Going Apple: Tech as the Means, Not an End
For the first couple weeks of the year I used an unconventional Android phone – the Unihertz Jelly 2E – as my daily driver smartphone. While it's a delightful little phone and great for what it is, I'm back on my trusty iPhone 8.
Back to iPhone
I loved the small form factor of the Jelly 2E for many reasons – mostly because it kept me off the phone when I didn't need to use it. But the main reason I'm back on an iPhone is the software. A few apps I wanted to use simply would not run on the Jelly 2E, probably because of its unconventional screen size (3”) and hardware.
Also, I've been using an iPhone as my daily driver for so long that my digital workflow is just more efficient on iOS. Yes, lock-in is a factor. FaceTime and iCloud calendars, for example, have become indispensable tools for communicating and coordinating with my family. None of them are planning on going Android anytime soon, and me being the only Android user means I have to use less efficient workarounds (I can't FaceTime them, they have to send me a link for a FaceTime. And I have to rely on a third-party app (DAVx5) to sync my iCloud calendar and contacts with my Android phone). And there are other examples besides those two, like managing family settings, content sharing, and subscriptions is easier, or in some cases necessary, on an iOS device.
But these specific examples just point to a broader issue.
In recent weeks I've written about how I worry that some things have become too convenient – that when we allow machines to exclusively do meaningful tasks for us that require us to be intentional, we lose something important. We need to be careful and intentional about how we use technology. It's more convenient to send a text or an email, but sometimes a hand-written letter or card is the best way to convey sincere thoughts and sentiments to family or friends. We can read just about anything on a digital device, but sometimes We need to hold and read a physical book. Video calls are fantastic at bridging time and distance to connect people, but they are not an adequate substitute for meeting in-person.
But we must balance the convenience equation. If there is such a thing as too much convenience, there can also be such a thing as too much inconvenience.
I shudder to think about how many cumulative hours I have spent fretting and thinking and tinkering and fiddling with the technology I personally use. True, I have learned much and have been able to gain a great understanding of how that technology works. But I learn quickly. And it doesn't take much time before I'm no longer learning and all I'm doing is fretting and tinkering for distraction or entertainment or whatever.
I have to stop this. Because, as I've been painfully reminded this month, this mortal phase of our eternal existence is precious and it can end without warning. I have spent too much of my life alone, tinkering with gadgets or staring at a screen, when there are more important and meaningful things to be done.
The technology I use should be the means to an end, not an end in itself. The technology I use shouldn't be what is most important in life, it should help me do what is most important in life.
Viewing my situation from this perspective – assessing where I am in relation to where I want to be – I need to make some changes. I need to make the technology I use more convenient, not less, so that it can get out of the way of what I truly value (or what I should value, but have been trying to distract myself from valuing).
Time to Get a Mac
I am making the commitment here and now to use an iPhone and Apple software like iMessage, FaceTime, and iCloud Calendars for the foreseeable future. I'm done “phone hopping”. To streamline things and minimize the need for workarounds and tinkering, I am getting a Mac (probably an M1 MacBook Air, but I haven't decided yet).
I have written about frustrations I have with Apple. I have called them out more than once for certain business practices and decisions. But I am willing to make a compromise for the convenience, consistency, and reliability of Apple products and services. I do so knowing that it will free up time for more important pursuits.
These pursuits include but are not limited to:
- Spending more time with family.
- Focusing more on my faith. More time in personal prayer and study. More time devoted to my church responsibilities.
- Going back to school. I have been extremely blessed and fortunate to have a successful career without earning a college degree. I took a couple years of community college but now it's time to finish what I started.
- Making more friends IRL. I have lamented the fact that I don't really have any friends in my neighborhood. I know plenty of good people, but nobody I would consider a good friend. I need to change that.
- Working on family history. There's a lot to be done, here. Photos to scan, materials and mementos to sort through and organize, records to update on FamilySearch.org. I've been avoiding it for too long. If I don't do it, it won't get done, and precious family information and memories will be lost.
- Practicing my clarinet. I want to at least get back to the level of proficiency and confidence I had in college and try to play in a community orchestra or band. This alone will require at least 30-60 minutes of daily, consistent practice.
This isn't my whole list, but these are some of the most important things on it. If I were to make a more complete list, things like “spin up and maintain my own NextCloud server” or “get a refurb Android phone and flash it with a custom ROM” or “try another Linux distro” would be way, way down the list.
I've used Macs and iPads in the past in addition to iPhones, so I know how well Apple devices work together and complement each other and how good they are at getting stuff done the way I want. At this point in my life, that's the kind of technology experience I both need and want.