Many laugh at me as they see me switching over 2 phones.
And no, it’s not because I have one for my wife and another for my girlfriend(s)!
I use 2 phones for many reasons, enough that I think I can fit it into a whole blog post.
If you like this article, and are a cross border business junkie like me, you should also check out my Hong Kong / China border crossing guide.
There Are Country Internets Forming, Need Phones For Each
I love the internet, the power to connect the world and level the playing field.
Unfortunately though, governments feel this openness is a threat. Governments are installing more and more digital walls. Maybe I’ll need more phones if other countries internet are so filtered and strict with what apps and websites one can access.
My Phone For China
Of course one big one is the Chinese internet. I am close to calling the Chinese intra-net as it doesn’t seem to want to inter-connect to the outside world. Every day they filter more and more foreign websites. The Chinese internet user is only able to view websites and read information that the government deems as “safe” for their minds to read.
So I have to keep 1 of my phones as my Chinese phone. I have it in both English and Chinese, and am ready with apps that only work inside of China. Some of these apps installed are:
* Tencent Wechat – Unless you are hiding under a rock, you will know Tencent’s Wechat mobile app has taken over the Chinese internet and mobile phone. I am tempted to say that is pretty much the only thing I use my Chinese phone for, but I can say that it is about 85% of this phone’s usage.
* Mi Band Mobile App – My wife got me a Xiaomi Mi Band – like a fitbit. It was a nice gift, but it was so that I didn’t wake her up at 5:30am when my phone alarm goes off. With this Mi Band, it can vibrate to wake me up, and figure out when I am in my light sleep mode so I am not unsettled when awoken. Also counts my steps and sleep pattern, which is pretty useful.
* Tencent QQ – The original QQ product, there is still a lot of chatting going on in this app. I have it to chat to some Chinese factories and some friends here in China. It is a bit intrusive with popping up when my screen saver is on, to make me check it more often.
* Sina Weibo – I wish I could say I use this more now, but since its steady decline in 2012 until now, I use it less and less. It is spam in my direct mail box there and advertisements in my feed. Sad, because it had such potential to connect China.
* Baidu App Store – I don’t have Google Play on this phone, I don’t have anything Google on this phone. That is what I use my other phone for (more on that later). So there are tons of Android marketplaces in China, and one of them is Baidu. I use this to get the few apps I run on this phone and it is also good research to see which apps are available in the Chinese marketplace.
* Baidu Maps – Yup, not Google Maps. Then again, this map is much more detailed in China and has buildings better located and aligned.
Those are the only apps I use on this phone. But still, the memory often becomes overloaded with Wechat history and QQ cache. I have this back of my mind feeling that all the data on there is being closely monitored. That there are no secrets on what communication goes on inside those apps. Just that big brother feeling.
My International Phone
I am tempted to call it my USA phone, as I guess International = USA? But there are quite a few apps made outside of America that I use. But the majority of these apps are on US servers, and then fall under US court systems.
The Edward Snowden fallout had people around the globe lose their faith in the US freedom of speech. Or maybe better said is, you can say and read what you want on the internet, but realize that we are monitoring it.
When that whole Snowden thing came out, I remember the underlying tone in China was like:
“we at least tell you we monitor you, in USA, they monitor you without you knowing”.
So in some ways I have to agree with that. But now it is out in the open, the US government can read our emails, social media, and other “private” information. That is, if they deem there to be a good enough reason.
Sure you may say, “I don’t have anything to hide”, but that is taking the easy way out. That isn’t the point, the point is we should feel that our private information is ours, and we can control who sees it and who doesn’t.
Anyway, I have always understood the internet to some basic level, and know anything I put out here can be hacked or read one day. So this is why I just blog and put everything out there anyway.
For the apps I use, this phone is my “normal human being phone” for someone who doesn’t interact or live in China. I have Facebook, Google, Learning Apps such as Memrise and Udemy (yes, China has blocked learning apps!) and all the other popular apps.
Easier Than Switching SIM cards
Another reason is convenience. Besides internet firewalls in certain countries it is the hassle of changing SIM cards whenever we change a country. Especially between this Hong Kong and China border on a weekly basis or more.
My “international phone” is a dual SIM phone, but I don’t bother using the second slot unless I am traveling outside of Hong Kong or China.
Though I carry a wifi 4G hotspot with me (2 of them) in my bag. So when I’m traveling I usually just put the local SIM card in there and use it for internet to my 2 phones and laptop.
Who uses a phone for making phone calls anymore these days anyway?
Control Internet Roaming Costs
Like the laziness of switching SIMs, I also don’t want bother with figuring out which phone has internet on. I just know my dedicated China phone’s internet will turn on once I am in China. My Hong Kong phone will switch to domestic 4G once I’m in Hong Kong SAR.
Just makes life so much easier.
I have heard others who have many phones for various internet plans in their home country. So they first use the data up on one phone plan, let’s say SMART in the Philippines, and then they go into GLOBE internet later.
Also an annoying thing is the “unlimited” data isn’t true, it cuts you off or throttles you at a certain point.
Or am I such a hyper user?
Maybe I am, or help me out with a supporting comment at the end of the article so I don’t feel lonely.
Control My Workflow and Productivity
Another cool side effect is productivity. It wasn’t the main reason I got this in the first place, but has been quite useful.
We all know how distracting a phone is. And app developers (myself included) want you to “engage” on their app. So developers put all kinds of incentives and push notifications to get you to check their app at least once a day.
All this fighting for your attention makes it hard for you to get work done.
My China phone is much more distracting with tons of chat systems “always on” such as Wechat and QQ. I mute the phone or put it in the other room and can type up awesome blog posts like the one you’re reading right now.
Same for my international phone. I can study my Chinese with it (plug an app I am a partner in – 999 Written Chinese) and have self control not to check other things because I am offline. Yet I can still get messages on my Chinese phone via Wechat.
Weird I know. You can also try various combinations of certain apps, alerts, or turning on/off internet access on one of the phones while you do something else.
2 Wearables / 2 Smartwatches?
The complexity for me coming fast is the wearable market. I already wear 2 devices on me:
* A Pebble watch on my right hand
* A Mi Band on my left hand
But I think we all know the immediate future is the smartwatch and wearables. The way I am dealing with connecting and “wiring” (bluetooth-ing, is that a word?) these wearables is:
* Pebble to my International Phone
* Xiaomi band to my China Phone
Why does it matter? Well, it’s just like the internet connections above and data sharing to local governments. I believe the same is with these wearables. My Pebble also alerts me on Foursquare, Facebook Messenger, Telegram and tons of other apps that the Chinese internet has blocked.
For my Xiaomi Mi-Band, sure, I could connect that to my International phone, but I am just … paranoid. This is a Chinese company, so I elect to have my data sent to the Chinese phone where I have installed my Mi Band app, and it measures my sleep, walking, and waking time (alarm).
I have not yet played around with a smart glass. It started with Google’s glass, but Baidu has their own, as well as more and more startups. This is going to be a tricky situation for me as it develops – as I only have one set of eyes and can only really wear one pair of glasses. Wearing 2 pairs of glasses would be wild though!
Or maybe we will have to switch over glasses when we cross certain borders? Will feel like Tom Cruise in minority report or something.
You may be laughing right now, but this is coming quicker than we think. Who knows how much longer we’ll need to carry a bulky phone in our pocket, all our data is in the cloud now, and we just need a piece of hardware to connect to it.
When We Put SIM Cards Into Our Neck / Under Our Skin
Ya, this sounds radical. But why do we need any hardware at all? This may be a couple decades away. We’ll be the stubborn old people telling the new generation how crazy it is to get injected with a SIM card into our neck.
But our kids will say we’re just old fogies.
The next generation will just have technology installed in their bodies, connected to the internet. It will be measuring our movements, our heart, or mind? I have heard some Google discussions about AI predicting what we need and what we are thinking based on our surrounding and then serving that to us.
These technologies will be fantastic and amazing.
But at the same time, they will connect to governments and who knows where else this data – stored on servers.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the progression of technology, and I will be one of the early adopters of these technologies.
Just keep in mind, that all this information will available to governments. I guess which government will determined by where that company has incorporated? Or where that company stores their servers?
There needs to be a lot more developments in how data is made available. What they share to third parties, and what companies need to provide to whom, for what reason, and how.
The Future And Governments Security
I just wonder as things develop, how the case for data sharing will go down.
Sure, I’m going to seen as some paranoid dude.
Governments will need to continue to protect their citizens and the land they operate on. These technologies will make it easier to watch. It seems to me most people are just accepting the fact that the government is able to access their information.
What would happen if they weren’t able to? I guess then bad guys would be able to plot and plan bad things against certain governments or groups of people undetected. Yet I still believe those bad people are smart enough to realize what internets to use so that they can go under the radar?
But of course it is hard to conclude here what is the right stance for a country’s government to do in today’s internet era. But you as an individual should at least be aware how who can see your data and that your data isn’t as private as you may think.
Cheers to the future!