Subtracting devices

People who don’t listen to podcasts often ask people who do: “When do you find time to listen?” For me it’s always on long walks or hikes. (I do a lot of cycling too, and have thought about listening then, but wind makes that impractical and cars make it dangerous.) For many years my trusty podcast player was one or another version of the Creative Labs MuVo which, as the ad says, is “ideal for dynamic environments.”

At some point I opted for the convenience of just using my phone. Why carry an extra, single-purpose device when the multi-purpose phone can do everything? That was OK until my Quixotic attachment to Windows Phone became untenable. Not crazy about either of the alternatives, I flipped a coin and wound up with an iPhone. Which, of course, lacks a 3.5mm audio jack. So I got an adapter, but now the setup was hardly “ideal for dynamic environments.” My headset’s connection to the phone was unreliable, and I’d often have to stop walking, reseat it, and restart the podcast.

If you are gadget-minded you are now thinking: “Wireless earbuds!” But no thanks. The last thing I need in my life is more devices to keep track of, charge, and sync with other devices.

I was about to order a new MuVo, and I might still; it’s one of my favorite gadgets ever. But on a recent hike, in a remote area with nobody else around, I suddenly realized I didn’t need the headset at all. I yanked it out, stuck the phone in my pocket, and could hear perfectly well. Bonus: Nothing jammed into my ears.

It’s a bit weird when I do encounter other hikers. Should I pause the audio or not when we cross paths? So far I mostly do, but I don’t think it’s a big deal one way or another.

Adding more devices to solve a device problem amounts to doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I want to remain alert to the possibility that subtracting devices may be the right answer.

There’s a humorous coda to this story. It wasn’t just the headset that was failing to seat securely in the Lightning port. Charging cables were also becoming problematic. A friend suggested a low-tech solution: use a toothpick to pull lint out of the socket. It worked! I suppose I could now go back to using my wired headset on hikes. But I don’t think I will.

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8 thoughts on “Subtracting devices

  1. I’m with you Jon in that the least desirable solution is Yet Another Device. And i have been long fighting the pocket lint kills the lightning cord port until also realizing that a toothpick can help (and/or compressed air). Still at some point with the recharging cords I ended up a state of having to jiggle them to connect.

    It’s been a while since I hiked/walked but hope my old iPad Nano still works, it’s very light and has an old school audio jack.

    On the iphone I’ve come to like the Overcast app, I mostly listen now on drives.

    Happy hike-cast-listening

  2. Reminds of the hand-wringing over how to responsibly supply an ever-increasing amount of power per capita. Device subtraction is part of the solution there as well, fewer private jets for example.

    1. And fewer cars! We are a 1-car family since moving to CA. It feels subversive to not maintain a 1:1 ratio between people and cars.

  3. I had a similar device and used it until it fell to bits. Loved it. These days though, far greater than the single-device appeal for me is the discover-and-queue-for-download workflow. All my discovery is at my desktop or laptop, and the ability to add to my listen queue immediately, leaving just a download-and-go, is key. Heck, if I’m feeling cavalier about my data use, I’ll just go.

  4. I got a $20 pair of Anker Bluetooth earphones which work beautifully for podcasts. Bluetooth is a lot better than it used to be..
    Mostly I listen while doing housework, when hiking prefer to hear the wind and leaves and birds..

    still using my Zen Stone MP3 player in the car for music ;-)

  5. As someone who hikes for peace and silence while also trying to avoid disturbing wild animals, I’d prefer if fewer hikers shared their listening pleasures with others. I’m with you about the rest.

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