One year on

So it’s now officially been a full year on the iPhone X. A year in which I’ve been trying to come to grips with the “this is your One Device” thing, where my Kindle and my iPad and my spare shutdown phone and hell, maybe even my laptop are all superfluous to requirement and all I need to get by is this one phone (and, let’s face it, an extra battery to top it up and the BeatsX headphones along with it). So…how’s that shaping up?

Better than I would have expected, to be honest. I still wish I had something a bit smaller, but I’ve learned to live with the bulk of the thing. At least it’s practically all screen, and I can hold it firmly in one hand even if I can’t safely use it one-handed (selfies off the side of the California Street cable car are scary). And the Downtime app really is working out to let me use it as its own shutdown-night replacement device; no need for a second phone to be the “let me unplug from everything” gadget while remaining just connected enough to hear from loved ones and catch a Lyft home. The problem I keep coming back to, though, is work. This is work’s phone, on work’s plan. I do have a connection for my own private VPN, but I don’t entirely trust that AirWatch isn’t snooping in the background. I also made sure that I’m backing up routinely in iCloud, and at home from time to time. And I took the plunge and signed up for LastPass, which is at least company-approved, and embarked on a complex program of changing passwords and making sure I don’t recycle the same strong password over and over.

Because here’s the thing: what am I doing that I’m not doing on either this phone, my work laptop or on the home iMac? Increasingly a password manager and a bunch of strong passwords are better than the old days when I might have to check in from some user’s browser, or be on a lab machine somewhere, or in a cyber cafe in London. If you kidnap me tomorrow and drop me in the middle of Tokyo with just my keys and a credit card, I can walk into the Apple Store, buy an iPhone 8, log in with my iCloud credentials and then use my Yubico key to open up LastPass, and as soon as the backup is restored I’m 100% back in business and ready to go. (Granted, I might have to place a call to find out what my 2FA code is for the iCloud account, but we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.) The number of places I need to randomly log in is not what it used to be.

I mean, let’s face it, the days of logging in pretty much went by the boards when smartphone time arrived. Instagram and Uber  and Foursquare made no sense before the smartphone, but pine and Hotmail and web portals made no sense once your credentials are stored in the hand-sized device that needs both a passcode to unlock and your thumbprint or retina scan or something to report out its stored login information. If you have strong passwords managed by a piece of software that can be conveniently unlocked on the fly, the thing in your hand is itself the key to the internet.  And this is where bites the dust. You can’t plug a device into your computer to manage it as a matter of routine anymore, not if that device is your primary tool, and now you don’t have to. Trying to sync with iTunes has become such a big bag of hurt in recent years that it’s easier just to set the device up and rely on the cloud for everything – and given how much streaming music is displacing the old model, that may be for the best, because you’re going to pay through the nose for a phone with enough capacity to hold your entire iTunes Media folder and it’s going to dump the contents every time you run an OS upgrade anyway.

The flip side, of course, is that if you’re going to consume all your media on the phone, you need a big screen. Which you’re kind of getting anyway, because a bigger screen comes with the bigger device that has to hold the entire new chipset and battery enough to run it for more than thirty minutes. It’s entirely possible that we won’t ever see an iPhone SE2, because the combination of AMOLED and 3dTouch and the graphics hardware and the battery pack needed to make all that last all day means you have to go large. Made worse by the revelation that each new iPhone for the last two years has gotten slightly worse at battery life, other than the iPhone XR…which gets its power from dumping the fancy tech and cramming a huge battery behind its cheap LCD. Some years ago I bemoaned the notion that we were inevitably headed toward the 6-inch phablet as the finish line for the phone. And sure enough, here we are: 5.8” small, 6.5” large and 6.1” economy size. Apple has given in and said that the future of the most personal computer is that very 6-inch phablet. I just had a year jumpstart on their vision, for better or worse.

I don’t necessarily like it, but I’ve learned to live with it, and if that isn’t the perfect metaphor for life in these United States in 2018 I’ll kiss your ass.

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