Dual Wielding

Previously: More Dakka

Epistemic Status: The Dakka Files

Smartphones are wonderful things.

Get a second one. And get a lot of chargers.

I did this a week ago. My phone (a Google Pixel 2) had some sort of ink leak onto its screen, so I purchased a second one (a Google Pixel 3a) while I attempted to repair the old one. When the repair attempt was successful, but I hadn’t finished transferring some features and data across, I tried carrying around both.

It was clear by the end of the day that the second phone was a huge improvement.

On reflection, this was a basic case of More Dakka. A substantial portion of the people one interacts with worry about running out of phone battery, or running out of phone storage space, or needing to toggle too many things on their phone at once.

This solution solves all these problems right away.

Battery life more than doubles because of your newfound ability to charge one phone while carrying around or using the other. I have not come close to running out on either phone since doubling up. I have also been told that draining the batteries is bad for battery life, so long term this will pay additional dividends. A battery pack is an alternative, but they seem to be similar in size to phones and don’t allow the charging swap tactic, and also lack the accompanying additional benefits of dual wielding.

Storage space effectively doubles as well. Yes, some things must duplicate, but that still means effective storage space is doubled. Which is great, because I otherwise wanted a Google Pixel 3a rather than a 3, and its one issue for me is that it doesn’t give the option of extra storage space.

I can also do things like look up information on one phone while typing it into the other, comparing two things side by side, and other neat stuff like that. There are a number of apps that actively punish you toggling out of them in various ways, which this allows you to avoid.

Only one of the phones needs mobile data. The other can be purely on Wi-Fi. This also solves the problem of needing to know when to swap the Wi-Fi on and off due to speed issues, or to preserve data. It also means you don’t have to pay for an extra line.

It also solved two problems I did not expect it to solve. When my phone in theory has access to mobile data, my podcast app would often cut off access to recordings that were downloaded while it waited for some sort of download or query. I have no idea why this is the case, but once the old phone no longer had mobile data on it, this issue went away. Its battery life also dramatically improved, for obvious reasons. I regularly travel through dead zones, including one right outside my apartment and much of the subway, so this turns out to be a big deal.

Another problem is that one can put necessary (or simply desired) but distracting or tempting apps, such as games or social media (I don’t use social media on phones, but others claim this is not an option), and types of notifications one wants the ability but not the obligation to check, on one phone but not the other. This has proven to be a reasonably large win.

A nice bonus is that if one phone is broken, destroyed or lost, you have a backup ready.

A related note is that you should keep charging wires for your phones (and your laptop or tablet) actual everywhere you ever sit down. In my apartment, I now have them permanently stashed in four locations, plus another set at my desk at the office, plus another set for carrying around. Wires are cheap on Amazon. There is no reason to constantly worry about where they are, whether you have lost one, bothering to move them or plug them in or wrap them up. Just overkill this. I kept buying more, and I kept  only later realizing I hadn’t bought enough.

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8 Responses to Dual Wielding

  1. Daniel says:

    I disagree. I’ve been carrying around two phones for a bit for various reasons and it’s much less convenient than just having one phone and a phone sized battery pack. (There are smaller batteries that are only worth 1/2 – 1 charge, and which are probably a good choice for many people, but this is mostly besides the point.)

    A phone sized battery pack doesn’t double your battery life, it gives you probably something like 3 to 4 times the battery life. And you can carry it around while charging. Which means you can charge even if you’re not in a specific place, or there’s no plug. And unless you’re expecting not to have access to a plug for 48+ hours, there’s zero chance of running out of power, and you can share the same extra battery with other people. Also it’s $25 instead of $200-500.

    Wires, yeah, I agree, I’ve got one in every spot I’d like to charge my phone and one in my bag (well, two if I’m traveling).

    It’s true that there’s a number of apps that are inconvenient to use if you need to reference data. This is an argument in favor a second screen, though, not necessarily a phone. It’s almost always better to do this kind of thing on a computer (everything is so much faster) if you can. Tablets are another popular option for a semiportable second screen.

    But no reason to burden yourself with the hassle of managing a second phone.

    • Andrew Flicker says:

      My battery pack has a fold-out plug, so it doubles as a wired charger. As a result I only keep a normal charging cable at my home-office desk and in my car (cigarette-lighter variety).

  2. eliot314 says:

    Magnetic charge cables. I tried two phones but optimised to one phone and a power block.

    Two phones helped me to transition away from some apps but I might have wanted to do that by thinking about it. I regularly remove a few apps. I can always download them again if I need them.

  3. Doug S. says:

    Sometimes I like to let one stupid phone game run on auto while I do something else on another.

  4. H. says:

    I did something similar with phone + android tablet, and noticed similar wins. In particular, I used to read on my phone, RSS and reddit and random webpages. That’s all on my tablet now. Messaging and contact is all on my phone. And the reading is now on a kindle.

    There’s something about having devices for tasks that really works, in the same way as having places for tasks and other affordance/space-purpose organization. You can decide to not read on the short trip to the supermarket by leaving your reader at home. You can go read and not receive messages by leaving the messenger on your desk, etc — precommitting to/against certain kinds of interactions and collections of apps. You could *probably* do the same with user accounts on one device, but having physical devices connects with the intuitive mind in a powerful way.

    I think having different sized/shaped devices helps too. My phone is a Sony Compact model that’s pocketable and usable one handed with a dedicated shutter button, my Kindle has glare-free e-ink and page-turn buttons, and my tablet is 70% the size of A4 paper and is comfy for reading documents, forms, maps, and general websites on, or watching shows while in bed. Then my desktop is where work gets done and data gets archived, with precise/high-bandwidth human interfaces, a paper interface (print/scan), terabytes of storage, and lots of compute.

    Obviously this is the height of luxury and takes a good chunk of money. But if you have spare money or want to focus on it as a hobby/interest area, I think it can be rewarding to have a lot of specialized devices.

    My girlfriend does the same with a dedicated desktop, game console, phone (with phone-keyboard, as she can’t live without thumb-typing), laptop, 7-year-old kindle, and large tablet. Even though the laptop has become a bit excessive/purposeless (and her tablet is mostly for viewing/reading porn in bed), she’s also found it worth doing. Admittedly she’s got cash to spare and works in tech.

    • TheZvi says:

      Girlfriend seems to have the right attitude here. One can use the reversed error check if dollar cost isn’t a binding constraint – if you don’t have a device that seems like it’s not getting enough use, you don’t have enough devices. For most people reading this, the cost of these devices isn’t that high compared to the wins/losses of having the wrong ones or the wrong number of them.

  5. waltonmath says:

    I’m not expecting to do this with smart devices, since I barely even use mine, but today noticed that dual wielding the laptop and desktop in my house could be convenient (I might have even done it before).

    • TheZvi says:

      This definitely generalizes. I’ve done what you describe. Also everyone should have a desktop and those desktops should have multiple monitors, unless there are severe space issues, but one fight at a time I guess.

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