A Work in Progress

developer's blog by Wei
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My Digital Needs

November 13, 2019

I decided to switch from iOS to Android yesterday. There are a few twitter discussions around that so here's a short write up about my setup.

To answer this philosophical question, I use my cellphone for:

  • transport: Grab (like Uber in southeast asia) and map
  • finance: quite a few banking apps
  • messaging: whatsapp, wechat, telegram (no, people are not going to unify this, relevant xkcd)
  • social network: twitter
  • personal: climbing videos (you can check out my other life as a climber)

In summary, I'm a normal person. A hipster and minimalist phone like this or this won't work for me. I eventually decided to go with Pixel 4 because I like its material and I'm a web developer - I need more than -webkit- on my cellphone so I can finally fix this bug of my own site. The latter may sound more like a legit reason but what it really is is just that I like it.

Some personal highlights?

Cross a longer span I realize my usage of digital devices evolved a few times to what I do now. I also notice that what I do and what I use affect each other.

Heavy use of commute time

Earlier this year I had a period of time when I was very packed and needed my commute time to work. As a context, I intentionally picked a place where I could have 35 minutes of uninterrupted time instead of shorter commute time but with multiple transfers. This is 70 minutes round trip every day previously nearly all dedicated to reading. I ended up getting an iPad pro to clear GitHub issues and emails during commutes. This took away my reading time by a significant amount, so I added the reading time back to before I go to sleep. So my kindle is no longer carried around and I have one more mobile device with data to utilize now.

Ample data with iPad

Purchasing the iPad with data turned out to be my favorite choice this year. With a 20G data plan I never have to look for WiFi anymore. This not only applies to commute time, but also significantly reduces my time either looking for a cafe with WiFi or fightning with slow network. If I really have to, I can now sit down at any random places (food court, for instance) and start working.

Sounds

I'm very sensitive to sounds. Mainly, I listen to stuff to block off noises that may attract my attention. I have multiple headphones / speakers for different purposes:

  • workplace: good sound quality

I think sound quality matters only in quiet environment. Active noise cancellation by default distorts the original sound. So they don't go very well together.

At workplace I use a headset originally bought for mixing. It's a popular choice for basic studio usage and I've been very happy with it.

  • on the move: noise cancellation

I have a pair of in ear headphones with active noise cancellation. I use them for meetings and all the stuff while I travel and on the move in general. I also don't listen to anything in particular. They're mainly to keep me to my own thoughts.

They also have to be bluetooth because I don't like them wired to my cellphone. I had a cellphone stolen because it was connected to a wire and the thieves were a professional group targeting wired cellphones in lose pockets.

Once they're bluetooth + active noise cancellation, can't really expect much for sound quality. So I go for comfort level of the ear buds.

  • home: ambient

I use my bass amp, lols. It's a magical 70W bass amp with a 30W size and a classy look. Can't really fully utilize it until I have a garage (and another musician, hopefully).

Other perspectives

Today I had a lunch time discussion with a colleague who breaks down the cellphone selection problem down to:

  • mobile needs - tasks I need to achieve while I'm on the go
  • pocket needs - essential tasks I need to achieve on my cellphone

I think this is a very interesting perspective. Along this line I still verified for myself that I do need the cellphone to be quite functional.

For example, the need to call a Grab for my case may be very unintentional and I may not have my iPad with me. Like if I stay out late after climbing, when I normally don't bring my iPad, I need a smart phone to call Grab. So I realize Grab is a low frequency but hard need for myself. If I move this to iPad, I'd have to bring it all the time. But this is more undesirable if I'm climbing or hiking outdoors.

But it was very inspiring discussion. I hope device produces think more along the lines of what people really need over what will be a big hit. Maybe it's why we all should still love Steve Jobs.