Steve I wasn’t really interested in it any longer – at least not at this point.

I will say this though, that the whole idea wasn’t without it’s upsides. Through the process of thinking about the phone and preparing to use it, I went through several phases of evaluating and thinking about what apps I have on my current phone and how I use them. That process has led to a major cull in both apps on the phone as well as phone usage/screen time in a way that has been overwhelmingly positive. Probably the largest single change has been the elimination of email from my phone. While I did, initially re-install it after agreeing to coach, I uninstalled it after only a short while realizing that the several months prior of having no access to it on the phone had taught me I don’t need it and I was able to pretty much manage things by sticking to the routine I’d established of basically checking email once a day, intentionally, at a regular time.

One screen to rule them all. Still.

In closing, I’m still glad that I went through the whole process, even though things fell apart at the end. The result is I’m still using a phone that’s about as ‘light’ as I can get, and the apps that are on it I’ve given a lot of thought about whether I want to give my time and attention to and if they’re of real value in my day-to-day. This idea of considering how we use the technology we have very intentionally is something Cal Newport talks about at length in his book Digital Minimalism: Choosing A Focused Life in a Noisy World . Although I’ve actually only just started reading this, I had inadvertently already begun what Mr. Newport calls the ‘Digital Declutter’ without even knowing it. When I wanted to reevaluate my relationship with the technology in my day-to-day life, it just seemed to be the sensible way to do it. That said, the book is great so far and I highly recommend it if it sounds like something you’re interested in or are considering.

For those interested/playing along – I’ve stuck to my initial plan of keeping my phone to ‘one-screen’ of apps. Each one has had to ‘earn’ its real-estate there (exception being the un-installable apps, some of which I wish I could nuke). I also didn’t cheat by putting apps I can’t remove in a folder to give me more space on the ‘one-screen’, so I really had to think hard about it. Interesting note – I’m up for an upgrade of my iPhone SE and I notice that even the smallest of the newer iPhones is larger than this one. While I’m not excited about that – I like a small phone – I think it does mean more screen real-estate for apps, I guess I’ll have to see how that goes.

Categories
Gadgets and Gear Science & Technology

Light Phone II, For Reals

Photo from the Light Phone II Indiegogo page.

Anyone following along here knows that awhile back I did a Light Phone Experiment, based on my learning about the Light Phone II project. Well, the plot thickens.

I had a convo with my buddy Steve who has backed the LP II and decided that he probably won’t use it, so once he gets his in the mail and has a chance to check it out, he’s gonna ship it to me for a demo. I’d like to say thanks to him for the opportunity – it should be an interesting and fun experiment. In his own words, “I can’t think of anyone better for test driving this thing.”

Rather than just use the LP II once in awhile to “go light” as the creators suggest, I’m going to go all the way and replace my iPhone with the LP II. For how long remains to be seen, I’m waiting to see how it goes. There’ll always be the option to jump back to my trusty iPhone as moving between the two simply means moving the SIM back and forth.

For those too lazy to check the link or just looking for the TLDR info, the Light Phone II has three functions – phone, text, and an alarm. The developers have talked about adding some other things like directions or playlists, but it remains to be seen what will be on it when they start shipping at the end of the month. As far as I’m concerned, the less, the better.

I removed the email app from my iPhone a couple of months ago and have been pretty happy about it. There were still some other apps I used on it pretty consistently though and it could be interesting to see how much I miss them and/or how I adapt with them gone. Chief among those would be Notes, Calendar, Banking, Books, Music, LastPass, Weather, ScannerPro and the camera.

These are all things I can access/use for the most part from my desktop Macs at home or at work, but it will mean rethinking the way I use them, i.e. creating a time of the day to use them more deliberately or consciously.

In preparation of the LP II landing, I’ve removed everything I possibly could from my iPhone and started sort of working with that. There’s a few things you just can’t remove without jailbreaking the phone, but I’ve removed everything else. It basically leaves you with phone, text, the camera/Photos and Safari. It’s been a few days and it’s already getting interesting. A few things that have come up already:

  • I have a few contacts that send me longer than average, multi-paragraph texts. From what I’ve seen in the video demos of the LP II, I’m not sure how the interface will handle this;
  • The LP II doesn’t support group texts/iMessage, so I’m not sure how that will play out;
  • No sharing of links or photos via text;
  • No emojis I don’t think – something I won’t miss;
  • No Notes. This is huge. I use Notes all the time. I carry a paper notebook with me all the time, but was rarely using it – might have to get back into that now. I’ll still be able to access Notes via iCloud on a desktop browser or the desktop app, but that leads to another interesting challenge…
  • iCloud sign-in verification. Signing into iCloud requires authorization via a number code sent to your iPhone – I won’t be able to get these anymore.
  • No Calendar on-the-go. I can still access it via the desktop, but with school and kids’ hockey season about to start, this could get interesting. Same for no email. I’ve been without it all Summer, but schools and hockey coaches send a lot of emails – some of them time-sensitive.
  • No camera. Actually, as I mentioned to Steve, I bought a used Canon G10 last year and I’ve really been meaning to use it more than I do, so having no camera on the phone will steer me in that direction.

Though I won’t have access to all this stuff on my phone, with me at all times, the reality is that I will on my Mac desktops – one of which I stand in front of at work for 7 hours a day. How much hassle will the non-constant contact end up causing? It remains to be seen. I’ve been getting a little taste for a few months with no email, and now will find out a little more. Stay tuned for updates on the goings on.

Categories
Philosophy & Thought

The Empty Suitcases of the Past

The other day, my internet Pen Pal Steve shared a post with me from Derek Sivers about keeping a daily journal – something I have scattered experience with.

Here’s a portion of my response to Steve’s initial email:

I have, for many years, kept a conventional paper/pen journal. I have lapses where I haven’t entered anything for months, and other periods that are relatively prolific. My current stint is pretty much daily for a few months now. They are usually pretty boring, but I do go back and read old ones once in-awhile. They are scattered in 10-12 different journals as well as I would fill one and start or get a new one and start in that one. Some of them start in one year and then end maybe 5 years later with spans of the time in between either missing or in other journals. 

Thinking about these journals got me started thinking about my past in general. As I said above I don’t read these old entries too much and when I do I’m often struck by a sense of reading something by another person. They are often times embarrassing – “geez, what an idiot I was then” or “I was so freaking out about what eventually turned out to be nothing” – as well as all kinds of other cringe-worthy moments that can only occur when we read things written by a past self. It’s very hard to view them with anything other than a “hindsight is 20/20”-type of mentality. I realize I was – and possibly still am – far more likely to write about bad things, or when things weren’t going right – I made a mistake, was worried about something (invariably that was out of my control anyway), etc. Of course they are often packed full of complaints and general discontent. Very rarely did I crack a book and jot down, “Damn, everything is unicorns and rainbows today!” As such the journals often seem characterized by a general malaise. Perhaps something I should work on – or not. There’s no rules to these things – unless you want there to be. Mr. Sivers certainly applies more structure to his process than I ever have – or intend to.

We Carry Our Pasts Like Baggage

But those bags are empty – there’s nothing in them. I can’t go back and find any of those moments from the past anywhere. They’re gone. The I that was me then is gone too. As are the people I interacted with. They’re no longer the same people – even if I still see them everyday.

“We can only truly live in the present moment… so we should be sincere, in our conduct at the present moment.”

Gudo Wufu Nishijima

Obviously events of the past have led to where I am today and some of the effects of my actions – and the actions of others – may still be felt, but most likely they’ve dissipated, changed, or I don’t even remember correctly how or what happened. Statistically speaking, our memories are biased, flawed – in many cases flat out terrible – and in addition entirely unique to us as individuals. Everyone else remembers the same thing entirely differently from me.

I am not a product of my past and the person that I was during all that time no longer exists. That time, those moments, no longer exist – they are gone, no matter how real they seem to me in my mind or how often I choose to dredge them up and revisit them.

I am a product of my thoughts and actions in this moment – and only this moment. And then the moment ends and I am a product of the next one. This is a liberating realization. The only thing that is real and that I have even a modicum of control over is my conduct in this moment – therefore that is all I need to focus on.