Dallin Crump

DigitalMinimalism

At the very end of 2022, I decided to try an experiment with an unconventional smartphone – the tiny Unihertz Jelly 2E. Here are my impressions and takeaways.

A refresh of the older Jelly 2, the Jelly 2E is the smallest smartphone I have ever used, sporting a 3” display. It may be small in stature, but it's a fully functional Android phone running Android 12 and it can mostly do everything other Android phones can do.

And when I saw it on sale over the holidays and was able to snag it for $144 USD, I figured I'd give it a try.

The 3” screen has a resolution of 480 × 854 pixels and is just fine for what it is. Everything is crisp and clear, just smaller.

The phone is small, but thick at 95 × 49.4 × 16.5 mm. The thickness is welcome – if it was any thinner it'd be very difficult to keep from dropping it. In fact, they even include a wrist strap if you want to use it!

It has a dual sim card slot – those seem to be more popular overseas. It's a feature I've never used, but always nice to have the option.

With 4GB of RAM I have never experienced any slowdowns, and 64GB of storage is more than adequate for my needs. But having the option to add a Micro SD card to expand the storage if I want to is quite welcome.

Phone calls are loud and clear. Even the speakerphone has worked well in a pinch.

The cameras (8mp front, 16mp rear) work fine and are not terrible, but don't expect iPhone or Pixel quality. I don't take many photos, so it's not a big deal to me.

The rear fingerprint sensor has been hit or miss for me. It works most of the time after a few attempts – only occasionally on the first attempt. Not a deal-breaker but noticeable.

In addition to all the standard features we've come to expect in smartphones like GPS, WiFi, front and rear cameras, etc., it also has a couple features that have inexplicably disappeared from so-called “modern” smartphones like a dedicated 3.5 mm audio jack, programmable action button, and even an IR blaster. I can't tell you how satisfying it has been to just plug my earbuds in or connect my phone to my sound system sans Bluetooth without having to look for a dongle.

The main reason I got this phone was to promote digital minimalism – to help curb the long-ingrained impulse to absent-mindedly pick up my phone and distract myself. And for the most part, it has worked.

It's definitely more difficult to type anything on the minuscule keyboard, so that alone is a huge deterrent to using it for lengthy emails, texts, etc. unless I'm truly desperate.

And I refuse to install social media apps on my phone, preferring to use a browser instead. Doing so on a phone that small is pretty agonizing, too, so with the exception of using mbasic.facebook.com a couple times, I haven't used social media on this phone at all.

But while my overall smartphone use has decreased, my computer use has increased to compensate. For example, rather than typing texts on my phone, I usually type them on a computer using the Google Messages web app (unless I am out and away from a computer). Same with my IM apps, emails, social media posts, etc.

The biggest gripe I have is that a couple a couple apps I've wanted to use have not worked. Skype just crashes immediately after launch. Gmail worked fine for a few days, then also started crashing immediately after launch. I switched to K-9 Mail and it works great. I expect there are more apps that might not work, as they are not optimized for the unconventional screen size and hardware, but thankfully there are alternatives to most apps that work just fine.

Another semi-gripe is that notifications don't seem to work for many apps. This might be due to my own lack of experience with Android 12 – I'm sure it's could be a battery optimization thing or some other setting. But it's only a semi-gripe because I usually disable notifications for most apps anyway as a digital minimalism hack. I prefer to check social media and other things on my own terms, not because that little notification tone went off. But I have missed some time-sensitive messages on instant messaging apps and that's a bit annoying.

But overall, this phone has been a delight to use and a great conversation starter (mostly people laughing and looking at me like I have two heads, but coming around as I talk to them about it and explain my reasons for using it). I love that a device so compact can do so much and do it as well as it does. If you are looking for something to help curb your smartphone use without giving up the important and useful features of a smartphone when you truly need them, give the Jelly 2E a try.


#tech #DigitalMinimalism #intentionism #smartphones

I got a lovely Moleskine paper daily planner and have been trying to use that to plan out my days and weeks. But it may be a little too inconvenient.

If it was just me planning and keeping track of my own stuff and not having to take anyone else into consideration, I could totally go all-in with paper planners. But the challenge is coordinating schedules with my wife and son.

We have used iCloud calendars to track appointments and events. We each have our own calendars, but we have shared them with each other so we can all see what each of us has going on. Every Sunday we get together and review our calendars together and talk about the week ahead. Whenever a change is made to an event or an event is added to one of our calendars, the others get notified and they can see the change reflected immediately. This system has worked well for us for several years.

I have been maintaining both my paper planner and my iCloud calendar this week. But if I stop updating my iCloud calendar, that means my wife and son will have to account for my own calendar events themselves in our weekly calendaring sessions, and I will have to somehow account for important events on their calendars in my paper planner. It also means that we would need to orally communicate any important changes or updates to our calendars throughout the week.

We could have a family paper planner or calendar, but then that means recording events in multiple places and running the risk of one of those places not being accurate. Things could fall through the cracks and there would be more opportunities for miscommunication. Could we make it work? Sure. But it creates more work for all of us without really adding any value.

In short, my using a paper planner while my wife and son still rely on electronic calendars decreases flexibility and impedes our ability to communicate and coordinate our schedules.

I don't think it makes sense for me to stop updating my iCloud calendar, but it also doesn't make sense for me to maintain both an electronic and paper planner at the same time. So I think I'm going to halt my paper planner experiment.

Another quirk that factored into this decision is that my paper planner doesn't have enough time slots each day for my schedule. It has slots in hourly increments from 8am to 8pm. But I wake up at 6am and go to bed at 10pm. I want the ability to account for all of my waking time if I desire down to 30 minute increments. I'm sure I could find a paper planner that would be exactly what I'm looking for, but it's a moot point. I've decided to keep using an electronic calendar, and they are much more flexible in that regard.

I want to continue to focus on planning better, and I do believe there are benefits to writing things down on paper in terms of organizing thoughts and planning things. So instead of using a dedicated paper planner, I will use a regular notebook to jot down events to remember, draft daily or weekly schedules, as needed, and then input things into my electronic calendar as the final “source of truth”.

Discuss...


#planning #tech #intentionism #LessConvenient #DigitalMinimalism

I'm glad tomorrow is a company holiday. I could use the extra day to prepare to prepare, because I want to make some significant changes for 2023. One of the changes I have made is to rearranged my home office to be more conducive to my goal of being more intentional with the digital technology I use.

Before, I had two tables arranged in an L shape to form a single “desk”. Now those tables are separated. One table is for all the digital technology I use – the “Online Table”. The other table is the “Offline Table” and strictly for tasks such as research, study, planning, writing, and meditation – anything that doesn't require me to be looking at a screen.

With the Online Table, I have purposely tried to pare down and consolidate all the digital technology I personally and exclusively use so that it fits on this single table. I now have only one display – my trusty old Dynex 32” 720p LCD TV. This is the only display my desktop PC is connected to. The TV is connected to a KVM switch so I can also use it as an external display for my work or personal laptops, if needed. I adopted a single monitor workflow a couple years ago, so no worries, here. My laptops are stored in a vertical dual laptop stand beside the TV when not in use. I also have a small audio receiver and two speakers, a dual SATA USB 3.0 HDD/SSD dock, and a wireless keyboard and mouse. All of this fits on a single table.

The Offline Table is where I will keep a paper planner, notebooks, writing utensils, books, and other related materials. It is where I will write letters, brainstorm ideas, study scriptures, and generally “disconnect” from technology.

These tables are physically separate from one another for both symbolic and practical reasons. This is just one of the many changes I will be making in the coming days and weeks to help promote a healthier relationship with technology.

Discuss...


#tech #intentionism #DigitalMinimalism #HomeOffice

I've been trying the “one blog to rule them all” method of blogging for a couple years now – posting about a variety of topics on a single blog. But I've been thinking about starting an additional blog with a specific focus.

I want to make some changes to my life with respect to how I use my time and how I interact with digital technology. I thought it might be good to have a blog dedicated to documenting my experiences and things I am learning in these areas.

I came up with a couple different ideas.

The Digital Minimalist (digitalminimalist.org) – This blog would be limited in focus to digital minimalism – the intentional use of digital technologies and stopping the addictive behaviors in which many have become trapped. Topics could include strategies for intentional smartphone use and good non-digital alternatives for performing specific tasks.

Less Convenient (lessconvenient.com) – This blog would be broader in scope than The Digital Minimalist. It would include digital minimalism but would also explore the concept of the often ignored and unseen negative consequences of using technologies and engaging in behaviors that are supposed to make our lives more convenient. For example, the pervasive use of automobiles for transportation in North America has had some serious negative consequences in the way we build infrastructure, environmental impact, and public safety. It would promote the value of doing certain things in a less convenient, more intentional way.

Of course, I could just continue posting about these things right here on my personal blog.

Right now I'm leaning towards the Less Convenient idea. I feel like digital minimalism is getting a lot of attention these days and Less Convenient would have a lot more potential ground to cover in addition to that.

Discuss...


#writing #DigitalMinimalism #intentionism

I received an email yesterday that the Unihertz Jelly 2E smartphone I ordered on 12/23 has finally shipped.

The delay is understandable. Package delivery is always delayed around the holidays, but this year some intense winter weather has been negatively impacting air and ground transportation all over the country.

So I don't mind long shipping times. The only expectations I have for this phone are that it will work with my carrier and will make me want to use a smartphone less.

I'm excited to thoroughly try it out and share my impressions. Hopefully it will arrive before the end of the year so I can start 2023 off on the right foot on my journey to more intentional technology use.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 97) #tech #smartphones #DigitalMinimalism #intentionism

In 2017 I learned about and got really into the concept of minimalism. Not in the artistic sense, but in the sense of removing physical and mental clutter from your life so that you are able to focus more on what truly matters.

In fact, that summer I undertook what I now refer to as “The Great Purge of 2017”. I went through my entire house and got rid of a lot of stuff. It was glorious.

In addition to regularly assessing my physical possessions and getting rid of things I don't need, I try to evaluate things that are cluttering my mind and negatively affecting my mental health. In my case, most of those things have to do with the technology I own and how I use it.

I have made some good strides over the years, but now more than ever I feel the need to make some significant and permanent changes to my relationship with technology.

I have always been concerned about the potential negative consequences of technology making some aspects of our life more convenient. Whether we realize it, there are always trade-offs.

Automobiles, for example, have made our lives convenient in many ways. They allow us to travel where we wish whenever we wish. But I believe they have also negatively impacted things such as our environment and the way we plan and build our cities in North America. They are also not the safest way to travel and they can be a tremendous financial burden to the average family.

For years I've been thinking about this concept of the sometimes ignored and unseen trade-offs we make for a more convenient life, and not only do I feel a renewed desire to make more changes in my own life, but I also feel compelled to make a dedicated blog and maybe even a podcast about it to share what I am learning with others.

Stay tuned.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 96) #DigitalMinimalism #intentionism #life #tech

For some time now – years – I have felt the need to be more meticulous in my time management and planning.

I have been using iCloud calendars for years to keep track of individual and family events and schedules, and it's certainly been better than nothing. But as I try to scale back and perhaps eventually eliminate my personal smartphone use, I am going to need to find other means of managing my time.

From December 2000 to December 2002 I lived in Brazil serving as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Smartphones didn't exist, and PDAs like the PalmPilot were expensive. We used paper planners to plan out our days and weeks in 30 minute increments. It was one of the most productive and efficient periods of my life.

I came across a post on the Moving Offline blog by Jose Briones that tipped me off to the existence of Moleskine daily planners. They're not like my old missionary planners, but I decided to order one anyway and try it out. I can always try something else if I determine this isn't what I need.

Better time management using paper planners is a foundational personal change I want to make in 2023. Foundational in the sense that I hope it will help me to stay accountable and on track as I make other changes to better align my behaviors with my values.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 95) #DigitalMinimalism #intentionism #planning

I'm half-way through a two-week news and social media fast. It's going just as I had hoped it would.

I'm disturbed (but not surprised) by how many times I have absentmindedly tried to open a news or social media website. Thankfully the blocks I have put in place have prevented me from breaking my fast and reminded me just how entrenched I have become in these habits.

I feel like my overall mental state is getting better. I'm less anxious and agitated. I'm able to think more clearly and focus more easily. I have a greater desire to read and write. I know there are concerning and disturbing things happening in the world, but I'm focused more on how I can make the world a better place by influencing circumstances within my control.

Going forward, I think I need to schedule specific times to check news and social media. I'm not sure yet on the duration and frequency. 30 minutes daily might be too much, so maybe 30 minutes every other day. I'll have to experiment and see what works. Outside of those scheduled times, I need to avoid news and social media.

For now, I will enjoy the remainder of this news and social media fast and continue to think of other ways I can align my life more with my values for the coming year and beyond.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 94) #DigitalMinimalism #SocialMedia #intentionism

I took a long road trip today without using GPS navigation at all. It was a familiar route, so I didn't need to use any printed maps. But it gave me confidence that maybe I don't need GPS navigation as much as I think I do.

I feel like with proper planning, a road atlas (assuming they still make those), and some printed maps for specific destinations, I could take a road trip anywhere.

This is how we did it before smartphones were a thing, and we somehow managed to figure things out, right?

Before smartphones, I'd look up routes on my home computer and print out MapQuest maps and directions as needed. Seemed to get the job done then, I'm pretty sure I could do the same now. Except with Google Maps, of course.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 91) #tech #DigitalMinimalism

I couldn't resist. I've been wanting to try the Unihertz Jelly 2E ever since I heard about it. It's already pretty attainable at a base price of $169.99, but right now it's on sale for $159.99 and Unihertz is also running a 10% off promotion. So I figured why not?

Little is the key word, here. It's a little phone and I hope to use it as little as possible in the ways that smartphones can be addictive. I've been wanting to wean myself off of smartphones for a while, and I'm hoping this device will be a step in that direction. I would need to be pretty desperate (or addicted) to want to use a phone with a 3” screen (the original iPhone had a 3.5” screen) for web browsing, social media, messaging, videos, etc. But I will still be able to take advantage of features like maps, music apps, and even snapping occasional photos.

I'm looking forward to trying it out and sharing my thoughts and impressions about it.

Discuss...


#100DaysToOffload (No. 90) #tech #DigitalMinimalism #intentionism