I recently did something a sane financial decision maker would recommend: I started saving money for the devices that I knew I may want this spring. Starting with some money I got when I walked in graduation last year, and for Christmas, I have amassed a bit of a warchest now that could finance a few devices. This is in stark contrast to my usual “I know I’ll have the money to cover this in the next month, so I’ll buy it now” theory of operation. However this has led me to some heavy decisions regarding geekly gadget purchases. I’ve figured it’s time to go with something new, and for a few months I thought that was the HTC HD2 when it hits T-Mobile. Now I’m not so sure. The point of this blog post is to look at the pros & cons of the three gadgets I’m considering, and then weigh them in terms of my life philosophy I’ve tried to implement over the past few years.
Jon’s Life Philosophy
This section is a bit long, but I think it’s important to include for two reasons. First, it’s the life view you can take when looking at the devices I’m deliberating. Second, it pushes my resolve to keep working on this life goal!
So sometime in 2007 I started listening more to Jimmy Buffett. A perennial favorite of my mother-in-law, I found that in the winter of 2007-08, Buffett’s music was the only thing that successfully kept me warm. One of my favorite songs in his catalog is One Particular Harbour which contains the following lyric:
I used to rule my world from a payphone. Ships out on the sea. But now times are rough, Oh, I’ve got too much stuff. I can’t explain the likes of me.
For whatever reason, this lyric struck a chord with me. For years my father had been talking about how things eventually own you, and that we underestimate the trade-off between material possessions and the flexibility to experience life as we wish. Looking around at a massive amount of stuff I had acquired, I began to wonder how much of it was what I owned, and how much of it owned me. So I started rather regular cleaning binges which I still do every month or so, continually going through subsets of my possessions and asking myself if I’ll ever need what I am keeping again. I estimate I’ve cut about 35%-40% of my personal “stuff” in the last 2 years, and my goal is to eventually get to the day where all of the stuff I keep in “storage” (e.g., not actively using on a daily basis) decreases to 1 closet full). I’m still a bit aways (currently at 2 closets and various spots both in NY and Ohio), but it’s something I’m striving for.
This reduction in “stuff” also filters down to my daily life. While my macbook pro has been an indispensable travel companion for me since getting it last summer, I don’t take it to work on a daily basis. My rationale is that since every file is replicated over all my laptops, why should I lug one machine to work when I already have another laptop there waiting for me. Once you stop carrying the laptop, you also stop carrying much of the bloat that goes with one, including chargers, cables, cases, bags, etc.. While these things do still come with me when I travel, they get to stay at home most of the week. In case you’re wondering, here is what I take to work on a daily basis:
- Cell phone & spare battery
- Headphones & iPod Touch (For reading & music)
- Vial of Advil & Claritan (For unexpected aches & allergy attacks!)
- Bluetooth Headset
- Pen or Sharpie fine-point
- Moleskine notebook (Which I started using to organize all my paper-based thoughts in one spot, rather than numerous scraps of paper I’d eventually lose or feel compelled to keep; Just like getting an expensive pen, I figure an expensive notebook will keep me committed to using it all the way through, rather than ditching it for scrap paper).
- Wallet & Money clip
I try not to carry a bag, so most of the time the above things are either in a SCOTTEVEST, or in my gadget geek holster/utility belt (Which I figure I can get away with since most days I wear green or black BDU-style cargo pants). I can’t tell you how much this system has made my life better – I’m no longer lugging stuff around I don’t need, and I’m way more mobile at work to say, go straight from a meeting to the train without having to stop at my office.
Around the office I’ve also tried to implement my philosophy by only printing things out if absolutely necessary. If It can stay in electronic form, I keep it in that form. I’ve started doing things such as marking up PDF documents virtually instead of printing and scrawling notes in the margins.
Returning to the Gadgets at hand…
So the overall goal of this piece is to see what gadgets currently on the market would help me in my goal of stuff reduction, not hinder. So let’s look at the pros/cons for each of the three devices I’m considering:
Pros: Pretty sweet device from the ones I’ve played with; premium interface and quick responsiveness; an OS I’m very comfortable with; Moderate hackability; T-Mobile 3G
Cons: Last iteration of a dying OS; Not that exciting of an experience; Not too different from the experience currently on my Touch Pro 2
Philosophy: Would probably not be a primary cell phone, as most of the apps I want are on Android now, not WinMo (Sadly), Would probably only want it to admire, not to actually use – which is way too materialistic for my “new” philosophy.
Google Nexus One
Pros: Would jump my android-ness up a notch from the G1 (the current daily driver); has the apps I’m looking for; hot platform; great reviews.
Cons: Price is pretty steep; No physical keyboard
Philosophy: Might replace the need to take the iPod touch to work each day when the Kindle for Android is finally released. Could also use for music. Potentially could cut down on number of things I take to work daily.
Pros: Cool device; Might further replace Paper in my life; Apps will probably be a huge deal once the device hits the market.
Cons: Price for the 3G model is pretty steep (largest of all) and I’d have a monthly bill for something that isn’t an essential device; No physical keyboard; First Gen-early adopter woes.
Philosophy: Might replace paper around the office, but would probably schlep it back and forth from home to office for no good reason. Can’t see the day I’d take a trip with just the iPad and Cell phone without the MBP in tow.
Sadly, I think I’ve reached my conclusion…
So the only thing that seems to fit with the life philosophy argument is the Nexus One, as it may allow me to cut down what I take on a daily basis to and from work. The iPad and HD2 do have extreme geek temptation to them, however, which is the sucky part. The geek in me really wants them, the rational decision-maker in me can’t justify them. Man, changing your life from a “buy it all” to “reduce, reduce, reduce” mode is a real pain sometimes. But I guess I should just rejoice in the following moments that make it all worthwhile:
- The person at the office who says “You don’t take a bag with you!?! Wow… wish I could do that”
- The periodic brisk-er than usual pace I can adopt to catch a train since I’m not weighed down as much.
- The satisfied mind feeling one gets from not losing things habitually; not having to move so many things when moving; and not worrying about possessions breaking that one does not own!
So after a few more days of deliberation, I’ll probably end up with the Nexus One, and save the rest of the money for something down the road. If you’ve got thoughts on this whole long rambling piece, or my life philosophy, feel free to post a comment!