It’s hard to believe that less than ten years ago, I was navigating my way around London with an A to Z — now, of course, there’s an app (or three) for that. Back then, my bag contained little more than a purse, a book and a phone (limited to calls, SMS, and the odd game of Snake).
Go through my bag nowadays and it’s another story: sure, the purse is still there, but it’s now accompanied by a laptop, kindle, and my beloved smart phone (otherwise known as my best friend).
I find it compelling how the way we shop, socialise and address the needs of our everyday lives has been transformed as a result of advances in technology. The fact I can hail a taxi and pay for it with just a few taps has alone been life changing! But it’s definitely made me wonder whether those same advances in tech could actually allow us to live more simply – as well as more easily.
When I found out that Starling would be partnering with Fitbit (making it the first UK bank available to connect to Fitbit Pay), I jumped at the chance to take their Ionic watch for a test-run (pun very much intended). It was the perfect opportunity to see whether the cross pollination of lifestyle products and services could help me to reduce some of the emotional and literal clutter in my life.
So, for 48 hours only, I got rid of my purse (no cards, no cash), laptop and phone and relied solely on my Fitbit Ionic. Here’s what happened:
7:15am: My alarm goes off and it's a rush to get out of the house. I take my handbag with me out of habit, but it's significantly lighter than usual as the kindle and laptop are swapped for a slightly crumpled copy of The Week magazine.
8:00am: I arrive at Brixton station in the morning rush and queue to get through the barriers. The first moment of truth: I hold my Ionic to the TfL sensor — green light and I'm through. Not having to scrabble around to find my Oyster amongst the receipts and lip salve at the bottom of my bag is a pleasant change.
8:45am: I arrive to work. It’s Friday and at Starling we’re lucky enough to have breakfast delivered (an end of the week treat). There is also coffee, and in my case, green tea aplenty, so no popping out for a mid-morning Pret — a bad habit of mine.
12pm: My morning is productive without the normal distractions of Whatsapp group chatter and Facebook updates. I pop out to a salad place in Broadgate Circle — a new favourite since they started doing Tail discounts, automatically refunding you a percentage of the cost when you use your Starling card. Paying with my Fitbit is no different as I tap the iZettle and am on my way. So far, so good.
6:30pm: I meet my flatmate at Sainsbury’s to pick up dinner. She wants to see how the watch works; as I go to pay we laugh as Harriet points out I’m buying salted caramel ice cream with some of the best health and fitness technology on the market. I will have to make up for it with some exercise tomorrow morning!
9am: A bit of a lie-in, but it’s a nice day so I pull on some jogging leggings for a run around Brockwell Park. Feeling a little smug as I finish mile four on Brixton Hill, I stop off at F Mondays to pick up a juice. No longer having to keep a debit card tucked in my sports bra is a definitely a change for the better!
11:53am: I meet my sister at Clapham Junction for a 12 o’clock train to Sussex. As usual, we’re cutting it fine and I come across my first wallet-free challenge: there is a large queue for the ticket desk and the machines aren’t set up for contactless. Luckily my sister steps in and we are on our way – birthday cards and cake in hand for mum’s birthday.
7pm: After a long lunch, the family ends up at the village pub for a few drinks. When it’s my round I pay with the watch, expecting a reaction — this is remote Sussex where my dad recently had to petition BT to provide fibre broadband — but the barmaid seems un-phased.
11pm: End of day two and I’m surprised to see that my Fitbit battery is still going strong. I’m looking forward to checking out my fitness stats from the last two days when I’m reunited with my phone tomorrow.
So, what have I learnt? It definitely felt great to have less stuff and I loved using the Fitbit Ionic (it’s a keeper for me), but would I feel comfortable ditching my wallet and doing a digital detox full-time? Right now, my phone is still my best friend, but I’m sure that’ll change in the not-too-distant future with the rapid improvement of wearables — and I’m looking forward to exploring it when it does.