Towards a Grand Personal Theory of Technology
It wasnâ€™t that long ago, when I was bemoaning the complexity of my technology, wondering whether I should give up and strip down to a cheap computer and a cheap phone. That was about a month after an article Steven Levy on the new iMac dropped. In it, Levy explained what he called Phil Schillerâ€™s â€œgrand philosophical theoryâ€ of Apple products:
â€œIdeally, you should be using the smallest possible gadget to do as much as possible before going to the next largest gizmo in line.â€
This is eminently reasonable, and Iâ€™m kicking myself for missing it the first time. Itâ€™s a philosophy Iâ€™ve chosen to (try and) take to heart in the new year for my technological life. How does this play out in practice, though? Letâ€™s start with the smallest device: the Apple Watch.
I would love to use my Apple Watch for more, but the combination of a fiddly interface and the slow speed makes me keep reaching for my phone. As I wrote in my six month update of life with the Watch: â€œIf thereâ€™s been a themeâ€¦ itâ€™s figuring out what I want to get out of [the Watch], and dropping what itâ€™s bad at.â€
Iâ€™m still trying to settle on a set of core functions that I can do on my Watch easier and faster than on my phone. So far, thatâ€™s fitness, (some) contextual computing, and notification triage.  What itâ€™s not is communicationâ€”too many friends not in the iOS messaging ecosystem. What I might have to do to get more out of my Apple Watch is insist on keeping my iPhone out of armâ€™s reach unless I really need it.
As for the iPhoneâ€”itâ€™s my primary communication device, and my portable entertainment device. A huge chunk of my music library lives on there, along with audiobooks and podcasts. The way I use my iPhone hasnâ€™t changed a great deal since iOS 7. The extension frameworks and improvements to multitasking and sharing have made life easier, but the fundamentals remain solid, which is fine by me. I havenâ€™t gotten much use out of the â€œproactiveâ€ features in iOS 9, but they look like a solid foundation for more context-based computing.
My iPad is one of those devices where Iâ€™ve struggled to fit it in with how I use technology. Growing up as a traditional PC userâ€”craving a mouse, a keyboard, a giant displayâ€”combined with the difficulty of doing (ugh) â€œreal workâ€ on an iPad creates a recipe for inertia. My iPad 3â€”thatâ€™s the first one with Retina, for those keeping trackâ€”was long in the tooth, and an upgrade was long overdue. I got myself an iPad Air 2 for Christmas. I know thereâ€™s an iPad Air 3 in the works thatâ€™ll likely have support for Apple Pencil, but meh. In a few days with the Air 2, however, Iâ€™m already making a conscious decision to use it over my Mac for a lot of things.
The new iPad is finding its niche for me as a lightweight, fast, easy way to do reading and writing. Split view and slide over apps are so good. My previous iPad felt so limited that there was almost nothing I could do with it beyond the occasional bit of writing, reading RSS feeds and comics, and plinking around in GarageBand. I donâ€™t know exactly what else Iâ€™ll want to do with this thing yet, but Iâ€™m willing to give anything a shot. Iâ€™m also excited to see what iOS 10 has in store for the iPad with the sheer computing power of both the Air 2 and the Pro.
Finally, thereâ€™s my Mac. The Mac is where I get all my heavy lifting done, but also where I do most of my slacking off. Games, social media, writing code, writing text, you name it, Iâ€™ve been doing it on my Mac. When I work from home for my day job, I do it on my Mac. If Iâ€™m going to be doing more on the smaller devices, the Mac has to, of course, be the device I step back from. Now, it looks like I have a setup and an ecosystem that makes overcoming the inertia of being a traditional computer user worth it. Weâ€™ll see what happens as the year progresses.