Stuff I Use: China Edition
The stuff I use every day to keep myself organized, efficient, and entertained.
July 25, 2014

I use a lot of different gadgets, tools, and applications throughout my day. This past summer I spent three months living in China and I thought it’d be fun to catalog the stuff different stuff that I wore/carried around every day.

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Orient Mako Dive Watch

I still usually check the time using my phone, I still enjoy wearing a watch. I can’t afford anything too nice, which is fine because there are plenty of great-looking, high-quality timepieces to be had for under $150.

My favorite is the Orient Mako. It looks nice in its own right, unlike a lot of the Seamaster/Submariner clones that plague this price range. And Orient is a Japanese brand established in post-war Tokyo; they set themselves apart by being one of the only brands that manufactures its movement in house.

Warby Parker Downing Sunglasses

I wandered into Warby Parker’s Boston retail store one day last Fall and walked out with these. I like the tortoise-shell pattern and the retro styling. They also feel sturdier than my Ray-Bans and actually have a warranty.

Japanese Sesame Candy

I found this Japanese sesame candy at a supermarket in Hong Kong and bought it without really knowing what it was. Now I’m hooked, but have yet to find it in the mainland.

Machine Era Wallet

I’m a little obsessed with finding the perfect wallet. There has been no better place to explore this obsession than Kickstarter - it’s actually become such a popular product idea that Kickstarter has a blog post about it. I eventually found what I was looking for in the form of a machined-aluminum card slide produced in a Kickstarter campaign by a company called Machine Era. The wallets are designed and produced in the USA, they look and feel great (though I wish the Nylon band had a better finish), and ProTip: you can open a beer with it.

Renminbi

While some large stores and restaurants in the more metropolitan areas of China accept Visa/MasterCard, it is very much a cash-and-carry culture. This is irritating for a number of reasons, but first and foremost because their largest denomination note is worth about 16 USD. Chairman Mao is featured on every bill except the fractional notes which feature depictions of China’s oft-oppressed minorities - very apropos.

Moto X

I picked up my Moto X new and in box on eBay for a couple hundred bucks under asking price. I loved it when I first got it, but after almost a year of use, it’s beginning to show its age. Lately, the battery barely gets me through a day, and the camera that was behind the competition when the phone was new is now miles behind. I plan on moving to a more recent Android flagship (HTC One M8/GS5) or possibly the iPhone 6 in the fall.

Apps

Lately, I’ve been trying to keep the number of applications on my phone down to a minimum both to embrace simplicity and minimize battery consumption. Here are some of my favorite and most-used apps.

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PocketCasts

I love podcasts, and PocketCasts is one of the best podcast managers I’ve used on any platform. It’s UI is simple and elegant, and it has a simple sync feature that saves your subscription list and episode progress to the cloud so you can pick up where you left off if you switch devices. They recently finished their iOS App, so I’d really like to see them build a WebApp.

Pleco

Speaking of Chinese, I don’t speak it. Or read it. Or write it. At least not very well. Pleco is a life-saver here in China.

You can translate characters by drawing them out (in any stroke order you’d like), writing the pinyin, or by taking a photo or pointing your camera at the Chinese text. Without it I might starve to death - or at the very least only eat at restaurants with photos on their menus.

Moves

I discovered this app through @AprilZero’s activity tracking experiment aprilzero.com. It’s a bit like Foursquare mixed with an activity tracker but it’s automatic and not social. It keeps track of how long users spend at each place they go during their day and how long it takes to get them to walk/bike/drive between them. The best part is the app is very hands off and uses minimal battery power.

It’s rather broken in China though with every map location being offeet about a 1km Northwest of where it should be. I don’t really get this as all the other apps on my phone that use geolocation have no problem.

Pocket

The internet is full of interesting things to read; the problem is that I often discover articles and stories I want to read when I don’t have the time to read them. Pocket is the solution to this. It grants users the ability to save any article via a browser extension to their ‘Pocket queue’, then Pocket’s website parses the article and generates a clean, readable format that is automatically synced onto your phone, tablet or PC to read anywhere with or without a data connection.