Why Vinyl?

At Christmastime this past year my parents surprised me with a gift that had been on the nagging edge of my radar for a long time: a record player. That’s right, a brand new turntable for a media format long thought dead by the general public since the CD was introduced over thirty years ago. Not to mention, for today’s youth that grow up with constant access to the entirety of music history at the tap of a screen the notion of having physical objects dedicated to predetermined static content must seem barbaric.

Telling friends and colleges about the gift often elicits one of two responses: a lighthearted jab about my hipster status or a genuinely curious “why?”. While there’s nothing I could say at this point to dispel remarks of the former’s variety (owning a record player certainly isn’t helping my case), I can certainly address the “why”. But to do so I must first explain what happened to make me even consider something so peculiar.

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Turtles, Hares, and Hot Rods

A cartoon of a turtle nervously trying to figure out a simple arithmetic problem at the school chalkboard

“Alright class, we’re going to play Turtle, Hare, and Hot Rod!”

Oh God, no.

There were few games I feared more than “Turtle, Hare, and Hot Rod” in elementary school. It was a game occasionally played in our math class where groups of three students would go up to the board and have to solve an arithmetic problem as quick as they could in front of the whole class. The winner would crowned “Hot Rod”, second place “Hare”, and finally the humiliating “Turtle” to the loser. I was usually the Turtle.

It was a source of embarrassment and frustration losing so frequently in front of my peers in that game. Sure other classmates lost as well in other matches but the fairly wide margin between the runner up and myself was unique and only added insult to injury. I’d often be the final one left trying desperately to solve the problem with every pair of eyes in the class pointed directly at me, waiting. If the panic that came from trying to solve a math problem quickly wasn’t enough for me to short circuit, the rolling snowball of stage fright nerves did. This wasn’t just for the game either, I’d lag a few problems behind my classmates in times table tests as well, often hitting the timer before I could finish.

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Multitasking Misconceptions

It’s inevitable, you’ll be enjoying a friend’s company and they decide to take out their iPhone to show you some new pictures. You both share a good laugh or two over them and as they begin to put their iPhone away you notice something strange; just before putting it away they force quit the app they just used with the familiar upward swipe, leaving their multitasking list barren. When questioned about their reason for doing so they brush it off saying something about wanting to save battery or not slow down their iPhone.

Perhaps you’re the friend in this scenario force quitting iOS apps as an act of instinctual habit and haven’t though much about it until now. What’s so wrong about it though? You’re done using the app after all, why wouldn’t you quit the app? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? It only makes sense, having more apps in the multitasking list must mean your iPhone is doing a lot of extra work and quitting all those apps would free your iPhone from doing it and maybe even save battery.

In reality this results in the exact opposite of the intended effect and not only slows down app launching in the future but also drains battery that would have otherwise been preserved had the apps been left alone. Now this most likely sounds preposterous and it’s entirely because iOS’s multitasking model flies in the face of everything people have been taught for decades to be true about how computers work. In many ways the “quit apps when you’re done” workflow was and still remains the correct action to do on computers. iPhones, however, are a different story.

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Home Sweet Home

What’s your iPhone home screen look like? Perhaps you have a few default apps from when you first bought your iPhone like Camera and Clock still taking up a couple rows on your first page. Or maybe you have that one game still sitting on your dock that was really popular a couple months ago but you’ve mostly stopped playing. Some of you might have half a dozen pages of apps while others might have a dozen folders strewn about like they were accidentally dropped in.

Keeping your iPhone’s home screen clean and focused is instrumental to providing an experience that’s both inviting and functional. When this maintenance is continually ignored, however, the home screen becomes a hinderance and blocks us from easily accessing what’s actually important on our iPhones: the content. Think of the home screen as a highway; it’s sole purpose is to get us from where we are now to our destination — in this case our apps. The last thing you want is bumper-to-bumper traffic of countless pages, folders and other apps every time you try to get to your destination.

Thankfully, we’ve solved this problem before multiple times in physical spaces, just take a look at your desk at work or school. Do you keep every single book, tool, decoration, and piece of trash on the table equally apart from one another? (I certainly hope not). No, what happens instead is we keep only our most used and precious things at arms reach on our desk, throw away anything we don’t want or need anymore, and delegate everything else to a few sets of categorized drawers. This is what you deserve to have as your home screen experience.

You might be thinking “Sure, I’ve got lots of pages, a handful of old apps I don’t use anymore, and tons of folders questionably categorized. I can always find what I’m looking for though, so who cares?” I believe there’s a key issue with this line of thinking; people become “used” to environments all the time but that doesn’t in any way make the environment itself healthy or any less chaotic, the two are independent of each other.

The core problem with poorly organized home screens — whether you believe you’re used to them or not — is they require wasted swipe and tap cycles to navigate to your most commonly used apps. For example, you’d swipe to a specific page, tap on a specific folder, or (in worst case scenarios) swipe to a specific page of a specific folder after swiping to a specific page to get to your app instead of just tapping it. Yikes. Not to worry though, with just a few minutes of proper thought and execution this can all be a thing of the past.

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