We don’t shake up our technology choices often. It might be devotion or grudging inertia.
Most Americans are iPhone people or Samsung phone people. We don’t tend to switch. We rarely swap a Windows computer for a Mac or vice versa.
You might be happy with what you’ve got. Or maybe you feel stuck. Many of us have years of emails, text messages, photos or files in systems such as Apple’s or Samsung’s.
It’s a hassle to leave. And using unfamiliar technology is a pain — for me, too.
But we’re better off if we have the freedom to pick up our digital lives and move on. Tech companies should feel terrified that you’ll walk if they disappoint you.
I want to give you a glimpse at one app that promises a measure of technology free agency. Then I suggest a couple steps to give you more flexibility to swap phone or computer systems. (Hint: Use fewer Apple apps. Sorry.)
Your goal can be baby steps toward a shared mission: You deserve true choices in your technology.
Kudos to a Switzerland for text messages
I’ve kept my eye on a relatively young app called Beeper that pulls all your chats into one place. If different people send you messages in Apple’s Messages (a.k.a., iMessage), WhatsApp, LinkedIn and Slack, you don’t have to check multiple apps to read and reply.
Maybe the best promise of Beeper is that you can ditch your iPhone or Samsung phone for another company’s device and keep your text messages. You can swap your tech team with less fear of losing your past.
Beeper isn’t for everyone and it can be a pain.
Eric Migicovsky, Beeper’s co-founder, told me that if you’re pulling Apple Messages into Beeper, you need a Mac computer to upload a digital file. All chat apps have different limits on how much history you can access in the app.
There’s also a wait list of about 170,000 people for Beeper. (Add yourself to the list here.) The app is free, but Beeper says it will start charging for a version with extra features.
I won’t recommend Beeper until my colleagues and I have tested it rigorously, but I wanted to put it on your radar.
Let me know what questions you have about Beeper at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll ask the company or test the app for you.
Whether Beeper is for you or not, we can applaud the effort to make a Switzerland for texting. You can keep your history with Apple Messages if you ditch an iPhone. You can chat with your cousin who loves Instagram DMs without using that app.
The existence of this small company with a smart idea gives me hope that we don’t have to rely on the kindness of technology giants to make it easier to move to a different phone or computer system.
There are other options if you want to switch phone systems and transfer your texts. Again, they are flawed.
Years ago, I switched from an iPhone to a Google Pixel smartphone. There’s an option to connect an iPhone and a Pixel with a cable to pull in Apple Messages history.
It worked for me, eventually, but I spent hours fiddling to make the message transfer work properly. (Pixel has instructions on transferring data from an iPhone.) I’m happy that I swapped phone systems but this hassle isn’t for everyone.
How to give yourself more tech independence
Let’s acknowledge the obvious: It shouldn’t be so hard to swap your computer or phone system. More than most companies, Apple makes this difficult.
Geoffrey A. Fowler, The Washington Post’s technology columnist, has detailed the ways we’re contorting ourselves to live with Apple’s limits on your tech independence.
Apple’s texting app doesn’t really work on other companies’ devices. You can theoretically copy your photos from Apple’s cloud to Google, but it’s balky. Google’s Gmail or Microsoft Outlook pretty much work on any device and Apple’s iCloud Mail sort of works.
My colleague Chris Velazco regularly uses a Mac, a Windows PC, an iPhone and a Pixel phone. Chris said that the apps he relies on the most — including Zoom Video, Obsidian for writing, Notion to save digital files and Adobe’s image editing software — work well on all his devices.
This compatibility is fairly standard for software other than Apple’s.
Many of you are happy to live in Apple’s world. Great! But if you want the option to leave at some point, try to limit your use of Apple apps when possible.
I know this doesn’t help if you already have years of photos, emails, texts or iCloud files with Apple.
Regulators have your back, maybe. By next year, the European Union will require large tech companies to make their products compatible with those of competitors.
It’s unclear how companies such as Apple might change their products to comply with the law. (Apple declined to comment.) Europe’s regulation could give you more tech Switzerlands like Beeper. We’ll see.
Shaking up your technology might not be for you. But no trillion-dollar corporation deserves your unquestioned business or your loyalty. You deserve the option of a no-hassle tech divorce at a moment’s notice.
Hey, you know what product REALLY doesn’t deserve your loyalty? Printers. They’re terrible. Tell me about your home printer horror stories, questions or compliments at email@example.com.