Sunday, June 22, 2014

We do want more, and when it becomes more, we shall still want more

I borrowed that quote from Samuel Gompers, the first president of the American Federation of Labor. And while he was referring to the rights of workers, I am repurposing the quote by applying it to mobile technology.

Before I type another word, let me clarify that I boast not one, but two Apple stickers on my car. In my short life as a Mac user (8 years), I have informally become known as one of the in-house Apple experts where I work. I love, love, love the MacBook Pro I use. I have a Thunderbolt display, for Pete’s sake! Seriously, I am an Apple devotee. Now that I’ve cleared that up, I will proceed.

Back around 2004 or so, New Canaan High School Class of 2003 alumnus, Matt Djavaherian predicted that the mobile phone and iPod would soon be merged into one device. Clearly, he called that.

But yesterday, I did the unthinkable. I removed all music and music apps from my phone, and turned an old iPhone 4S into an iPod. Why? Apple doesn't make a phone with the battery life or storage capacity for me to play music on it anymore. I don't have enough space for downloaded content, and I don't have enough battery power to stream as often as I want to. The storage concern will be resolved in the fall with the release of iCloud Drive, but battery life is an ongoing concern.

My fully-charged-in-the-morning-iPhone 5S will dwindle down to about 20% battery life by 4PM on a normal workday. This is a complete nuisance, because 4 PM is when I most want to play music on the go.

Before you start rolling your eyes and blame me for misusing my equipment. I want to underscore a few things.
  • I am a high school librarian. I am responsible for teaching people to be more productive learners with the tools they have access to – and my learners have phones. Smartphones. Therefore, I have apps. Lots of apps on my phone. A couple of times a year I clear out the apps I don’t use, but typically, I keep about 350 apps on my phone which takes up nearly 40% of my storage.
  • I am a documenter. I take a lot of pictures. As a visual learner, many of my pictures are reminders, notes, and funny observations. Most of my pictures never get shared, but it’s how I record things. Plus it saves me the aggravation of  typing. I delete videos as soon as I upload them to a computer, but I hang on to about 8 months worth of photos, which consumes just over 40% of my storage.
  • Push notifications are great, but I keep most of them turned off – they take up too much battery power. I kind of miss them though.
  • My vision sucks but I can see pretty much anything on a phone (thank you gestural interface!) – as long as my screen is bright. Really bright. I know, I know… it consumes gobs of battery power but I can’t exactly use my phone if I can’t see the screen!
  • I use Bluetooth constantly – in the car, for speakers, my headset, connecting to other devices, etc. Turning it on and off as needed encumbers productivity.  
  • I close all my apps several times per day – I probably do that more frequently than I yawn or sneeze.
  • I have auto-lock set for one minute. My phone does not stay idle and active for long.
  • I connect to WiFi wherever I can. Sadly, it’s my daughter’s number that was grandfathered into AT&T’s unlimited data plan – not mine (and I can’t change that no matter how much I grovel) – so I frequently consume more data than my plan allows – particularly while at conferences because hotel data is often expensive AND slow – a horrendous combination! As a result, I am pretty conscientious about using WiFi when I can.
  • I never, ever leave my phone in the car.
    • I need it at pretty much any destination I reach (except the gym – now that I have this new iPhone-as-iPod thingy, and I STILL won’t leave it in the car because…
    • I would FREAK OUT if it were stolen
           so I don’t overheat or freeze my phone.
  • I keep my software up-to-date – both the operating system and my apps

So, I do what productivity permits to conserve battery power. The thing is that my phone is the only computer I personally own. I use a school-owned laptop (the one I love, love, love), and I also have a school-issued iPad, but my phone is my workhorse. I even have a keyboard with a lightning adaptor to speed up my uni-finger typing – an issue that iOS8 will help resolve.

At the 2014 WWDC conference, Apple unveiled its upcoming software releases – Yosemite and iOS8. Until this month, my frustration over the expanding array of different sized, but essentially redundant Apple offerings grew with each major announcement – a mini? Seriously? I don’t even use my full-sized iPad. Why would I want a smaller one when I already have an iPhone? - but finally I see some game-changers on the horizon, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

While the new operating systems feature a plethora of impressive tools and functionalities that will improve user productivity, it is iCloud Drive that will resolve half of my immediate problem – one of the two issues that prompted me to start this post – storage. Apple’s current iCloud backup storage is limited and costly. In the fall, we can expect Apple to offer ample storage at competitive prices, with seamless cross-platform and device Continuity – a new, and frankly overdue Apple amenity.

Anticipated iCloud Drive rates:
  • First 5GB free
  • 20 GB $ .99 per month
  • 200 GB $3.99 per month
  • Tiers available for up to 1 TB
I expect mobile device hardware to keep up with its increasingly sophisticated software. And at this point, my iPhone 5S is not making the grade. My storage issue might be resolved within a few months, but I fear that I won’t be able to take full advantage of all the operating systems’ offerings without a more powerful battery. Yes, of course I have a portable charger but really, with a top-of-the-line device bearing the steep price tag of $399, I shouldn’t have to pay for (or carry, for that matter) any additional paraphernalia. Isn’t Apple’s shtick simplicity?  I shouldn’t have to choose between using my pedometer, getting directions, listening to an audiobook, streaming music, and using my car’s Bluetooth in order to keep my phone running for more than nine hours. I want all of that. And more. If the device offers the capacity to do all of those things, then it should allow me to do them simultaneously, and for a very long time.

I am not interested in trading in my iPhone for another manufacturer’s product. I am jazzed to see these new operating systems at work. I look forward to the discovery and learning they will unleash, and I am eager to see how they impact productivity. Six months from now, I know I will be saying, “ How did I ever manage without…”, and I can’t wait to find out what will replace the suspension point in that statement. I just worry that the iPhone I have now will not be able to do what I want, when I want, without the aggravation of worrying about how much time I have to do it.

Impatiently, I wait for an official announcement about the iPhone 6. Rumors abound about a slimmer device with a larger screen, a better camera and wireless charging, which I assume would solve the battery life issue. That would be sweet!

In the meantime, I pledged to write my July 15, 2014 (11AM, ET) webinar, There's an App for That! - The B Side: 50Productivity Apps that will Prepare You for the Mobile Edu-volution, on the go. My husband and I are taking a road trip, and I plan to create my presentationon my phone with what will probably be spotty data service. My chief concern is not whether I have the apps or the knowledge to do that, it is whether my phone itself is up to the task. Will I have enough battery and storage capacity to do a good job? I sure hope so!

One final thought… How long do you think it will take after the new phone is running its new software before we start writing new posts with new demands for better versions of what we can’t even envision today? Samuel Gompers got it right, “We do want more, and when it becomes more, we shall still want more.” And it will always be so.


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