Mobile Apps, It’s Time to Be a Pushy Redhead


For those of you that follow me on Twitter, you have no doubt heard me complain about my iPhone 3GS. I complain about how it overheats, drops calls and the battery life is essentially non-existent. You have heard me wish and even beg for the date to be announced when I can get my hands on the new iPhone 5. You may have also read this post where I wrote an open letter to Apple to please stop teasing me and release the new iPhone. I have even tweeted about my attempts to convince my husband that I should upgrade to the iPhone 4 and when the new iPhone 5 comes out, we can do a little switcheroo and he can have the iPhone 4. After-all, mobile technology is far from his passion or his career field.  That plan of attack has thus far failed.

A few weeks ago when I was in Bend, my phone really took a dive in terms of battery life. I would have it at 100% charge and after a few Instagr.am photos and posts, I would be down to 75%. Then a few texts and I was down to 40%, then a couple of checks of my email and I was at 18% and so on. Usually once I hit below 20% I only have moments before the phone auto shut offs.  I was at my wits end and desperate to stretch its life until the new iPhone 5 is ready, so I decided I had to try to figure out what was draining my battery. So I attempted the following:

  • I made sure to shut off apps after I finished using them. I usually leave them running in the background out of pure laziness.
  • I stopped letting my 3 year old use my phone. He didn’t seem to mind because I replaced the phone with the iPad. I am sure there are all kinds of parents that are going to say I am a bad mom for letting my 3 year old use my iPad, but if you saw the joy it brought him you would do it too. Plus the apps have already taught him all of his ABCs, 123′s and how to land planes, so there.
  • I turned off my Wi-Fi every time I left the house and knew I wouldn’t be using it.
  • I turned down the brightness on my screen. Sure it was tough to read in the sunny days we finally were blessed with in Portland, but anything for a little more juice.
  • Speaking of Sun, I kept that baby out of direct sunlight as if it was a vampire Bill or a Mogwai named Gizmo. If I could have I would have put sunscreen on it and given it an iced tea, but I had to settle for my pocket, purse or the shade of an umbrella.
  • I turned off my equalizer. I am not even sure what this does, but it is has something to do with music and I am too busy with Spotify and Turntable.fm to care, so off it went.
  • I set my autolock to the lowest possible setting of 1 minute. It is annoying, because I often step away from my phone for over a minute to change diapers or this week clean up dog vomit and so I am relegated to re-entering my pin 50 times a day, but hey if it helps my battery…
  • I set all of my mail to fetch manually instead of auto-fetching every 15 minutes. This is also a pain to remember.
  • I turned off my Bluetooth accept when I am in the car. It is Oregon Law that you cannot drive and talk on your cellphone, or text, or Instagr.am, Fackbook, Foursquare or…..For good reason!

Things I didn’t do:

  • Turn off 3 G. I can hardly get a good signal with it on these days, so on it stayed. Thanks AT&T.

Things I did reluctantly:

  • I turned of geo-location services. I use this for both GoWalla and Instagr.am and I use them often. Because I had to turn these off. I stopped checking in so frequently to my haunts and couldn’t show the location of my pictures. Alex Williams I am sure you saw a decrease in push notifications on your phone involving my name. Just checking to see if you are reading this buddy. If you are, Hi there!
  • I turned off push notifications all together. No more knowing when someone sent me a message or friend request on Facebook. No updates when and where my friends checked in around town and the worst part, no notification of Instagr.am likes or follows or updates on Twitter. No big deal right? WRONG!

Which gets me to the point of this post. I could not believe how much I had come to rely on push notifications. I became an unintentional guinea pig for the experimental torture, I now call “Mobile Life with Out Push” Let me tell you this was by far the biggest sacrifice I made in the name of saving battery percentage.

First of all let me be clear, none of the sacrifices I attempted above did a lick of good when it came to  preserving my battery life.  My baby is just plain fried. She has been dropped on the ground, left in a hot car to bake and been slobbered on with kid snot and milk drool one too many times. She needs to be replaced. She needs to R.I.P.

But back to those push notifications. I have to admit, I thought I wouldn’t miss them all that much, I thought I didn’t rely on them, but I was totally incorrect. I use them all the time, and instead of them being just a distractions like many people incorrectly claim they are, they actually make me 100 times faster and more efficient when it comes to using my mobile applications.

To qualify, I am a pretty avid mobile user and have about 200 apps between my iPhone and my iPad and I would say that I use at least 40-50 different apps to some degree over a weeks time.  My time is also very limited. I have small windows throughout the day where I can be focused on using mobile technology and my computer. It is called nap time and it doesn’t always come. So efficiency of my time is key. I imagine, well I know from my working days, that this is the same thing for those in the workforce. You have to get in get out and be able to go on to the next without much fuss or your whole day is thrown off.  Push notifications allow for that, constantly having to open each app to see updates does not.

I pretty much gave up on opening each app to see updates on about day three and you know what happened? I started get text messages from people. That said, “Hey did you see the Facebok Message I sent you, I haven’t heard form you? and “Hey why didn’t you add me on Instagr.am, I finally installed it like you said I should” Mind you, I am not one of those people who has unlimited text messages so having useless messages like that eating up my precious kitty of text messages is worse than a battery drain in my book. Clearly for the people engaging with me on these applications had expectations. They expected that I had seen their request or their message and they wanted a response. I couldn’t swipe the notifications dongle to ON fast enough.

The other thing I noticed while notifications were off, was that I started to slowly forget about apps on my phone. Apps, like GoWalla and Facebook. Apps, that I used frequently and love. The reason was because I was missing a key part of why those apps are so sticky to me, it’s the quick and dirty notifications.  With roughly 500 thousand apps available for iOS and 250 thousand available for Android (WP7 you better step up son) it is already tough enough for apps to get noticed and even harder to maintain their foothold once they are downloaded to your phone amongst your other 200 applications. So, without having push notifications incorporated into apps, or in my case turned on, the chances of remaining relevant dwindle.

In some cases I simply forgot apps existed because they were out of my field of view.  I often joke that I know an app is not important to me if my toddler accidentally deletes it and I don’t notice that it is gone for weeks. I think the same is true with push notifications. They make the apps more useful to me. Without them I think I would stop opening the apps I consider the most useful, simply because I wouldn’t have time in my life to open each one up individually just see what is happening.  For me, push notifications serve to do the letter opening, sorting and the reminding for me, much like a personal secretary. They allow me to avoid the paper cuts and make sure I don’t miss paying a bill or an appointment. They are my own personal Joan Holloway.

Even my novice mobile using husband told me tonight that he couldn’t live without push notifications.  You see, he is a mid-western sports fan living in the West Coast television market, meaning he never gets to see any of his favorite teams play in real time. Without notifications, he would be the last to know the score. Simply unacceptable for a Michigan State Spartan. To him it is almost as bad as missing a football game to go to shopping. Oh wait, push notifications would come in handy then too. Maybe he is a candidate for the iPhone 5 upgrade.

My advice to apps? Go get some red hair dye and get pushy.

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One Comment

  1. Guest
    Posted August 3, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    This post reminded me that THE SHALLOWS was recently published in soft-cover with updates specific to mobile. http://www.theshallowsbook.com

    “Push” notifications are a further disruptor to linear cognition. Yes, they are addictive and wonderful (as are most addictions). But there is a price to be paid for them. Whether that price is worth it or not is a personal decision. But, it’s worth considering that they don’t come freely, without taking something away as well, or, literally, rewiring your brain.

    I have turned off all GPS based notifications. I have turned off most other notifications other than email alerts. Being sucked away from the real world, into the mobile screen, is something I’ll opt-into, not be pushed into.

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