iPhone Essential

Patrick Rhone, on the iPhone being the only computer you might need:

The real challenge is overcoming our comfort, convenience, limits and pre-conceived notions.

Like many others I’m sure, reading Rhone’s account of using the iPhone exclusively to get through the day made me frown with skepticism. Seeing how I had tried using the iPad as my only computer in the past and came to the conclusion it wasn’t enough, I had my doubts the iPhone could fare any better. So initially, I just dismissed it as Patrick Rhone being Patrick Rhone: explorer of minimalist workflows.

Still, something about his article struck a chord with me: Was I pigeonholing the iPhone based on my actual experience using it or because I wanted to keep telling myself I was still a “power user”?

So this week I ditched my PowerBook and spent the using my iPhone as my only computer, augmented by an Apple wireless keyboard to assist the writing load. I’d like to say it was revelation, an experience or that there’s some exciting anecdotes I can entertain you all with. Really, all it did was confirm my suspicions. My iPhone was already the best and most frequently used computer I own. Leaving my other devices behind was, at Rhone puts it, “no challenge at all.” Most of all, encouraging myself to only reach for my 3GS helped make me realize how effortlessly I had already been doing that everyday.

A simple inventory of my computer use during a typical day reveals how much I already depend on my iPhone for almost everything I do. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say that almost 80% of all my tweeting, RSS-reading, email checking and web browsing is done on my iPhone, even at home. In those regards, the iPhone applications dedicated to those activities are arguably some of the best there are.

These days, about the only activities I didn’t use my iPhone for was writing and maintaining this website. And like Rhone, a keyboard and Plain Text are the only two things I needed to change that. Previously, before I bothered to learn markdown, I’d ditched the iPad as a publishing device because formatting articles for the web on iOS devices was a chore and quite often frustrating. Of course, those frustrations were of my own making. With markdown, formatting is as simple as I choose to make it. Which is to say quite simple.

Is using an iPhone a perfect solutionfor everyone? No, of course not. Even a year ago, my computing demands would have far surpassed what my iPhone is capable of, unless there’s an iOS version of Adobe Lightroom floating around I haven’t heard of. But for what I need today, it’s plenty enough, save perhaps for the few times I need to so some CSS or HTML work, or edit some images in Photoshop. Those tasks, in aggregate, are so infrequent as to confirm that my laptop is now my seconday device. Call it a demotion if you will, but I’ll be making use of it from here on out as a tool dedicated to specific goals.

I’d talk about my specific, iOS only workflow, save for the fact that it would be mostly uninteresting. Most of you can guess which apps I use and how. In fact, I suspect my habits with those apps aren’t far from yours. In most cases, you’ll already have made up your mind on the pros and cons of using them instead of “applications” you use on “real” computers. That includes the constant inquisitive stares you’ll receive everywhere when strangers see you typing on a free floating keyboard with no apparent screen in front of you.

As a geek, I like to rationalize my need for the latest and greatest gear. Like many, I lust for “cores” and RAM numbers that have more thn a single digit. I want to say I’d make use of dual, triple or even quadruple Thunderbolt displays pumping out petabytes of RAID backups of all my seasons of the Office. That scenario sounds great. Unfortunately, I’ll likely never need any such a behemoth, certainly not to keep updating a Tumblr blog. I’m not advocating you throw everything away because of how awesome the iPhone is. There’s caveats to everything and this device is no exception. I’m not quite sure if I’m even trying to advocate anything at all. What I can say however, is that I’ve never been so happy with my iPhone as I have this week and at the very least, my technological self has gotten a little wiser, a little more attuned to itself.

This week, living exclusively with my iPhone has had nothing to do with something that is “minimal”, but everything to do with what’s essential.


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      discovery. Using...those times. That said, don’t just take
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