If there is one area of my life that is anything but minimal, it is my phone, or iPhone to be specific. That little ‘i’ at the beginning of its name means that the humble phone is anything but. I have more computing power in my pocket than when I bought my first desktop computer many moons ago. (In fact my current iPhone is more powerful than the last but one laptop I bought.)
My iPhone means I can do all manner of wizardry, it also means I collect apps like Mr Norrell collects spell books. I strive for a minimal and simple life, yet when it comes to this little piece of equipment I pamper and indulge it with vague attention.
I don’t know if I have more apps than others or not (please let me know in the comments). However, I just did a quick count and I have 270. This is what happens when consumerism and choice and frivolity are left to run unbridled. If I use each app for just a minute, it would take four and a half hours to get through them all. Most of the apps need longer than that to do anything significant with.
Of course not every app needs to be used every day. There are specialist apps that might come in handy. Oh, and there is the problem. I am carrying on my phone apps that I am not using, will probably not use but apps that distract me when I move from screen to screen.
There are also many apps that I see, download and try out. Window shopping is good. We see, we think about whether or not we need something and then either buy or leave it for someone else. With many apps, you can try before you buy. Some are free to download but then offer in-app purchases. Other apps enhance online services. Because of this I have downloaded hundreds of apps to try out and see if they are any good. Now I have hundreds of apps that are sitting on the iPhone distracting me. I am also a sucker for any app that looks shiny and offers nirvana. When it comes to things digital I am often near the front of the queue to try things out. I need to hang back a little.
I can’t possibly use all the apps I have and having so many is a distraction. Too many apps are strangling my creativity. I was considering a hard reset and then downloading only the apps I thought would work. However, the iPhone is only 6 months old and so my 270 apps have been accrued in that time. I fear I would do the same again.
Instead I am moving all the apps to the next screen along. The idea is to create a space between the start screen and the first screen of apps. Then, when I need to do an activity, I will find the app and bring it back. After a month any app that hasn’t been moved back will be deleted. I may delete some before, but I know that some apps are ones that are used just once a month.
The iPhone, and any smartphone, can be a great tool to simplify our lives and help us in our creativity. It can also be a distraction, causing us to be anything but minimal through the acquisition of apps and the squandering of our time.
The iPhone isn’t the only piece of technology that will be getting similar treatment. The same principle of the less we carry the further we can travel applies to our technology. Digital real estate may be virtually hidden but it can still weigh us down.