Noah Brier | November 3, 2020

Why is this interesting? - The Upgrade Edition

On new gadgets, app accumulation, and the magic of a clean install

Note: We know today is a big day in the U.S. For our new subscribers, a polite reminder that WITI is a no domestic politics zone. We aren’t being tone-deaf, we’re adhering to our rule from the beginning and keeping this as a fun, intellectual refuge with a community of interesting folks. Thanks. - Colin (CJN) 

Noah here. I’m a nerd and on the iPhone upgrade program, so each year around this time in the Fall I get a new phone delivered to my house. With that delivery comes the greatest decision in computing: clean install or restore from backup.

This is one of those telling choices, sitting alongside wine or beer and ketchup or mustard. It offers a glimpse into the soul of a person: telling us whether they err on the side of chaos or order.

Why is this interesting?

Absurdity aside, I look forward to getting a new laptop or phone because of the opportunity it affords to reassess what matters in your computing life. The idea of restoring from a backup would steal from me the small joy of starting from scratch and rediscovering which apps matter and which don’t. It’s a way for me to clear out the backlog of apps that naturally accumulate on your phone over time. There was a game I would occasionally turn to mindlessly that I simply decided not to reinstall and now my fingers must move somewhere different—hopefully, more enriching—in those in-between moments.

While there are certainly others like me, I know far more people who live on the plane. For those—like my wife—the idea of having to redownload apps and reconfigure settings is reason enough not to get a new device. They’ve got things working in a way they like, or at least comfortable with, and to purposefully blow that up would only add stress where stress doesn’t need to be added. On occasion, I’m given the opportunity to configure a new computer for one of these people in my life and while it doesn’t come with the same satisfaction as loading up my own new device from scratch, it’s still an opportunity I relish.

All of this has been made much easier by the growth of cloud storage. When it comes to phones and computers, the big concern was always making sure your files made it to the new device. For me that’s no longer an issue at all: my photos all get synced, I write everything in Google Drive, and the few folders I care about on my computer are backed up to Dropbox. Getting up and running on a new device is essentially as simple as installing 1Password and taking it from there. 

Where I’ll leave things is to suggest that if you’re in the restore from backup camp and getting yourself a new phone this fall consider, even if just for a moment, whether you might want to start from scratch and rebuild your app library to better reflect what you want to consume, not just what happens to be there. (NRB)

Chart of the Day:

From an excellent FT piece from over the weekend: The post-Covid consumer: is back-to-basics shopping here to stay? (NRB)

Quick Links:

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)

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