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Living The Future, Today

Actual excerpt from my inner monologue:

“I just need to buy this thing…”
“Because I want to have less things”

tl;dr - As a fun experiment, I am going to try and pretend like my iPhone doesn’t exist… in its place a combination of my LTE Apple Watch and LTE iPad.

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I can remember the uncertainty I felt being at a Starbucks with my cellular iPad and realizing that I forgot my iPhone at home. We - the royal we - were already well into the era of always having your phone with you and feeling lost without it. I remember running through different circumstances to see if I was going to have to leave to get my phone or if I would be ok to hang out for a while… most of my friends use iMessage so that’s fine… my wife might call, but if I don’t pick up she’ll send me an iMessage and we can use FaceTime audio if we have to… my parents may call but if it’s urgent they’ll call my wife… I was mostly fine. This was around 2012.

I can remember the excitement I felt watching the Apple Watch reveal, reading the subsequent previews and reviews, and then again when I got my hands on one. At that point, I had a couple of quartz watches1 but wasn’t really a watch guy2. The Apple Watch wasn’t competing with any established habits so there was no barrier to entry - just a cool new gadget that I wanted to try. I can remember turning my phone off when I was at home and just using my Apple Watch on Wi-Fi. I can even remember going over to a friends house to watch a hockey game and not bringing my phone (knowing that I had connected to his Wi-Fi network before and my watch would be able to). These situations were neat but they were extremely limited. I could still receive iMessages and a couple of push notifications for things but for the most part I was very disconnected. This was 2015.

The release of the Apple Watch with LTE re-ignited that excitement and because of expanded capabilities (of both the Apple Watch and overall improved reliability of apps and data staying in sync across iOS) you could, at the very least, start to see glimpses of what life would be like without constantly carrying an iPhone around with you.

So here’s what I am going to do: I am going to make an effort to minimize the role my iPhone plays in my day-to-day life. I’ve thought about this for a while so I already know what some of the difficulties will be. The two things that I will be thinking about constantly while I do this will be: a) Can I be contacted/contact people? and b) Is there anything I’d do on my phone that I couldn’t do without it? With the follow-up question to that being: Does it matter?

How It’s Going To Go

From what I can tell, whether I have my iPhone, my iPad, or my Apple Watch with me, there isn’t a situation where I wouldn’t be able to be reached by the most common methods. With all devices I can send and receive all text messages (SMS and iMessages). Same for emails. I can make and receive phone calls3. I don’t have WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger or anything else like that to worry about whether or not it would work.

The iPad doesn’t support CarPlay so on days that I have to make my one-hour driving commute to work, I will have to rely on Sirius XM for music. I could connect my iPad and use it like an iPod but that’s not ideal for a few different reasons. I could also stream music from the Apple Watch to my AirPods while I drive but that isn’t great either.

When I have my iPad with me, there is nothing that I can do on my phone that I couldn’t do with iPad. The worst case may be using an app in 2x mode because it was only designed to work on iPhone. When I only have my Apple Watch this definitely won’t be the case. I will be able to send/receive messages and phone calls, check the weather, get directions and traffic information, check some sports scores, and even get some news headlines but all of these interactions will be limited. I’ll still be able to listen to music and with an Outcast on watchOS I could technically listen to podcasts. I won’t be able to access or share files and I won’t be able to send GIFs in Messages4. I won’t be able to browse the web or play games but that seems like net-positive; a feature not bug5.

Not being able to take photos is the biggest hurdle and I can’t think of an alternative that doesn’t introduce a different - and worse - set of problems. When I’m at home I can grab my camera but when I’m out with just my Apple Watch I will have no ability to take a photo. When my iPad is nearby I could use that to take a photo but I will not be carrying my iPad around with me so I do not think it will often be a solution. This is where I think this whole experiment will fall apart. I like taking photos. Landscape photos, candid moments, photos of things I need to remember - lots of things. I have two kids under five and they are forever doing something cute. Even after I got the LTE Apple Watch and wanted to go out without my iPhone, I would catch myself thinking of scenarios where I might want to take a picture of something and would end up taking the phone with me.

What Do I Want To Get Out Of This?

Ultimately I am not sure what I want to get out of this. I know there’s a lot of talk about what comes after the phone? and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that some kind of wearable device could play a major role6 so it’s kind of neat to see how it would work in practice.

I am fixated on minimize how many things I have. Not in a minimalist way but just that I hate carrying stuff when I go out. I’m not the first person to say this, but leaving the house without your phone does feel freeing. Eventually that feeling seems to transition to anxiety about being disconnected but with an LTE Apple Watch that free feeling seems to linger. I love going to the park with my kid without taking anything with me. I love going to the store to run errands without having to grab my iPhone7. It seems dumb and it seems like it wouldn’t matter - and it may not, for you… but it is a noticeable feeling for me.

Another angle comes from something I heard in the quasi-documentary/quasi-interview movie It Might Get Loud where Jack White makes a point about how placing artificial restrictions on yourself can lead to more creativity because you can’t rely on your habits and things you are comfortable with. I’m not looking to get some kind of creativity boost from this but I suspect that by breaking such a consistent and prevalent habit (i.e. having my iPhone with me constantly) that I may have some interesting thoughts and perspectives on some of my current habits.

Here Are The Posts That Followed

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  1. The Timex Weekender and a couple of Daniel Wellington watches ↩︎

  2. I had an appreciation for watches and wanted to be a watch guy, but, at the time I wasn’t going to spend the money to get a nice watch ↩︎

  3. I’m not sure if the iPad can make and receive non-FaceTime phone calls on it’s own. I would not be surprised if the Handoff of cell network calls requires my phone to be nearby but I will almost certainly have my Apple Watch with me during this trial and since it can receive phone calls, it won’t matter if the iPad is unable to. ↩︎

  4. Doesn’t seem like a big deal but I send a lot of GIFs ↩︎

  5. It will be interesting to see if I feel free when I’m in the moment… I suspect I may just feel inconvenienced. ↩︎

  6. I think if you could throw in some kind of Apple Glasses type device into this experiment where I would be able to see things on a much larger screen and have some kind of a camera I think I could easily live without the iPhone ↩︎

  7. It is also worth noting that with Apple Pay, there are many scenarios where I don’t even have to bring my wallet with me. If you assume that I would probably already be wearing some kind of a watch, I am able to leave the house with zero extras ↩︎