The Cell Phone I Want

Ron Jacobson
Oct 15, 2017 · 3 min read
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Every-time a new iPhone comes out I instantly want it. Even if there are only superficial changes, I want the latest model. I’ve been a lover of technology my whole life so this isn’t really anything new. The earliest memory I can recall of this was desperately wanting a laser printer when I was younger. At the time I was probably 10 years old or so. Why on earth I needed a laser printer, let alone any printer, is beyond me. Yet the moment I saw the first laser printer I wanted it. I was just so intrigued my a non ink based printer.

This brings me today and my desire for the newest iPhones. The ironic thing is that I fully recognize that my iPhone has by and large, made me a worse person. I’m not unique or special in this regard. I’m as addicted to my phone as everyone else. It’s made me less social, less able to handle 60 seconds of boredom and less able to concentrate on anything that requires more than a couple minutes of continual concentration.

Just this morning, I left my house with my Kindle to go get some coffee. I read in the coffee shop for ~60 minutes without even a second of distraction. Just continual in-flow reading. I went home afterwards with the intention to keep reading. Lying on my couch with my Kindle, it wasn’t even 2 minutes before I had a mental itch to check my cell phone. I recognized the desire and put effort into focusing back on reading. 3 minutes later, the itch returned. This desire to check my cell phone.

Now, I’m not a luddite by any means. I love technology and what is enables. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” is one of my favorite quotes. At the same time, I believe it’s time to build technology that doesn’t just enable us to do more but also enables us to live better lives.

So, in light of all of the above, what do I actually want in a cell phone? I think there are two ways to approach this. Each one is probably better for a different type of person:

  1. Limitation of functionality: I’d essentially be looking for things that let me keep in touch with friends and family, get around, take photos and learn. Specific apps would be phone calls, texting (this can include apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger), maps, camera and Kindle. This phone wouldn’t have any notifications except for incoming phone calls from people that I know.
  2. Limitations of time: In this case the phone would limit the amount of time that people can spend in certain applications. On some cadence (weekly, monthly?) I’d let my phone know how much time I want to spend per day on things like Twitter, social media, browsing the web and others. Once that amount of time is reached during the day the phone would automatically terminate my ability to use these apps.

Personally, I think the limitation of functionality would be better for me but I recognize that it’s a bit more of a baptism by fire than the limitation of time approach.

I think Apple is in a better position to enable both of these options than Google. Apple’s business model isn’t built around advertising but rather making products that people love. I think a product that makes me feel better by forcing me to be more cognizant of how I spend my time would in fact be a better end product. I don’t really see the down side for Apple in enabling this.

Google needs people to be browsing the web and consuming for it’s advertising based business model to work. I don’t really see them enabling this. On the other hand, Android a more open platform could better enable others to add on this functionality than Apple’s closed ecosystem.

So where does this leave me? Am I going to by the iPhone X? You bet. But here’s to hoping there’s a day where it comes with a more limited App Store.

(Note…this was written in one shot and not edited or even reviewed at all)

Originally published on my blog

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