‘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.

Gerry McGovern on ‘FANG’

Around 10 years ago I was able to attend a seminar locally given by Gerry McGovern about effective web content and site architecture that was very informative and to this day still impacts how I look to structure websites for clients when I sit down to design them. Since then I’ve subscribed to Gerry’s email newsletter which focuses primarily on marketing, strategy and best practices with a particular emphasis on the Web.

I always find it informative and entertaining. I specifically enjoy his ‘rantiness’ in some cases and his complete lack of hesitation to call out anyone he thinks is guilty of either foul play or could be doing something better. I consistently find something useful to take away. His missives are succinct, well-written and easy to read – and aren’t bogged down with a bunch of technical terms, making them interesting to even those not immediately in the marketing industry.

Today’s edition hit my inbox and I find it right on point. Stuff to think about for Regular Joes/Janes here as well as marketing and web industry-types.

“FANG stands for Facebook, Amazon, Netflix,…FANG is sucking up all the data into which it can sink its teeth. It’s sifting, organizing, and then presenting that data in often easy-to-digest bites. Often, it’s easier to get an answer from Google than going to the government site that created the data from which the answer is built.”

“The interface is the product. The interface is the service. FANG wants to own the interface for everything. All the boring, necessary, costly stuff that make societies work will still be left to governments. But the public won’t see that effort. They’ll just see the cool FANG interface and wonder why governments can’t be like that.”

Read the full post, ‘FANG is Coming for You’, over on Gerry’s website.

Facebook D Day

I think today may be the day that my Facebook account dies. I say I think, because I’m not really sure. I think Facebook wants it that way. When you go to delete your account, they say it will take effect within 14 days, but it may be sooner – or maybe later? My past experiences tell me that when you think it’s gone – and try logging in to check – miraculously, it’s still there and it ‘reactivates’ you so you would need to go through the whole process and waiting period again.

By my calculations, today would be Day 14, but I’m not going to attempt to login to check, I’ve been suckered before.

Cruising my Feedly today I came across this article, relevant to my Facebook usage – or former Facebook usage.

How to Use Social Media Wisely and Mindfully

One particularly relevant excerpt in my case:

“We can also become more mindful and curious about social media’s effects on our minds and hearts, weighing the good and bad. We should ask ourselves how social media makes us feel and behave, and decide whether we need to limit our exposure to social media altogether (by logging out or deactivating our accounts) or simply modify our social media environment. Some people I’ve spoken with find ways of cleaning up their newsfeeds—from hiding everyone but their closest friends to “liking” only reputable news, information, and entertainment sources.”

Over the past several years (yes, it’s been that long) I’ve experimented with various levels/methods of monitoring social media use. Logging out of some accounts for extended periods and attempting to curate more specifically the people/organizations I follow among others.

Overwhelmingly I found that certain platforms bug me more than others. Facebook was the number one offender, so I decided to dump it. Twitter was second, and I had pretty much stopped using it, so it went as well.

I was back and forth with Instagram, but I find that I still enjoy it in a unique way, and overall, it doesn’t impact my moods and outlook the way my Facebook experience did (negatively), so I’ve kept it. For now.

After abandoning Google+ for awhile when I gave up ALL social media for a stint, I’ve gone back to it. Although it’s lost a lot of the specifics of the platform that made it unique from the early days – anyone who’s followed me for an extended period of time know’s I championed it early on – I still find that there’s something about it that allows for more interesting and less frustrating engagement. That said, I’ve still cut way back on the number of people I’m following and become more selective. In addition, I’ve also decided not to follow any Pages (brands, companies, organizations) and stick to (supposedly) real people. I find this helps keep the noise down.

Full disclosure – I still have a Facebook account with a fake name that I use for work. As it stands I’m responsible for managing some client Pages as well as overseeing ad and social media campaigns so I still needed a way to be on the platform. My ‘fake account’ doesn’t follow anyone though and I don’t post anything with it.

So perhaps I am off the Facebook. I don’t know. Maybe you can never really leave.

Fack’s Facebook Facts 3

“Facebook is not thriving for me.”

Dave Winer, considered the father of blogging, podcasting and RSS, thinks Facebook may be dying. At least for him anyway.

I don’t know that I would disagree. It certainly lost it’s lustre for me.

Ages 25 to 34, at 29.7% of users, is the most common age demographic. (Source:Emarketer 2012)

I wonder if those users will hang around as they age. I also wonder if Facebook can continue to grow it’s user base at the rate it currently is:

Five new profiles are created every second. (Source: ALLFacebook 2012)

My own experience tells me probably not. My two oldest kids (14 and 16) have absolutely zero interest in Facebook. The oldest calls it “weird, confusing.”

I wonder if the changes being talked about currently or some others in the future will do anything to entice more users from the demographics that aren’t currently strong. Or perhaps Facebook is an ‘acquired taste,’ something that only appeals to people once a certain ‘maturity’ level is reached.