Dalliances and deviations.

So I returned my iPhone SE.

I know, I know.

I was so into it. Last time I talked about it, my mind was made up, I was forging ahead, I had everything I needed and my resolve was strong.

To be honest, it was a great few weeks. I really like that phone a lot. It is an incredible, compact, able little thing. And I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who asked about it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that phone. I truly adored it while I was using it.

But after watching the WWDC keynote, my mind started wandering. Although I wasn’t much into 3D Touch this time around, it seemed to be extending in pretty interesting directions. The iOS 10 UI made me pause too. I looked at the changes to layout, fonts, and other elements and realized that while it would work on a smaller screen, it wasn’t designed for a smaller screen.

That’s when it hit me: going against the grain of whatever direction Apple is moving in is not a great idea.

I started to realize that if I wasn’t using the de facto hardware (read: 4.7″ and up), I was not going to be getting the best experience. The changes coming to iOS are built for new hardware, with a typical inclusive nod to the previous year, making the update almost fully accessible, minus whatever secret hardware features are lurking, waiting to be revealed in the fall.

Most importantly, I wasn’t planning on buying a new phone this fall, and even if I was, I couldn’t see Apple refreshing the 4″ size so soon, if at all. I’d like to think that it caught them a little off guard, given that it was a bit hard to get one if you were just strolling in to a store for a while there. Tim Cook even noted that the demand was “much beyond what we thought” during the Q2 earnings call.

Still, the phone I had wasn’t able to take advantage of all of iOS today, let alone tomorrow. So I made the call to go back up to the 6s, and that was that.

But like a pre-teen romance at summer camp, I’ll remember the few weeks we had together fondly. Preferably against an 80s-style montage of Peter Cetera and soft-focus shots of me holding the phone wistfully.

Judge me by my size, do you: the iPhone SE.

(A small review for a small phone)

It’s snappy as hell, and feels terrific. I think the minor updates to the 5s design are even better than the initial phone.

I’ll see if I miss 3D Touch, but my gut says no. The power of a big phone in a small case outweighs that for me right now.

Pretty damned compelling. I’m into this.

Reversing orbit.

For the past few months, I’ve become increasingly iPad-centric in my use of iOS. This had been happening since iOS 9 came out, certainly, but the scales tipped inexplicably about two months ago, and the momentum was only accelerated by the adoption of the 12.9″ Pro. I now spend the majority of my time on the iPad, doing everything I had been doing and a lot more.

My iPhone 6s, meanwhile, has been relegated to a different role. I still use it quite a bit, but if we’re being honest, it’s definitely my second choice if I want to do something. Sometimes it’s the only choice, in a scenario where I don’t have the iPad, but given the choice, at this point, it’s number two.

This got me thinking. I take my iPad to the office each day, and bring it home. It’s my anchor. My iPhone is the smaller device I always have with me: my camera, my hotspot, my payment token. If I’m going to carry two devices (almost) everywhere, why not lighten the load a little bit?

Then this happened.

And I went, “wow, cool, a tiny phone with big phone guts” like a lot of other people. I’ve always liked the iPhone 5/5s style. In fact, I actually still prefer it to the iPhone 6/6s style. I like the new style, but it just never felt as natural to me. And while some folks saw the SE as a step backward in terms of looks, I agree with Apple:

we started with a beloved design…

But I held onto my 6s. Then I was pushing one of my kids in the stroller around the neighborhood while trying to text with the other hand, and it started to dawn on me: my specific use cases for my phone have changed. It used to be my do-literally-everything device, and it has become my do-a-handful-of-things-well device. Which I am absolutely fine with. As such, the thought that kept gnawing at me since then has been clear.

I think I’m going back to a(n even) smaller phone.

Right now, my phone needs to be able to do exactly four things well:

  • camera
  • communication
  • payments
  • capture small bits of information

Prior to the SE announcement, there was no way a 5s was going to close out that list. It’d get there on #2 and #4, but #1 after seeing the 6s photos? Nope. And no Apple Pay–I’d be lying if I said I don’t use it every chance I get.

The SE does those. In a tiny, powerful package. With a design I always liked, without (much) compromise.

Yes, I’ll have to live without 3D Touch. In all honesty, while I do use it, I often forget it’s there. It’s never stuck with me all that much, and I’ve really tried. I always press everything to see what happens, but it’s inconsistently applied, and in some cases, just not worth the time. Maybe someday, but not now.

Yes, there’s going to be a lot less onscreen at once. This is probably the biggest trade off I’ll need to make, and the toughest to come to terms with. It’s nice having a bit of extra room to read and interact with things. But you know what? I interacted with this smaller size for freaking years in the absence of a larger phone, and my world kept turning. I do a lot of reading on my phone, but I’m prepared to make a change in how I use it to see if the difference makes sense.

Yes, there will likely be a new phone in the fall, that does amazing things. See that list up there that I mentioned? Those four things are truly all my phone needs to do these days.

But what it does do well, is plenty. The camera and internals are 6s-quality. Apple Pay is in. Touch ID, while not as fast as the 6s, is there. The things that are integral to the “portable communicator” table stakes are there.

There’s something else though.

I’ve written about my time away from Twitter and the web at large and how it changed me. Part of that was spending less time looking at my tiny screen(s) in general. I’ve set upon an internal logic for this new thought technology:

  1. If I have the iPad, I will use the iPad, because it is better.
  2. If I don’t have the iPad, chances are I am somewhere where it is either not necessary to be looking at a screen, or not appropriate.
  3. If this is the case, the only things I probably need to do are take a photo, pay for something, or communicate quickly.

Which basically means the time I spend looking at screens is better spent, and the time when I am not looking at screens is even better spent. I will be (or at least try to be, I mean, this is an experiment, after all) more present, more attentive, and more in the moment. I feel like this is a natural extension of my thought process for the past few months, and even though there’s a part of my brain that’s like “you are seriously drunk, man”… I’m thinking it’s at least worth a try.

Worst case scenario: I freak out, return it or sell it, and go back to a bigger phone. Best case scenario: I was right, a new pattern emerges, and the things I care about come into focus a little more.

Hey, if this is my biggest challenge right now, I’m thankful as hell. In the meantime, I’m off to buy a tiny phone.

Search wishes on iOS.

In iOS 9, Apple is extending Search’s (née Spotlight) built-in abilities in cool ways. There’s a lot that it can do now, with third-party developers able to plug into it via new API access. But in an effort to make iOS even more of a productivity tool, one thing it still can’t do is replicate the ubiquitous availability that it’s afforded on OS X.

How often do you think of something you want to search for from the Springboard? Now think about how often that might happen while working in another app? Wouldn’t it be great to have a universal search bar in, say, the Today view as a built-in widget like Weather that’s always there to quickly access?

I would love–LOVE–to see a search widget or some similar functionality within the Today view. I can’t tell you how immeasurably useful that would be for me. Having to back out of whatever I’m doing, return to the home screen, and having to swipe once, maybe twice to reach a search field just feels so… old.

Doing what I do every day, I fully realize the interface implications of doing something like this. But it makes so much sense to me, I can’t help but think it’d be worth it.

DODOcase leather back for iPhone 6.

In my seemingly endless quest to find minimal case experiences for my iOS devices, I continue to plod through the internet in search of the Goldilocks fit for my phone. I recalled being a big fan of the DODOcase Bookback for a while, during the 4/4S years. It was a nice way to add a tiny bit of texture to your device without adding any bulk.

So it was with some enthusiasm that I ordered the equivalent product the company offers for the iPhone 6. I suppose the tl;dr here is that I don’t like it as much as my previous purchases.

Part of it is the color. This nude, peachy leather is the only option you have for this thing. Why not a nice rich brown as well, or better yet black, like the BOOKback of yore? I know, it says over time that it’ll become a “deep carmel color” which is interesting, because that’s a place, and not a color. I’ve never been to that part of California, but I’m curious to know how it looks compared to this.

More importantly though, is a problem that isn’t anyone’s fault. The iPhone 6/6+ has these rounded edges, which makes anything you apply to it that doesn’t hug it perfectly feel awfully out of place. When you stick this cover to the back, your fingers find the edges instantly, and although the site claims that’s a feature, it feels like a bug. Like I said, no one’s fault; everyone’s working with the same dimensions of the phone, but it’s a bummer. Who knows, perhaps some people do like feeling the edges of it all the time, but it broke the lines of the phone in a way that some of the other ultra-thin cases I’ve tried were able to preserve.

I’m being a little bit of a baby, I know. I could easily get over the color of it since it’s on the back and I’d probably never look at it anyway. Over time, it would probably get dirtier and evolve into a nice brown. But those older BOOKbacks were so good because they melted into the edges of the phone so perfectly. This one sits behind it like a small skin pedestal.

Into the drawer of failed hopes with ye.