Ted's Tidbits

Disconnecting

We live in a very connected world. In my lifetime, we’ve gone from people only having phones at home to everybody carrying a cell phone. Half of the cell phones out there are smartphones which allow you to not only make and receive phone calls and exchange text messages, but you can also connect via email, Twitter, Facebook, and a long list of other “social” networks.

As a technology enthusiast, I’ve been an early adopter of these new ways to communicate. I’ve maintained a personal website since the late 90s. I think I had a livejournal sometime around 2002 and a MySpace some time after that. I joined Facebook in 2005 and Twitter in 2007. I also signed up for many of the now defunct (but superior) Twitter competitors (Pownce, Jaiku, etc.). I’ve used Brightkite, Foursquare, Gowalla, Google Latitude and other more “location-centric” networks.

When apps came to the iPhone in 2008, many of these networks became instantly accessible to me wherever I was. When push notifications came along, I became accessible to those services wherever I was.

It’s really quite incredible. The moment someone mentions my name on Twitter or posts to Facebook or checks in at a restaurant near me or sends an email to my Gmail, I’m notified. In some cases I can receive up to three notifications: my iPhone, my iPad, and my laptop. When breaking news happens, I can know immediately. Remember when the plane landed in the Hudson? We all had pictures of it on Twitter before the TV news reports even began.

And so, enamored with the apparent ability to know everything as it happens, I continued to sign up for more and more services with phone apps that can push information directly to me so that the incoming stream of information is so much that I can no longer process it. A great example of this is the new Twitter Mac app that has a live feed from Twitter. Every one or two seconds, a few more tweets scroll by. Not so fast that I can’t read them all, but fast enough that I could sit and read it all day and do nothing else. I realize that in my eagerness to embrace this connected future, I never bothered to step back and question whether this is a good thing.

Yes, I can be connected and notified immediately when anything happens, but do I want to be? The more I think about that question, the more convinced I become that this level of connectedness is more harmful than it is helpful. Last week, I turned push email off on both my iPhone and my iPad. Now, if I want to read email I have to go to my computer and check it. I’ve discovered that I haven’t missed much. I’ve also been distracted less than normal, which is nice. I’m now looking at other ways of continuing this trend.

I don’t want to completely unplug, but I definitely want to reduce the noise coming in, so that I can focus more on things that actually matter. I think a reduction of Twitter followers may be next. We’l see. I plan to chronicle my experiences here, so, if you care, stay tuned.

My Prediction on Tomorrow's Apple Announcement

This morning I did a little research on all the Apple themed stories with the purpose of making an educated prediction about what Apple will announce tomorrow at their press event. As I looked into this and discussed the possibilities, I realized that there is no good way to accurately predict what will be announced tomorrow. Therefore, I will lean on the eternal wisdom:

Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.

Proverbs 17:28

The illusion of my intelligence survives another day!

How I Use My iPhone

I am a mobile app creator. It is my business not only to build apps, but to help clients understand what they need and want. As I advance down this path, I took some time to consider myself: how I use my iPhone.

First, I made a list of every app I have currently installed on my phone. Including web sites I've saved home icons for and the apps that come with the phone, I have 70 apps installed.

Next I divided the list into apps that I use and apps that I don't use. I tried to stay strict to this criteria. I was tempted to put apps that I liked but didn't use in the use list, but I didn't stumble. I also grouped the apps that come bundled with the phone together. After this, I have 17 installed apps that I use plus another 14 bundled apps that I also use. That leaved 6 bundled apps I don't use and 33 apps that I installed but do not use.

I was surprised by the number of apps that lay unused, taking up space on my iPhone. I decided to group them to help me understand why I wasn't using them. This is what I came up with:

Games (8 apps)

I’ve never been much of a gamer. I pretty much only play phone games when I’m stuck waiting for something and don’t have anything else to do. I am rarely in that situation

Duplicate Functionality (4 apps)

I figure I would use these apps except for the fact that I have other apps that perform the exact same function.

Forgotten Social Networks (3 apps)

These apps are tied in to some social networking website that I tried out once, but never really got in to. These are the ones I forget to post updates, and never care about my “friend’s” status updates.

Demo Applications (10 apps)

These are apps that I wanted to try out, and were free. Some of them are cool apps. In fact, they honestly get occasional use, but that is only to show off some feature or design element. I don’t actually use these apps.

Poorly Designed Apps (1 app)

There is one app that I never use mainly because it is a poor design. All the app does is do a location check, and then launch a mobile optimized website that included advertisements for the very app I’m currently using.

Apps that Provide No Value to Me (4 apps)

There is nothing wrong with these apps, and I believe there are many people that use them religiously. I have just found that I have no need for them.

Apps I Use Occasionally or Forgot I Had (3 apps)

These are apps I like, but I either rarely need them or I forgot I had them. They were lost in the sea of apps spread all over my phone.

This was an enlightening experience, so I decided to do the same thing for the apps I used. I was able to divide those into three categories:

Tools (7 apps)

These are apps that are utilitarian in nature. They help me accomplish tasks and get through the day. Some of them replace real world gadgets completely.

Reference (7 apps)

These are books and news. If I do have any downtime on the go, it’s nice to be able to see what’s happening in the rest of the world. Also, part of the point of having an internet connected device is the ability to quickly look stuff up.

Communication (3 apps)

The other reason to have an internet device is for communication. I include social networks that I participate in as well as email in this category.

With all this done, what does it mean, other than the fact I have several apps I should delete? It reveals how I use my iPhone. I use it as a tool for communication, reference, and productivity. I don't play games, and I don't really play with the phone, but I do like to play with new apps (see the 10 "demo apps" and 4 "duplicate apps" I installed). Interestingly enough, I don't really use the phone as a media device. I do use the camera, and I occasionally use the iPod app to listen to a podcast when I walk my dog, but I don't really use it for playing music or video.

This is all well and good, but it brings up another question: Am I a typical iPhone user, or am I atypical? I would imagine that I am typical within a certain category of iPhone owners. I guess I need to do more research. I think I'm going to make a habit of asking people what apps they have installed on their phones, and which ones they actually use. This is interesting information, and also very valuable information to a mobile developer such as me. I wonder if there is a service or social network that collects this kind of information.

The raw data follows:

  • Apps I Use
    • Bundled Apps
      • Messages
      • Calendar
      • Photos
      • Camera
      • Maps
      • Clock
      • Calculator
      • iPod
      • App Store
      • Phone
      • Mail
      • Safari
      • Settings
      • Contacts
    • Tools
      • Amazon.com
      • PS Mobile
      • Boxcar
      • Google
      • USAA
      • i.TV
      • 1Password
    • Reference / Knowlegde
      • PocketBible
      • DallasNews
      • Flixter
      • WeatherBug
      • USA Today
      • ScoreCenter
      • Showtime
    • Communication
      • Gmail
      • Facebook
      • Tweetie
  • Apps I dont Use
    • Bundled Apps
      • YouTube
      • Notes
      • iTunes
      • Voice Memos
      • Stocks
      • Weather
    • Games
      • Dr. Awesome
      • Poker
      • Frenzic
      • iVey
      • Labryinth LE
      • EliminatePro
      • Triple Play
      • Ramp Champ
    • Duplicates
      • Banking
      • Bible
      • PhoneFlicks
      • TweetDeck
    • Forgotten / Occasional Use
      • Pandora
      • Public Radio
      • Yelp
    • Forgotten Social Networks
      • Brightkite
      • foursquare
      • MySpace
    • Demo Only
      • Greenbox
      • Starbucks
      • WhatsApp
      • Remote
      • Bing
      • TV.com
      • Stanza
      • Yahoo!
      • AIM
      • Library
    • Bad Apps
      • PegNews
    • No Value To Me
      • Bloomberg
      • Gas Cubby
      • Quicken
      • myWireless