iPhone Xr

So after all the hype and final shutdown of the Light Phone Experiment, since I was due for an upgrade of my iPhone SE, I went and pulled the trigger on the Xr – well, 4 of ’em actually – as my wife and 2 kids were all due for upgrades too. Got a screaming good Black Friday* deal on them, I’m ashamed to admit.

I’m sure I’ll come up with more over time but here’s the quick and dirty I’ve got so far:

  • Big phone, but I guess this is the way things are going
  • Big phone does make for nicer reading experience with iBooks
  • I like the FaceID feature way more than I thought I would
  • Because of the repositioning of the on/off button, I keep taking a screenshot every time I go to lock the phone
  • Retina display is really nice
  • Like that I have space for an additional row of apps and can still only have ‘one screen’
  • Works flawlessly with my Air Pod Pros – which I’m digging – perhaps more on those in another post

*It’s a strange world when one reaches a point where your family has so many phones that one has to set up a spreadsheet to compare all the various options, deals and service plans before making any purchases or adjustments to your mobility plan. Perhaps theres a market for an app for this.

Planet Bike Super Commuter Swag

Great mail day! Got my @planet_bike Super Commuter swag! A frame pump and a Super Fred Brass Bell for the Disc Trucker, a Lunch Box stem/frame bag, 2 pairs of socks, some grippy bar tape and Jereme at Planet Bike threw in one of their brand new Rojo 100 blinky lights too as a bonus! Thanks again to @ge_willi for the nod and to Jereme and the Planet Bike crew!

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.