Mobile Only: Week 27
Benjamin Robbins, an EMF member, is spending the next year working solely from a single mobile device. Each week he shares his thoughts and experience with us on what it means to be mobile-only.
After going through a couple rounds of a wiped out device and the work required getting everything back to productive order, I’ve decided to investigate the options for a complete backup and restore. There are many moving parts that go into my productive day-to-day experience on the Phablet. If I want to retain my investment of time in all those subtle, but relevant, configurations I have done to my device I need to catalog what they are so I can make sure I find a solution that covers all the bases.
Data is probably one of the most obvious aspects of a mobile device that needs to be covered in a total loss scenario. Data represents the fruit of all my hard work. From an enterprise perspective, data is the most valuable thing that is usually on the device. It goes beyond just a productivity issue and also touches upon security concerns. It carries the added weight of needing to be backed up and restored in a secure manner. It should also tie into a larger content management strategy. Data is definitely a beast all unto its own.
Apps are another obvious target that needs to be added to the list. Individually reinstalling apps is a huge undertaking that should be avoided. App configurations are another big productivity enhancement. Many mobile apps have and require cloud connectivity. This usually comes with a user account and password. As with good security practices, I like to follow a regimen of a different password for each account. The benefit is that in the event of an account breach the culprit doesn’t immediately have access to all my accounts. While this is great for security, it creates a bit of a headache for account management. Having the ability to retain this stored information is a huge time saver. In the event of a loss of a device apps, their configurations, and data need to be easily and quickly restored.
Beyond data and apps, I went to the systems settings screen on my device and started to make a list of all the configurations and settings I have altered from their out-of-the-box state. Wireless networks were the first thing I came across. It is amazing how quickly the list of networks that one connects to grows. Home network, work networks, client networks, friend’s houses, coffee shops, etc. Connectivity is vital to productivity on a mobile device. These networks represent not only uninterrupted broadband connectivity, but also a way to minimize mobile data plan costs. Chances are you don’t have many of the network keys memorized and would represent interrupted service to have to get them back.
Next of the system settings was Bluetooth configurations. Peripherals are a key aspect of working mobile-only. My productivity is significantly less when I can’t use the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. While I do have a travel mouse and keyboard, I also have ones that I leave at home and in the office. The fact that I can just start working without any need to re-pair the devices provides a seamless and productive experience. And let’s not forget the safety-conscious pairing with my hands free Bluetooth headset!
A seemingly cosmetic configuration on the device that affects productivity more than you would think is home screen customizations. Android allows you to configure the number of screens, the number of rows and columns on each screen, icon label text,etc. Beyond the basic configuration of the home screen container I have my home screen icons arranged in an organized and optimal manner with apps that perform similar functions next to each other. This arrangement allows me to not have to think about where to go to get a task completed. I also use several widgets (which have customizations of their own) to enhance home screen productivity. The ability to reference calendar items, battery life, weather, etc. right from the home screen reduce the number of swipes to get to the information I need. These configurations turn home screens into productive landscapes.
As I have written about recently, notifications are another configurable aspect of the mobile experience that can make a significant difference between distraction and productivity. Notification configuration is also usually buried down several screens in individual app settings. The challenge with this reality is that if your device is wiped out you have to not only reinstall the app, but also go several screens in to the app to reset the notifications to the level appropriate for you.
It is possible to restore many of these items in this catalog manually. However, taken together they can represent what a statistician would call at ‘statistically significant’ amount of work to put back in place. Perhaps much of this work is a downside of Androids’ ability to be so customizable. On the one hand it allows me the ability to configure the device in a way that is optimal to my approach to being productive, but at the same time creating a potential time-sink both now and in the future. Like the Sears and Roebuck catalog of yesteryear it provides a pletorha of options that are beyond any one person’s needs. But isn’t mobility just supposed to be simple and just work? In the end I wonder if so much user configuration will fall out of favor and go the way of catalog shopping – a thing of the past.
Benjamin Robbins is co-founder and Principal at Palador, a firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobility, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter. Mr. Robbins resides in Seattle and blogs regularly at http://remotelymobileblog.com