Digital downsizing

Several years ago I made myself follow a “digital life experience” in order to wean myself off of the dings, bells and whistles of constant availability on my iPhone. I got a dumb phone and used it for two months. It was a wonderful reality check. You can read more of what I learned from the DLE here.

IPhone SE (4 inch screen on left) compared to iPhone 8 (4.7 inch screen on right)

If you follow my digital (nerd) adventures here, you will also know that I passionately HATE the new iPhones. I’ve had every iteration of an iPhone since its launch in 1997, but I refuse to do FaceID. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I have. Twice.

I upgraded to an iPhone X when they came out. Then I took it back. (Reasons here). I want a home button. When my son upgraded his phone lately, I experimented for a few days with his iphone x, hoping that my initial distaste had passed and that I’d experienced digital maturity. I haven’t. I sold it.

More recently, I’ve been trying to ween myself again from the constant texts, dings, notifications and social media of the iPhone. I began by curtailing my Instagram activity. Then I deleted it from my phone. Then I began forcing myself to treat my phone as a – shock – phone. I wanted to identify basic functions that I really needed and not use it as a magic box in my pocket all the time.

I identified that I want:
  • a decent camera (I don’t need portrait mode and such).
  • email
  • calendar
  • web
  • Twitter (my preferred social media)

Once I did that, I began evaluating my iPhone 8 and decided to go smaller. There is absolutely no need for a large slab of shaped glass in my pocket all the time. I detest the “bigger is better” in the phone world.

So I scouted and bought an iPhone SE, refurbished, on Amazon for $100. And that’s what I’ve been using for two weeks. I love the smaller size, and it does what I need it to do.

I believe there’s a very real market still out there for small smart phones. Apple is supposedly going to unveil a new iPhone SE in March 2020, but everything I’ve heard indicates a form factor similar to the iPhone 8.

The phone company that begins to go small again and help us move away from overuse and provide the basic functions needed (we all consider a good camera a necessity at this point) will capture an untapped market. The rebirth of Palm phones is an attempt to do this, but reviews show their attempt to be rather buggy.

Learning to watch again

After I made the jump to the iPhone SE, I began to wonder about another adjustment. What would it mean to use a watch and leave my phone in my pocket, reducing screen time even more?

I haven’t worn a watch for over 10 years. When the first iPhone came out, my watch went into a drawer, and it’s been there ever since. So I began studying available watches. Here was what I wanted:

– a watch I could track my runs on (and thus leave my phone in the car and be totally free while running)
– a watch that I could download music to (for my run)
– attractive

Now some of you may be shocked by this, but I did NOT want the Apple Watch. Everyone in my family has had an Apple Watch. They have all gotten rid of their Apple Watches now. They were quirky nice but not life essentials. I did not want an Apple Watch because I was trying to AVOID the constant availability. I just wanted a watch that would do the two things mentioned above.

So I bought three watches to try:

After playing with them, I discarded the Active2 because if I was going to choose it, I may as well have chosen an Apple Watch. It’s essential the same thing – a digital box on your arm. I discarded the Garmin (even though everyone I know has Garmin watches and LOVES them) because I found the interface clunky and the screen incomparable compared to the Samsung devices. I found that I actually was intrigued by the Galaxy Watch.

I’ve been wearing it for a few days now, and I’ve put it through some hoops. I have downloaded music to it and used it on runs. I had to switch from Runkeeper to MapMyRun in order to track my runs (I’ve used Runkeeper for 5 years!). So the two main things I wanted a watch for have been accomplished.

Here’s my other observations:
  • I don’t really like wearing a watch. I’m really trying to get used to it.
  • I like how it tracks my heart rate, stress level and even has a place to enter how many cups of coffee I drink in a day. Though I don’t know what that’s for, I am competing against myself and trying to break the previous day’s record.
  • It’s attractive.
  • I like the spinning dial on the watch which allows you to advance between screens. You can also swipe, but the spinning dial is really satisfying. It reminds of the original iPod’s track wheel.
And yet…
  • I am struggling with whether I want to keep it. Here’s why:
  • It’s more expensive than the Apple Watch Series 3 I was looking at.
  • I feel like I”m having to find workarounds and force it to place nicely/sync with my iPhone. People who don’t use Apple products across the board don’t understand that Apple fans are just used to things “working.” A lot of times with Apple products, the way you want to swipe or navigate is already built in. It’s like thinking, “I wish it would…” and then happily discovering that the functionality is already there. Apple products just make sense.
  • It’s a bit boxy. I find myself having to pull my sleeve down over the watch a lot.
  • The battery doesn’t last more than a full day.
  • I do like being able to make and receive calls from the watch.
  • I love being able to glance at my watch without pulling my phone out of my pocket for… time (imagine that), weather, to see who’s calling and even check my steps (a weird new thing that I now do but never did before).
  • I don’t like that you have to turn off iMessage to have texts sent to the watch (and I could never get that to work even so). However, that’s probably a good thing. I don’t want to be distracted by all the notifications (and I even have them turned off on my iPhone).

So that’s my current digital life experiment and conundrum. I am still learning and processing. My goal really is to simplify and reduce screen time overall. I hope this at least makes you think about your own phone usage and perhaps nudge you to consider needed functions instead of being overloaded and overwhelmed with availability and functionality.


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