Application Minimalism

I have been interested in, and practicing minimalism for the last five or so years.  One area I haven’t fully implemented this is with phone applications. Over the years, I have downloaded and kept around too many Android applications.  As you can tell by the lack of focus or theme to this blog, I’m interested in a lot of things.

Unfortunately in the world we live in today, individual specialized applications are the fastest way to access information.  If I need to access stock prices, I have an app for it.  The same is true with news, and sports scores.  It is possible to access some of these with a single browser, but it is not as fast.  Highly accessed information, such as weather, has a “widget” on android that makes accessing the information as fast as unlocking your screen.  In some apps, this information is even presented to the user on the lock screen.  I check weather often, at least daily in the morning.  The extra five user actions to retrieve the information(unlock screen, open searchable app, type weather, click search button, find relevant results) are a hassle.

Some applications provide a utility that uses phone hardware to help with every day life tasks.  The flashlight app utilizes my phone’s camera flash to provide a large amount of light.  There is a bubble level app that utilizes the gyros built into the phone to tell wether or not something is level on multiple axes.  Apps like Uber use location services/GPS to assist with finding your location.  I also have a compass and barcode reader installed.  I use these applications somewhat uncommonly, but they do have their uses.  Recently, I used the level to level the stand for a new aquarium.

Some applications are companion applications to an external piece of hardware that I have.  For example, the Fitbit application pairs with my device and is used to transmit data back to their service.  I have the DJI GO app which is required to operate my DJI Phantom drone.  I have a bluetooth enabled meat thermometer which can talk to my phone providing instant temperature readings.  The opposite is the Nest app that allows me to control the temperature in my home from anywhere.  There is also the Toyota Entune app which pairs with my truck giving it access to the web.  Several remote controls for TVs that I had at one time, and a remote control for my Fuji XT10 camera which is capable of wireless connections.  I can control the camera, see a live display, and even transfer files with the app.

I have a lot of apps that deal with audio/video.  The nice thing about these apps is that they are capable of sending data to external devices such as TV or stereo system.  I typically use the Chromecast and Chromecast audio for this purpose.

Games.  I have a lot of games on this phone.  They are great for passing time on a long flight or otherwise wasting a large chunk of time.

In the less useful category, I have a suite of apps that basically wrap their associated web content into an experience that is user friendly on the mobile device.  This content can be accessed in the web browser on the phone, but the experience may not be the same.  For example, this blog post that you’re currently reading has a different user experience on a traditional computer, tablet, or mobile device.  The mobile experience can also differ if you are accessing this on the WordPress application.  This is probably the most common category of application on my device.  In mostly all cases, the mobile experience is great on these apps when compared with accessing the information on a web browser.

The last category of apps are applications that provide a very specific purpose.  I have a meditation app, and app that tells me how many times I check my phone, as well as apps for keeping score in golf.  Other apps are meant to improve productivity, such as calendars, todo lists, and learning apps.

In all, this amounts to 142 individual applications.  This accounts for a lot of clutter on the device, and several of these can be safely removed.

In the first pass, I deleted applications that I downloaded as a trial, but never liked, or downloaded for a specific purpose that is no longer applicable.  These apps included things like remote apps for old TVs, the Nissan connect app for the car I rented in North Carolina two years ago, and Pokemon Go which was a game that had a lot of buzz online, but got pretty boring after fifteen minutes.  I was able to delete 20 apps this way.

In the second pass, I deleted apps that are rarely used and can be easily downloaded again.  These apps do not have any valuable saved data.  I deleted around 30 of these apps from Airbnb to Zillow.

In the third, and final pass, I took a look at the apps I had remaining, and deleted ones that I don’t use often.  Things that are just there.  In this category I was able to kill old games, and pretty much everything that I don’t use at least twice per month.

As a result, I ended up with a manageable list of 65 apps that I actually use.

 

What I’ve learned after one year of trading on Robinhood

About one year ago, I decided to sign up for Robinhood.  It’s basically a service backed by Google which is used to buy and sell stocks with $0 in commissions/fees.  Robinhood also offers a premium paid service for some folks that buy/sell a lot more often than I do.

Buying individual stocks is generally considered a poor financial strategy due to volatility, so my real investments stay away from single stocks.  Since there are no commissions or fees, I thought it would be fun to try and see if I how well I could do at playing the market based on my limited knowledge and some minimal research.

I put in a tiny initial investment, with a recurring weekly deposit of $15.  This represents the maximum amount of money I’m willing to try on single stocks.  My expectations are to break even overall and gain some learning when it comes to the overall market.  If it all goes to 0, I’m comfortable with that.  This area of investment represents a very small percentage overall for me.

The Robinhood app and service has been great.  To date, I have made probably around 40 trades, both buying and selling.  I have never been charged a commission or fee of any sort.  In addition to regular buying/selling, the app will also allow limit purchases.  I often use this method to purchase stock.  With this method, you can specify the maximum amount you’re willing to pay per share.

Over the year, I have learned quite a bit about the stock market.  My first trades involved solar energy companies.  I felt like the technology was affordable and made sense for a lot of consumers.  I even went pretty far into the process to acquire Solar City solar panels for my own house.  After purchasing a couple stocks in that area(SCTY and SUNE), I eventually determined that Solar City wouldn’t work for me.  In a short time, I was able to see a 25% return on the initial purchase, and knew it was time to sell.

My personal investment strategy is based off a simple algorithm.  I generally invest in companies that make a product that I use and really like.  If it’s not a product I use, it’s a product that I could see myself using.  I have also put some investments in some medical companies with great dividends.  When it comes time to sell, I only sell if I have made money.  I will never sell a stock for a loss.  This logic is almost certainly flawed, I know.

I have been a customer of Netflix since the beginning.  Overall, it’s a great service.  Coupled with a few other streaming services, it makes sense to cut the cord on cable.  I made a large(for me) buy on Netflix at a price of $85.19 per share.  The stock had just taken a dip due to some bad press.  I was confident that it would recover.  I’m still holding the stock for now at a current market price that you can check for yourself.  Depending on when you read this, it has either been a good or terrible idea.

I bought Fitbit back at a time when the stock was around $16.  At the time the expert consensus was that it would hit somewhere around $28.  I have been a Fitbit user since 2013, and generally like their products.  My first Fitbit product was the flex, I have also worn the Charge HR until it disintegrated last month.  I recently purchased the Charge 2 which has worked pretty well over the last month or so.  When the stock started to dip a bit, I decided that would be a good time to buy even more(at a perceived discount).  At the time, I thought the stock was still stronger than suggested by the price, and if things went bad, I had effectively cut down my average cost price so I could get out at a lower price.  At present time, I hold 55 shares of a stock all experts feel is a terrible buy.

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My tanking stock

I like the company and its products.  Hoping to see a recovery after Christmas.  Either way, I’m staying on the ship.

One drawback to buying and selling small amounts of stock is the tax implication.  There are some rules about paying taxes on gains from stocks.  Since I’m not really making a lot of money, the actual amount taxed is low, however tax preparation is a bit more costly.  I generally use TurboTax, and I now have to buy the more premium package to do my yearly taxes.  Robinhood does a good job of providing tax documents that ease with tax preparation.  However, the added cost of TurboTax effectively negates pretty much all gains over the year in my situation.

Overall, Robinhood is a great app that allows both small and large investors trade for free.  There are no catches other than some tax implications.  It just seems that you might want to know something about the market before putting a large amount of money in.  If you’re like me, and looking to play a few single stocks for the fun of it, Robinhood is the best way to go about it.