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How Losing My Hard Drive Made Me Love My iPhoneFeb 14, 2011

My Macbook Pro hard drive died on a flight to Seattle last Wednesday, a shocking failure after just 18 months. The Genius Bar could do little more than confirm its passing, and suddenly I was faced with needing to run my life from my iPhone for an unknown period of time.

I've never been one of those people who was over the moon about the iPhone. I got it in July, after a string of terrible phones, and sure, I was happy, but more because I could finally carry my entire music library again than because of anything else the iPhone was designed to do. I don't play games; I didn't harbor any particular desire to download a bunch of apps, and the actual phone aspect ... Well, living in San Francisco, I wasn't expecting much from that.

Losing my hard drive, though, has made me love my iPhone. I use it and see its functions in an entirely new way now. And I think my journey over the past few days has a lot to say to mobile developers, both for the iPhone and otherwise. Some of the biggest changes:

-- I use apps now. When my phone was an on-the-go stopgap, I'd use Safari to do whatever I needed to do, or I'd wait till I was on a real computer. When it became my "real computer," I discovered how much easier a well-designed app could make my tasks. Banking is easier from an app. Reading documents is easier from an app. And when I couldn't save interesting things I want to read in the normal way I do (starring them or emailing them to myself and opening them in a zillion browser tabs), I finally understood why everyone raved about instapaper. I didn't buy a ton of new apps (less than $10 worth in five days); I just used the ones I already had. I counted 8 apps I'd owned but never even opened before Wednesday.

-- I appreciate the heck out of this camera. Without any desktop to which to upload photos, I've been taking a lot more photos on the phone, simply because emailing them, posting them to flickr, or any other method of getting them into the cloud seemed better than borrowing a USB cable and someone else's computer to get photos off my real camera. Now I'm not sure I'll go back to the real camera full-time. The iPhone camera has its problems, but a few closeups I took today in natural light look better than anything I ever took on my Canon Powershot.

-- I love multitasking. I *adore* copy-paste. Without those two things, using my phone as my main computer would be impossible. With them, it's almost easy.

-- I'm a grad student, and I assumed losing my hard drive would make my school life impossible. In fact, between accessing school websites on mobile Safari, visiting class blogs with Wordpress mobile, and saving PDFs to iBooks, it hasn't even been that different.

-- How much this has made me love the cloud should be its own post, but a major lifesaver has been Dropbox on my phone. It's let me grab files from another computer and have them with me almost instantly. A huge relief.

There are some things I can't do (like type fast, which for me is like taking away one of my superpowers). But for the most part, making my life fully mobile has been a surprisingly positive experiment -- not one I'd do by choice, not one I'm likely to repeat when I get my MacBook back, but not nearly the terrible few days I'd been bracing for.


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