Watchless Weekend

My watch tan. And dry skin.

So a little over a year ago, I decided to give the Apple Series 3 Watch a go. I was able to get it with credit card bonus points, so technically, I didn’t ‘pay’ for it – we won’t mention the hundreds of dollars in interest over time. Initially I was pretty happy with it. I liked the activity monitoring most. Most of what I used it for was tracking steps, exercise activities, timers and alarms, checking the weather and calendar events. I didn’t have the cellular version so I couldn’t use it on it’s own though, so still needed to have the phone nearby.

At first I had it set to notify me of texts and phone calls but after awhile, that got a bit annoying, so in the past couple of months, I turned those off. I had some other issues with it too. Sometimes, particularly during the winter, when wearing gloves or heavier layers and/or tight-fitting neoprene stuff, it would false trigger activity starts and timers. One time, on a bike ride, the gloves/layers somehow combined to perform the magic function of the SOS call to 911 and some nice lady suddenly started talking to me through the watch to make sure I was ok. Had to turn that feature off – probably would have sooner if I’d known about it.

There were other times when it wouldn’t accurately record an activity – I’d go on a 2 hour bike ride and finish to find out for some reason it stopped after 45 minutes or something. Other times, it would auto-start activities like a yoga workout or something when I was only unloading groceries from the car. Sometimes, it wouldn’t ‘wake up’ when I raised my arm to look at it like it’s supposed to – I’d have to smack it with my finger a few times.

Finally I’d pretty much stripped it down and was using it as just a ‘regular old watch’. It would still auto-start or prompt me to start activities I wasn’t doing until I locked all that down. I was starting to wonder why I needed a watch that was so ‘smart’.

The final straw for me was battery life – I pretty much had to charge it every night, and if I went on any sort of extended (3-5 hour) bike ride, I might not make it through the day. Prior to this watch, I had a Garmin VivoActive that I charged once a week, and it had most of the same features as the Apple Watch so it always frustrated me that I had to charge it so often. Still doesn’t make sense to me.

I’d finally had it. I wasn’t really using most of the features of the watch that made it an ‘smart watch’ so decided to just go back to a ‘dumb’ one. I gave the Apple Watch to my kids to try out for the time being.

I went online and found an ‘old school’ watch I liked and had the features I wanted – multiple daily alarms, timer – wouldn’t explode if I fell on it – and ordered it up. While I was waiting for it to arrive, and my kids had the Apple one, I had a weekend with no watch for the first time in a long time, which was weird.

It was an interesting – and not unpleasant – experience not knowing what time it was all the time. I did stuff around the house and didn’t worry too much about it. I found I was more focused, vested – present – in the things I was doing when I wasn’t thinking about what time it was. I’d still have to check once in awhile to make sure kids got where they needed to be when they needed to be there, but other than that, the Universe continued to expand. One problem though was with it being summer and lighter outside later I completely blew past my bedtime.

So after the Lost Watchless Weekend, my replacement ‘dumb’ watch showed up:

The Timex Expedition ‘Shock’. Takes a lickin’ and will presumably keep on tickin’.

So far I’m pretty happy with it. $25USD and a battery that lasts, well, however long it lasts. I don’t have to charge it and it doesn’t accidentally call 911. It tells the time, wakes me up in the morning, sets off an alarm to remind me to get ready for bed and has a timer for when I sit meditation. Unfortunately it does have the rather goofy looking circular 10-second timer thing, which I can’t imagine any use for, but it was created when watch companies were still trying to make watches seem ‘higher-tech’.

So far the only thing I’ve missed about the Apple Watch was the fact that it displayed the current weather on the face. When getting ready to head out the door for a ride, I’d gotten in the habit of giving it a quick glance to see the temperature and conditions to decide how to dress appropriately or what to bring. Since then I’ve had to revert to the archaic means of ‘looking out the window’ or perhaps even checking the weather app on my phone. I know, #firstworldproblems.

I’m happy with it though. One less thing to worry about working/synching/updating/charging. If I don’t respond to your call or text though, don’t blame me – it’s my dumb watch’s fault.

Bedrock Bags Kit Bag

Bedrock Bags Kit Bag

If I have my druthers – I don’t know what a ‘druther’ is, but if I had mine – I’d always prefer to ride my bike directly out of my garage to the trailhead or wherever the group ride meet up point is. I like the solo warmup and I have a real internal conflict with the paradox of putting my bike on a car to drive it somewhere to ride. Sometimes though, for various reasons, it can’t be avoided. It’s still better than not riding the bike at all.

For years I would often struggle with getting kit together for the ride, and invariably, would sometimes end up forgetting something I wish I’d taken. I’d also end up with various pieces and parts of stuff all over the car on the trip to and from the ride. Then Bedrock Bags stepped up and saved the day.

They used to run a Fresh Bag Of the Month (#FBOTM) promotion where once a month they’d make a limited number of some one-off bag and post them up for sale – when they were gone – they were gone, no restocks. They were sometimes quirky bags, usually quite niche and meant to be just that – limited.

A few years back they were promoting this one – I think at the time they were calling it the ‘Kit Bag’ or duffel or something. A bag to hold all your kit for the ride. The photos showed it as being big enough for a helmet, a pair of shoes and miscellaneous other stuff. No pockets. No straps. No extra fanciness. I was hooked and ordered one up. Though I liked the concept, I had no idea at the time just how much I’d come to dig this bag.

It’s really great. I can take it in the house, load it up with various pieces of kit from inside – snacks, wallet, bottles, whatever – and then on the way out of the house, grab my shoes and helmet and throw them in and have everything needed for most any ride that isn’t already on my person or on the bike. If I know I’m going to be headed out early, I’ll even pack it up the night before and it makes things super easy – I only have to remember to bring literally one thing.

Once I get to the ride jump off point, I grab all my stuff out of it. Upon returning from the ride, I can put everything right back into it vs. having it all over the car and more likely to get forgotten/lost. Then, once home, I can bring the thing inside and sort/put away everything easily – nothing gets left/forgotten about in the car. This is even more useful and crucial if you’re catching a ride with someone else in their car.

Bedrock Bags Kit Bag
On this particular day I loaded my bag up with helmet, shoes, gloves, buff, knee warmers, base layer, wind jacket, cap, sunglasses and 2 bottles – and had room for more. You can pack quite a bit in, especially if you make use of empty spaces/cavities by sticking stuff in your shoes and helmet.

I can’t recommend the bag enough. It’s well made, perfectly-sized and lacks complication in the form of pockets, zippers, straps and unnecessary doohickeys. It’s made from bombproof materials and even when it gets dirty I basically just hose it out and let it dry in the sun. I don’t remember what I paid for it, but in hindsight it’s turned out to be some of the best impulse money I’ve ever spent. It was limited as I said, so unfortunately you’d be hard pressed to get one now. I notice that Bedrock has done away with the #FBOTM and replaced it with their ‘Limited Edition’ bags – of which there’s currently a kit bag similar to this one, but as a waxed canvas version. Personally, while I’m sure these current ones are just as well made – I’m glad I’ve got my technical fabric one instead. It’s been used and loved and tossed around with nary a scuff or scratch.

Full disclosure – I’ve used it for other things well. It just so happens when traveling with the dog on in-car road trips, it perfectly holds his food and bowl, a bottle of water, leash, towel and and some toys.

Bedrock Bags Kit Bag

Could I have just used a tote/duffel/backpack or even a plastic grocery bag instead? Yeah sure. But each would have had it’s own particular issues. They would have worked, but not solved the problem in such a singularly perfect way. Think about the juxtaposition of using an adjustable wrench vs. a perfectly sized socket. I’m a sucker for something that is purpose built and works methodically.

1971 Land Rover Series IIA

Not your Daddy’s Oldsmobile.

Stolen from my buddy Steve’s site.

Mine is not your conventional mid-life crisis. I don’t want the fast red sports car. I long for the slow, red truck that’s noisy and has no radio. No bluetooth. No heated seats. This particular one is a nice shade, has the additional cool tie-in of being from the year of my birth and even has a hitch receiver for the bike rack. Link to my gofundme page will be up soon…

‘Light ‘ Phone Experiment Observations

So back in my post about the Light Phone 2 – I decided to give it a go with setting up my iPhone as much like a Light Phone 2 as possible and give it 2 weeks. Visit my first post to see what I stripped the phone down to. Here’s some observations.

Day Two

Already got weirded out a few times that I couldn’t check email on the phone. Decided I had to let it go. When I finally got to email on a desktop, I found that really, there was nothing there that important. I’m working on sort of settling into ‘not knowing’ what’s in the Inbox at all times. When I can accept that, it’s somewhat liberating. There was a bunch of news today based on a WSJ story about third-party apps sending info to Facebook and/or tracking users making me wonder about keeping Messenger on my phone. The caveat has always been that a few very close connections use it almost exclusively and it’s easy for things like sharing links and photos, but I am starting to wonder if I want to keep using it on principle.

I’ve also realized how regularly I use some browser bookmarks – and with only Safari on my phone and Chrome as my primary desktop browser, they aren’t available. I could of course duplicate them in Safari, but that defeats the point of trying to streamline things. This is one reason I’ve often jumped back and forth from Chrome to Safari in the past. I’ve always wanted one solution. Safari has always been clunky and slower than Chrome and is not the best browser for web development. I’ve also had issues with the Last Pass extension not working consistently in Safari on the desktop. I do like Safari’s ‘Reading List’ feature though – something Google is now using but is not available on desktops – yet – unless you’re using an Android device. Instead I just made a ‘Junk Drawer’ bookmarks folder in Chrome. Will have to consider if all this is a big enough deal to dump Chrome as my default browser on the desktops.

Day Three

So interestingly, other than weather (which I can check out on my watch), I really have no need check my phone at all until I get to work in the mornings now. Indeed with no email on the phone, unless I get a notification of a text or a call – I have no need to ‘check’ my phone at all. I have already on several occasions caught myself picking up the phone, unlocking it and staring at it like “what am I doing here” then remembering, oh yeah, there’s nothing here for you.

Day Four

I nuked Facebook Messenger. Told the few contacts I regularly used it with that I’m available via text, voice or email, take your pick. I’m down to only stock Apple apps. I realize that Apple is very likely tracking my usage and stats, but to some extent I have to think that their stock apps have no reason to share data outside the Apple OS. Most significantly, today I realized I no longer have any reason to take my phone to the bathroom. Ahem.

Day Five

Prior to this experiment, I was averaging an hour and a half of phone screen time per day – that was even without social media. Currently down to 20 mins or so. Today I added 2 apps back, Scanner Pro and my banking app – both apps that I use almost daily and I find very useful.

Day Ten

At home, my phone sits on the dresser. I don’t carry it around the house. Granted, my Apple Watch lets me know if there’s a call or a text if I don’t hear the phone itself, but I’m no longer really looking for it in general when I’m out and about. I put it in my backpack when I’m in the car. Bluetooth lets me answer calls – and I’m even thinking of disconnecting that. Do I really need to talk to someone on the phone when I’m driving? There was a time when we as a species didn’t and somehow we managed. As a parent of a kid currently taking driving instruction and who will be driving soon, I’m becoming more cognizant of what message I’m sending – even if it’s only subconsciously.

Day Twelve

I had to cave and put email back on the phone. Too much of life hinges on it. Hockey coaches, teachers, and a slew of other businesses/clubs/institutions all still use it as a primary and immediate source of contact or news dissemination even though there’s been tons of different articles proclaiming its demise as a communications medium. Also, email as an archive of information is invaluable and I didn’t realize how often I go back and ‘look something up’ or check an old email for reference.

I did really enjoy not having it on the phone and having to be more intentional about checking email at a desktop. I had established a habit of deliberately checking mail once a day – more the way you would with snail mail – and responding to and addressing issues at that time. This simple act had 2 pleasurable effects. First, there was the satisfying feeling of getting something done, i.e. “Ok, checked my mail, now on to the next thing.”

Second, the act of sitting down and responding to emails in one shot meant I spent more time with replies, especially with the consideration that I probably wouldn’t be getting back to check mail for another 24 hours or so. I could definitely see myself without immediate access to email – i.e. on the phone – once things involving kids slow down or go away all together. For now it will have to stay.

Disconnected the phone from the car via Bluetooth. Now when I’m driving, I’m just driving.

In Closing

One Screen to Rule Them All…

Overall, it’s been a positive experience/experiment. The only other apps I added back were my password manager app ( I do need access to passwords and such sometimes when at a client’s office or elsewhere and as IT/Support guy for our family I’m always getting asked for passwords) and the Voice Memos app which I do use for voice memos and also sometimes I just make recordings of sounds.

The Organizational Demon in my head is satisfied as well because what I’ve got fits on one phone screen with no empty spaces and no swiping. I’ve kind of made that the ‘box’ I’m confining myself to.

Ultimately, in answer to my original query of whether or not I could switch to the actual Light Phone 2 – I think the answer would be, yes – but only at a point when my family calendar was considerably less packed – and I’m responsible for accessing less information on behalf of others. There’s still the issue of photos – which I do use my phone for a lot, so in an ideal world, my ‘light phone’ would still have a camera. For now I think I’ve ‘lightened’ my current iPhone considerably as well as lightening my usage of it, both of which have been positive.

Apple ‘Light’ Phone Experiment

My buddy Steve posted over on his site about ordering up one of the forthcoming Light Phone 2’s – basically a stripped down phone that does calls, messaging and that’s about it.

The prospect was appealing to me, and fatefully enough checking with my mobility provider tells me that the contract is up on my trusty iPhone SE at the end of this month. Fate? I dunno.

I’m painfully impulsive when it comes to things like this so as hard as it is, I’m going to exercise discipline and not pull the trigger immediately on a Light Phone. Instead, I’ll use Steve’s experience with it as research.

However, it occurred to me that one could practically render the iPhone a ‘Light Phone’ by dumping all the apps, or as much as the OS will allow, so as an experiment, I decided to do that. The surprise was that it was really hard to think about not using some apps, let alone deleting them – a telling indication for sure and perhaps a reason I won’t be able to go for the actual Light Phone in the long run, but we’ll see.

For the record, I’ve neutered my phone down to:

Lean Mean Home Screen
  • Activity App – Syncs with my Apple Watch;
  • App Store – must use, can’t get rid of it;
  • Calendar – even thinking about getting rid of this gave me the shakes. Trying to keep track of 6 family members without access to this would be a nightmare. Probably the reason right here that I’ll never go Light Phone;
  • Camera – can’t get rid of it;
  • Clock – can’t get rid of it;
  • Contacts – basically for phone/messaging purposes;
  • Facebook Messenger – still my main source of comms with many people;
  • Find iPhone – can’t get rid of it;
  • Health – can’t get rid of it, and I actually use it;
  • iMessage – can’t get rid of it, don’t want to;
  • Music – this was a tough one, but I use the phone to listen to music on the bike trainer and other places, so I kept it. I don’t use it in the car or at work though;
  • Notes – I use Notes for everything. All the time. I’ve got so much stuff in there;
  • Phone – can’t get rid of it, don’t want to;
  • Photos – can’t get rid of it;
  • Safari – can’t get rid of it;
  • Settings – can’t get rid of it;
  • Wallet – can’t get rid of it;
  • Watch – can’t get rid of it, well, if you want to use the watch;
  • Weather – I can get rid of this, but I need it in order to display weather on the watch, which I do use often.

I buried all the apps in a folder on the task bar at the bottom because they can mostly be accessed by a swipe right and/or search. For the most part, swiping right, Siri is pretty good about knowing what app I’m looking for and offers it up via witchcraft.

Notable exclusions/things that gave me pause about deleting:

  • Email – yup. No more email on the phone. This could prove problematic as lots of family business and updates are sent via email, but we’ll see;
  • ScannerPro – an app that I used to scan paper documents to GoogleDrive. Very good at what it does and useful for getting rid of paper clutter. I don’t use it often, but when I do, it’s great. I’m already thinking I will re-install this the next time I want it without hesitation;
  • Banking App – not sure how often I actually used this – guess we’re gonna find out;
  • Password Manager – all my passwords are still accessible on my desktops, but sometimes I had to look one up;
  • Chrome – I loathe the Safari mobile app. Also use Chrome on my desktops so I won’t get bookmark/history sync anymore;
  • Feedly – I can access this on desktop too, but on the phone it was my go-to time-killer. Got a few minutes? Find some articles on Feedly. Guess I’ll have to stare at a wall, or – gasp – talk to strangers now.

So that’s it, one screen. I’ll see what this gets me. Going to go two weeks from today and then review how things went and post up here.