iPhone hygiene: how I make (and keep) my phone tolerable 

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It’s been almost nine months since that fateful September day when I had finally had it up to here (points to the chin or the eyebrows, or somewhere in between) with my iPhone 5.

Its agonizing decline was so gradual and, well, agonizing that I felt compelled to write about it at the time, since Apple sure as shit wasn’t fixing to fess up about the issues its customers were no doubt experiencing.

Having made the decision to throw in the iPhone 5 towel and succumb to the inevitability of having to get a new phone, I had found myself at a crossroads: I was standing at a Decision Point on Technology Trail.  I could go this way or that.  I could continue along my current Apple Avenue and snap up the next version of the iPhone, or I could hop onto Android Avenue instead.  I wasn’t even sure if there was a third option; I had never had to pay attention.

Should I stay or should I go?  That is (was) the question.

I was getting ready to go.  The iPhone 6 had long since been released, and I was not impressed. The new information coming hot off the presses about the iPhone 7 couldn’t even dry its ink before I had made the decision that it wasn’t going to appeal to me any more.  It probably sucked, too.

Damn, I hate being right.  Because relatively speaking, I tend toward the cynical.  So if I make an assessment or prediction that something new is going to suck, it usually does.

In the end, I didn’t jump off the Apple Train.  But my loyalty was not unconditional; there were strings attached.

What ultimately held me in place was the discovery of the iPhone SE, created reluctantly, begrudgingly, grumbly, by a displeased Apple who saw the writing on the wall that told the grim story of Apple losing serious market share if they didn’t start admitting to the fact that not every Apple Fan Boy/Girl is enamored with every new bell and whistle the company tries to foist upon us with every spanking new phone integer.

Some of us were vocal about our demands: make a phone that works on the current network, without the useless bullshit.

We must’ve added up to a fairly large number, because Apple gave in and made a phone just for us.  The phone it hadn’t wanted to make and probably wouldn’t have if it weren’t for those meddling, independent-thinking kids.

Oh, did we do that?  Our bad.  Or maybe it’s Apple’s bad for increasing their Idiocy Factor in the first place.  Straying further and further away from their In-Touch-With-The-Customers Zone.  Forcing more and more useless, Big Brotherly, unwanted updates on us.

And now that I hold an iPhone in my hot little hands, I’m pretty sure that Apple’s stockholder-centric Goal Numero Uno is to pry that regretted phone right out of those hot little hands of mine, and hopefully ASAP, before I get too comfortable with it or too used to the idea that Apple doesn’t, in reality, wield much control over our technology decisions and dollars after all.

Because I’m sure that from their point of view, that smarts.  The loss of control and any sentiment of The People Have Spoken must be quashed.

After all, we can’t have independent thinkers roaming the quiet countryside now, can we?

Bound and determined to hang onto this phone, too (I hung onto my iPhone 5 for two and a half years, and I like this one even better), I’ve figured out that the only way I can hope to do this successfully is to go against everything Apple would like me to do during the life of my phone.

And I mean everything.

I might seem contrarian.  But that’s not quite the case.  They’re just that screwed up.

I’ll share my strategy (which has seemed to work in a sweet–and eerie–slam-dunk manner so far) in case anyone finds it useful and/or helpful…

First was the fact that I indeed got the iPhone SE, as opposed to the 6 or 7.  Both the iPhone 6 and 7 come with features that, despite their hype, were utterly useless to me.  I mean, I could give two shits about Siri; it just wasn’t that impressive to me.  There were other little graphical features or effects that just didn’t justify the learning curve or the price tag.

But even the iPhone SE isn’t perfect; it’s still a current-generation phone, which means that it was designed and made under the post-Steve Jobs direction, and therefore, even a stripped down version of an iPhone still came loaded with pointless crap (“Find Friends” and iTunes Store come to mind).  And of course, the default settings were configured in the spirit of “opt-in” when in reality, nobody had bothered to ask me.

So, with the help of my comparatively techno-wizard partner, I went through and turned off all of the extraneous “phone home” connectivity.  No, I don’t want to let Apple know every little thing I’m doing, nor do I want updates to download and install automatically, nor do I want this setting turned on or that one activated or to create and use an iCloud account, nor do I want “push notifications every time an Apple executive takes a dump.  Just–no.

So, “opt-in” quickly morphed into “opt-the-frick-out”.

Since one of my principal problems with my previous phone involved a constant pissing contest over storage space, I lived and learned and made the executive decision that that no-win scenario was so not going to repeat itself.  Those who don’t learn their history are doomed to repeat it, and I wasn’t going to relive that fiasco.

So I became choosy about which apps I was actually going to allow the privilege of taking up space on my phone.  I got picky to the point of elitist snobbery.  My phone was all that and a bag of chips, and the space on it was mine.  To be granted a precious chunk of storage real estate was an honor of epic proportions.  In short, only a select few were worthy.

This meant that I practiced my Just Say No mantra with that much more gusto when it came to visiting websites that presumptuously nagged their visitors to “download our app!”

Umm, no.  And when I stumbled upon websites that automatically transported me through the Warp Zone to the App Store, I grimaced in disgust and vowed never to visit that website again.  I also, obviously, refuse to visit sites that will only let mobile users access their website through their app (I’m giving you my Evil Stink Eye, Yelp).

When I do deem an app worthy of precious storage space, I disallow all notifications.  No app needs my attention that urgently; they don’t get to clutter my lock screen, my home screen, or any screen, for that matter.  In fact, I have a novel idea: when I actually feel like using an app or checking in on its latest goings-on, guess what?  I’ll open the freaking app on my own accord, and according to my own free will, however minuscule a shred of it there may be left once technology gets–and has–its way.

Speaking of websites, they’re shady little demons.  Websites I’ve never visited leave little dung-droppings in my browser data, tracking movement about the interwebs, without any regard for the user whose device of which they’re slowly eating away space.

To prevent this technological top soil erosion, I will periodically go on an archeological dig into the depths of my phone, several layers deep down into the nebulous Settings, and excavate the website data.

The manufacturers (shifting my Evil Stink Eye back to Apple) don’t exactly make this task an easy one.  They know that you probably don’t want to “clear all website data” because, after all, you’re probably logged into a few account-based websites, which, if you’re like me, the passwords to which don’t exactly roll off the tip of the memory bank.  So you do have the option of going in and clearing individual cookies, but it’s a cumbersome, time-consuming bitch.

To the collective corporate mild chagrin, I do this anyway.

This becomes exponentially important when considering websites I visit often, which, for reasons unknown, collect mysterious amounts of data.  (Actually, I have my theories on this, too–which probably doesn’t surprise anybody by now; if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s thinking shit up lol.)

Periodically, I will also delete and reinstall apps.  This becomes particularly useful–and arguably necessary–when considering apps like Twitter or WordPress.  Again for reasons “officially unknown” (to me, anyway), these apps will amass suspicious amounts of data, which, as with website data, simply erode free storage space without providing any benefit to the user (the cryptic “documents and data” under which they are stored can’t even be accessed/viewed/described any more specifically than that).

The only real antidote I’m aware of is to simply delete the app completely and reinstall it from scratch.

One word of caution before doing so, however: watch your iOS compatibility.  I’ll explain, which first requires me to advance to my next point…

Once I get a new phone, I might update the software once.  (And even then, not right away.  New versions of operating systems these days are hardly finished products; rather, they’re incomplete, incompetent beta-test quality programs fraught with bugs and instability.  I let other people with more patience identify, “complain” about, and work out those bugs first.)

Consider another facet: the newer software being released is bigger, more powerful (although the latter might be debatable), and certainly takes up more space (almost excessively so, considering the merely-marginal benefits to the user).  That newer version will tax that now-older hardware that much more with each update pushed on the users.

The manufacturers know this, of course, and I think that’s at least part of the driving force behind the rapid-release of updates (doesn’t it seem a little odd that just when you’ve made heads and tails of your current OS version, they’re suddenly announcing the release of the next?).  They know it’s going to slow down your current device.

And with each new version released, the congruency between your continuously-updated software and your still-original hardware decreases; the gap in function widens; eventually, it becomes too frustrating, and the tendency is to chock up the situation to “an old phone” and the pressure to get a new one mounts (especially when all of our friends are oohing and ahhing over their new phones leaves us wondering why we’re clunking along with older hardware).  Eventually, we succumb, too.  At that point, the cycle is complete, ready for a new round of consumer slavery.  The manufacturers have won.  Again.

The only antidote is resistance.  “Just Say No” mantras and mindsets serve me well here, too. I decline the “invitation” to install that newly available upgrade, thus maintaining the congruency between my hardware and software.  And my phone seems not to suffer for it.  I tend not to run into the headaches, the frustration, or the issues about which my friends bemoan and lament.

For quite a while, I beat the system.

That dig-in-my-heels strategy only works for so long, of course; today’s devices are governed much more strongly by the networks to which they’re connected and much less so by their onboard operating systems than most people realize.  But The Resistance mentality does buy me some time. Apple’s grand plan is for you to get a new phone every 1-2 years; I had my last one for 2.5.  With some of the tricks I’ve learned (the hard way) during that ordeal and since then, I might be able to hang onto this one for 3.  We shall see; as usual, time will tell.

Some of these “tricks” I’ve described already, but there are others.

I delete old text conversations, unneeded photos, voicemail messages, unused apps (I check apps every so often to ensure that they still work), and so on.  I check my Notes app for the mysterious phenomenon of duplication (Apple’s doing, seemingly at random).

I look for and install ad blocking apps to make my web browsing experience much more tolerable.  This may or may not cut down on the stored data from websites; I’m not sure yet.

Since the iPhone’s onboard web browser, Safari, is particularly sloppy about its data storage, I have downloaded–and I use–two alternative web browsers: Dolphin and Apollo.  I’m experimenting.  I run WordPress off of the app and I tend to visit other WP blogs with Dolphin.  So far, so good; I haven’t gotten any annoying messages cheerfully asking me if I would like to devote more space on my phone to the WordPress website like I did before.

Last but not least, I try to keep my phone off of wi-fi networks, especially for prolonged periods, and especially overnight.  I’ve found that that’s when Apple will shunt their crappy upgrades to your phone, kindly devouring a full gigabyte of space without warning.  That’s also when they’ll helpfully suck (“back up”) your entire phone to iCloud, cheerfully chirping via email that you are suddenly almost out of iCloud storage space, and helpfully suggesting that you upgrade to the next storage space tier, which of course, incurs a monthly cost.

And they will conduct this data swap party in the wee hours of the night, even if you have expressly (and repeatedly) turned that “feature” off in your Settings.

Staying off of wi-fi for most of the time does indeed eat up one’s data plan, so we decided to go ahead and pay for the top-tier plan.  It turned out to be a fairly decent deal, not hideously more expensive than the plans underneath.

Score:  me: 1; Apple: 0.

Maybe some of this info might help a few other people score against the manufacturers, too. 🙂

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3 thoughts on “iPhone hygiene: how I make (and keep) my phone tolerable 

  1. I’m with you on this. I have an Android & the only reason I got a new phone was because Ben shattered the screen on my old one😫 I immediately go through and delete as many of the pre installed apps as I can & turn my location and all notifications off. It’s supposed to be *my* device & do what *I* want. With all the caca the phones come with it’s like the phone is in charge. Granny don’t play that👎😂

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