Dual Wielding


More Dakka

Previously: More Dakka

Epistemic Status: The Dakka Files

Smartphones are wonderful things.

Get a second one. And get a lot of chargers.

I did this a week ago. My phone (a Google Pixel 2) had some sort of ink leak onto its screen, so I purchased a second one (a Google Pixel 3a) while I attempted to repair the old one. When the repair attempt was successful, but I hadn’t finished transferring some features and data across, I tried carrying around both.

It was clear by the end of the day that the second phone was a huge improvement.

On reflection, this was a basic case of More Dakka. A substantial portion of the people one interacts with worry about running out of phone battery, or running out of phone storage space, or needing to toggle too many things on their phone at once.

This solution solves all these problems right away.

Battery life more than doubles because of your newfound ability to charge one phone while carrying around or using the other. I have not come close to running out on either phone since doubling up. I have also been told that draining the batteries is bad for battery life, so long term this will pay additional dividends. A battery pack is an alternative, but they seem to be similar in size to phones and don’t allow the charging swap tactic, and also lack the accompanying additional benefits of dual wielding.

Storage space effectively doubles as well. Yes, some things must duplicate, but that still means effective storage space is doubled. Which is great, because I otherwise wanted a Google Pixel 3a rather than a 3, and its one issue for me is that it doesn’t give the option of extra storage space.

I can also do things like look up information on one phone while typing it into the other, comparing two things side by side, and other neat stuff like that. There are a number of apps that actively punish you toggling out of them in various ways, which this allows you to avoid.

Only one of the phones needs mobile data. The other can be purely on Wi-Fi. This also solves the problem of needing to know when to swap the Wi-Fi on and off due to speed issues, or to preserve data. It also means you don’t have to pay for an extra line.

It also solved two problems I did not expect it to solve. When my phone in theory has access to mobile data, my podcast app would often cut off access to recordings that were downloaded while it waited for some sort of download or query. I have no idea why this is the case, but once the old phone no longer had mobile data on it, this issue went away. Its battery life also dramatically improved, for obvious reasons. I regularly travel through dead zones, including one right outside my apartment and much of the subway, so this turns out to be a big deal.

Another problem is that one can put necessary (or simply desired) but distracting or tempting apps, such as games or social media (I don’t use social media on phones, but others claim this is not an option), and types of notifications one wants the ability but not the obligation to check, on one phone but not the other. This has proven to be a reasonably large win.

A related note is that you should keep charging wires for your phones (and your laptop or tablet) actual everywhere you ever sit down. In my apartment, I now have them permanently stashed in four locations, plus another set at my desk at the office, plus another set for carrying around. Wires are cheap on Amazon. There is no reason to constantly worry about where they are, whether you have lost one, bothering to move them or plug them in or wrap them up. Just overkill this. I kept buying more, and I kept  only later realizing I hadn’t bought enough.


23 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 4:30 AM
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A battery pack is an alternative, but they seem to be similar in size to phones and don’t allow the charging swap tactic

That's because you haven't used enough dakka. In addition to carrying an extra battery, you also leave an identical battery plugged in at each of the spots where you have a charger. You charge your phone by connecting it to the battery (with both in your inventory); you charge the battery by swapping the one in your inventory with the one that lives at the charger. This has the additional benefit that, in addition to solving the battery problem for yourself, if you find yourself with a group, you can solve the phone-battery problem for other people by lending or gifting them a charged battery.

My lord, that's genius. I'm not sure it's necessary given I would want to dual wield anyway for other reasons, but if not, seems obviously correct.

Aren't phone batteries like unique snowflakes that only work with their specific phone?

(Note, one way to deal with this if indeed the battery thing is true for friends is to make sure to get long chargers that have multiple types of connections, I've used these ones from Amazon)

If the phone has a removable main battery, and you're swapping that, then yes. If it's a standalone power bank with a USB port, then it's the cable that varies rather than the battery, and you only need a few varieties for complete coverage (micro-USB, USB-C and Lightning will charge pretty much any device you can find these days).

That’s a great point, thx, will order second batter pack and charger today.

Under The Law of Equal and Opposite Advice I'm going to say that some people spend too much dakka on things that are actively harmful and I'd recommend literally the opposite.

I use Google Fi so I can text/call from anywhere I have internet on any device and then I simply leave my phone off hidden in my car for emergencies. I keep a small pocket notebook for anything I need to write down. I do take my phone out for podcasts or audiobooks while cleaning but that's it. If you have kids you probably do need to get a dumb phone to keep on you but otherwise no.

Phones destroy slack. They are not a compact cost and getting a smartphone was a horrible decision for me. Now I just write down what I'm interested in and check it when I get home. The things that were time wasters don't make it on the list. I batch more so I only need to check things once. I take more time to sit and think and relax. This is the single best thing I've done for my happiness in the last year.

Mad respect for this position. I do try to be at zero phones on me whenever it makes sense to do so, but alas my life doesn't really allow this. Also I listen to a lot of podcasts, which I don't regret at all.

Self-review: Looking back, this post is one of the first sightings of a simple, very useful concrete suggestion to have chargers ready to go literal everywhere you might want them, and that is a remarkably large life improvement that got through to many people and that I'm very happy I realized. 

However, that could easily be more than all of this post's value, because essentially no one embraced the central concept of Duel Wielding the phones themselves. And after a few months, I stopped doing so as well, in favor of not getting confused about which phone was which, and not having to worry about the location of multiple phones. I wonder if I just got trapped by a Trivial Inconvenience and made a mistake, because I definitely find the lack of the second phone meaningfully expensive every so often, so I should think about a revisit perhaps. 

My guess is that this wouldn't do any harm, but it also isn't doing enough work, so we shouldn't include it.

It might be worth doing a thing where we include literally the final paragraph as if it were its own post, minus its first four words, and lose the rest, as a kind of interlude somewhere?

I... think it might literally be worth doing the final-paragraph thing. I definitely benefited from that.

Quick thoughts for solving the identifying two phones things: (a) attach a differently colored piece of tape to the back of each, and (b) change the Lock Screen images to be totally different colours (so that you can see it even peripherally). Also perhaps (c) attach the colored tape to the front of the phone so that you can always check even while using it.

I specifically endorse the "literally just include the paragraph about buying lots of chargers" idea that Zvi suggested.

I just saw this in the 2019 review and was surprised I didn't see it earlier. I'm using two phones for a while now and it just have been standard advice for executives for ages (2014?). Just google "executive two phones".

The first google result is called "most executives agree: one phone is enough" (but, has a list of testimonials where are least some do advocate two phones for the reasons Zvi describes)


Aaaa Zvi's writing always feels weird and discombulated :(

I don't expect this to be very universifiable advice? It's a concrete example of More Dakka, but not an especially great one IMO. Don't think it applies to me.

- phone battery
- lack of storage space
- a weird connectivity bug
- distracting apps

Are not really any my chief concerns. I worry more about forgetting my phone places, and having a secure method of syncing with my desktop, and quick access to my agenda / utility apps.

Maybe if this had started out enumerating considerations with which an extra phone helps, rather than assuming their needs are everyone's..

(Good point about the charging cables anywhere you sit, though. That's a slam dunk.)

Seconding Ben's nomination. This post was simple but concretely useful.

This directly improved my life. I have a laptop charger in each of the three main places I spend time, and my house has a bunch extras in common spaces. I think I wouldn't have done this if not for reading this (plus More Dakka).

Most of the problems you mention deal with limited battery life. I have never had any issues with this on my Huawei Nova, and in fact I only charge it every 2 or 3 days with normal use. Would you still recommend dual wielding if battery concerns are not an issue?

If you have zero battery life issues, and the other stuff never comes up, then probably not worth it. What I noticed was that worrying about running low takes up brain space long before running out becomes an issue, but if it's taking up zero brain space? Neat.

I'm guessing you use your phone differently. It's probably healthy.

Datum: I have a Pixel 3 (known for a relatively small battery) and the only time battery becomes an issue is when I forget to put it on the charger overnight.

But I don't watch video (too small a screen), play games (ditto), send email (fuck phone keyboards), or do much of anything but SMS, rare phone calls, and internet lookups when I'm away from a keyboard. I think a lot of worrywarting over phone battery capacity stems from trying to use them for things that are better done on a real computer.

That said, I got an external battery after reading this post. I have one use case: at conventions, when I use it constantly to read the schedule. Buying something for a single use case seemed out of line at first, but eventually I thought of it this way: if I'm willing to spend $30 for slightly more convenient parking, I should be willing to spend $30 to stop worrying about phone charge forever.

Updating slightly that dual-wielding is a good idea. Updating significantly that the Pixel has a crappy battery - my Note 9 only ever finished the day below 30% during the short while I was obsessed with Bloons TD 6.

Agreeing that just the final paragraph would be a good idea to include; otherwise, I don't think this passes my bar for "worth including as best-of."

Do you still use 2 phones? edit: oops, I saw your answer in your review; nvm

This of course, leads naturally to a new app/os idea. We need a way to semi-seamlessly use two phones together as if they were a single phone. Like dual monitors, but with phones.