The digital dumping ground that is your inbox.

A question mark coming out of an opened email letter
A question mark coming out of an opened email letter

Email is… well, I’m not quite sure. Sure, it’s a communication tool that allows direct correspondence with anyone in the world, given you know their email address.

But, if you were to open your inbox right now, assuming you haven’t ambitiously achieved inbox zero, how many of your emails are actually direct correspondence (i.e. conversations between you and another person)?

Very few, right? In my own inbox, direct correspondence assumes about 10 percent or less of all my emails.

Instead of conversations, our inboxes are jumbles of random notifications, shipping updates, work tasks, newsletters, new blog posts, bank statements, receipts…


4 reasons why and an easy way to create your own.

The custom icons I created on my Light iPhone
The custom icons I created on my Light iPhone
My Light iPhone’s new home screen. Made with (surprise) Canva.

I’m definitely late to this trend. Whatever.

As of iOS 14’s release last year in 2020, iPhone users are now able to change the app icons on their home screens—sort of.

The reason I say “sort of” is that Apple doesn’t let you do this directly. Instead, using Apple’s Shortcuts app you can add a shortcut bookmark to your home screen that opens a specific app. Then, all you do is change the icon of that bookmark.

If that all sounds too confusing, here’s a detailed guide on exactly how to change the icons of your home screen.

Anyway, I’m…


Two Medium apps: one for readers, one for writers.

Two drawings, one of the Medium logo and another of a pen with a squiggly writing mark
Two drawings, one of the Medium logo and another of a pen with a squiggly writing mark

Currently, Medium has just one app. It’s a fine app—not perfect, but it gets the job done.

However, as the title of this article suggests, I wish there were two apps.

Why?

Why

In one of my first stories on Medium, “Turn Your iPhone into the Light Phone,” I wrote how I dumbed down my smartphone to become more of the tool I want it to be rather than the distraction it was designed to be.

Anyway, I believe that technologies ought to be designed and used as tools for specific purposes (which can include entertainment).

“But Grant,” you might be…


What if it could choose its own name?

A drawing of the Google Assistant bubble logo
A drawing of the Google Assistant bubble logo

With some exceptions, like “computer” in Star Trek, much of science fiction personifies its digital voice assistants—Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Jarvis in Iron Man, Samantha in Her. And there’s a good reason for this. These aren’t just voice assistants—they are characters that conflict, interact, and even fall in love with the protagonists in these films.

For a similar reason, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft have followed these science-fiction A.I. by personifying their voice assistants with human names. In so doing, these products are not just things users command to turn on the lights and play music, but personalities to…


A subscription model would come at a deeper cost.

A hand holding a smartphone, opening the Medium app
A hand holding a smartphone, opening the Medium app
Medium, a social network for creating, uses a subscription-based business model.

Ads on social media are no fun. Every few swipes down, there’s a curated ad getting in the way of the content you really want to see. But, of course, ads are how social media companies make their money. On most platforms, advertisers bid against each other for prime slots in your feed. So, when you look at a digital ad you are in a sense “paying” for the service on which you see it.

In recent years, however, this ad-based business model has been criticized not just because ads are annoying digital clutter, but as they become more and…


A lesson from behavioral psychology.

A man scrolls on a phone covering his face
A man scrolls on a phone covering his face
Why do we keep scrolling?

I‘ve been off most social media for a couple years. There’s a number of reasons why I deleted Instagram, Twitter, and the like, but the main reason is I would spend far too much time passively scrolling through my feed and never actively posting any of my own content.

So, I cured this addiction to scrolling by deleting these apps, right?

Well, not exactly.

While I don’t have social media on my phone apart from Pinterest, I often find myself on my laptop scrolling through recommended feeds on YouTube and Netflix for minutes on end, only to give up and…


How to organize your student life digitally

Image for post
Image for post

If you clicked on this article, you’ve probably heard of the “all-in-one-workspace” called Notion. If not, it’s essentially an app that can be utilized to organize the various aspects of one’s life — from note-taking and project management to habit tracking and keeping lists.

I use Notion for a lot of things — like planning and writing my posts for Medium — but my primary use is for college. In this article I’ll run through how I use Notion to keep track of assignments, take notes, and study for exams.

School Homepage

First though, I’ll show my school homepage. Here, I can…


Steps to cure your smartphone addiction

Image for post
Image for post
My Light iPhone.

Yes, there’s a problem. No, you don’t need a Light Phone.

How to remain connected yet not always distracted? How to reclaim your time and attention habitually spent scrolling to non-existent ends of social media feeds?

These are the questions that the Light Phone II attempts to answer.

In the wake of The Social Dilemma and increasing awareness of the reality of smartphone addiction, the Light Phone is an appealing option.

That’s because the Light Phone doesn’t have social media. Or access to the internet. Or really much of anything that makes a smartphone “smart.”

And that’s the point. With only an unobtrusive black-and-white E-ink display and few essential features like…


Also, (but sort of unrelated) Apple’s iPhone SE v. Google’s Pixel 4a

Farmer-philosopher Wendell Berry standing by a pile of chopped wood.
Farmer-philosopher Wendell Berry standing by a pile of chopped wood.
The farmer-philosopher Wendell Berry. Photograph by Guy Mendes. From The New Yorker.

Introduction

Disclaimer: If you’re not much into phones or the Apple v. Google debate, I’d recommend skipping this introduction and picking up in the next section 🙂

In late Spring of this year, Apple and Google were each to release a “budget” smartphone — the iPhone SE (2nd generation) and the Pixel 4a. Both were to be less than $400, relatively affordable in the sea of four-figure flagships.

Despite COVID-19, April saw the release of Apple’s iPhone SE. Google, however, seems to have taken the pandemic harder. …

Grant Collins

Mostly tech.

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