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.

The Phone Foyer Method

Cal Newport talks in his latest post, A Piece of Advice I Wish I’d Included in My Book about leaving your phone in the foyer of your house once you get home.

The Phone Foyer Method: When you get home after work, you put your phone on a table in your foyer near your front door. Then — and this is the important part — you leave it there until you next leave the house.

Several months ago, I started something similar, only, my dresser is where the phone stays. This also happens to be where I charge it. I come home, empty my pockets and leave the phone there and don’t carry it with me around the house or out into the garage or the yard. It’s been great. Very liberating.

Naturally since we’ve all become accustomed to being ‘connected’ all the time, at first there where those pangs of ‘what if I miss a call or a text?’ If I’m inside, I can still hear the ring and go answer if I want, same with a text. If I’m outside – there’s voicemail.

I’ve experienced all the benefits and good mojo Cal mentions in the post in spades. Sometimes, I even put my phone there and – gasp – turn the ringer off.

What’s funny is when my kids or my wife notice it vibrating or ringing and come and find me in a panic – “your phone is ringing – making noises! You’ve got a text!”

“Yep. That’s what it does.” is what I usually say.

Porcelain Rocket Microwave Panniers

Two nights ago the weather forecast was calling for rain in the form of ‘buckets’. I think ‘buckets’ is a specific meteorological term, but I’m not meteorologist. Not one to ignore a seemingly obvious sign from the gods – or anyone with a ‘gist’ at the end of their title, I thought this was a perfect time to mount up my @porcelainrocket Microwave Panniers [1].

They are built around a removable dry bag system so seemed perfectly suited. Like all of PR’s gear I’ve had/used/abused before, these came through with flying colors. My stuff stayed completely dry. I’m not sure what sort of witchcraft the dry bag material employs – I was a bit concerned at first when I could actually SEE the colors of my stuff inside through the bag, but they stayed watertight. love the fact that I can just pop the dry bags out and take them in the house (from the garage, where the bikes live) to load/unload them and leave them by the door to grab before heading out in the morning. Also nice is being able to haul a bag of work clothes to the office washroom easily to change. A small, easily overlooked – yet huge detail – is the fact that the dry bags are flat-bottomed and stand up on their own, a feature I highly appreciate. [2]

The ‘holsters’ that receive the dry bags were easy to mount up, come with a bunch of extra holes and enough strappage that I can only think they’ll fit whatever kind of rig you’ve got. In closing these are solid goods that you could do no wrong in acquiring for yourself. Don’t be fooled by Scott’s rugged good looks and outdoorsy-type beard – even though he makes all this stuff for that wild and crazy packbiking and other wilderness shenanigans, I’m here to say his stuff works great for us mere-mortal commuter types as well. I love getting my stuff from small shops like PR because I know that if I ever have an issue, question or need a repair, I can easily talk to an actual human – even if they’re a weird one, because really, we’re all a little weird in our own weird way – amirite? [3-10] Random pictures from a soggy commute. Camera doesn’t do the foliage justice – seems like on the grey days the colors pop even more.

Giro Alpinduros

It’s cool and often damp here in the Maritimes and it happens to be my favorite time of year to ride bikes. Not least of all because it means I get to wear my most-favorite cycling shoes evar, my Giro Alpinduros again.

These have proven to be my hands-down favorite shoulder-season/fall/early winter/early spring shoe. They’re comfy, solid, warm and best of all waterproof – remembering of course water will get in over the tops if you submerge ‘em that high – don’t ask how I know this. I did one day stumble upon the Alpinduro-specific gaiters/covers they make for these and snatched those up right away too – and they work a treat.

They’re low-key enough looking that they fit in at the store or the coffee shop, and the fact that they’re a mesh between a cycling shoe and hiking boot actually makes strolling (or hike-a-biking) a rather pleasant experience. The tread isn’t super aggro and there’s no toe spike holes, so they’re not an ideal ‘cross shoe, but I don’t want ‘em for that anyway. They are on the heavy side, but I’m willing to make that trade off for the warmth, waterproofness and walkability.

I’ve worn them on MTB rides, commutes and even on road rides on the go fast bike during cold weather without any issues. I don’t know exactly, but I’d hazard to say I’ve had no problems with cold feet down to 5 degrees below zero Celsius, especially when paired with a good cold weather sock and/or liner. This is actually my second pair – the first were warrantied by Giro after the sole delaminated – a known factory defect with some batches that they supported and have since remedied. I liked the fit of the footbed and Vibram soles on these so much that when I needed a summer/warm-weather shoe, I didn’t hesitate to pick up some of their Terraduros.

Giro didn’t pay me to wear these or write this, though with my mad 32 followers, surely it’s their marketing error. If you’re looking for some solid, warm, comfy on-and-off-the-bike cold weather shoes, you should be ‘influenced’ to check these out, says I. 

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.