I've been using a PDA or smartphone of one type or another for about 15 years. I started with a Palm something-or-other, moved on to the Pocket PC, then through several Treo and Blackberry devices and finally to the iPhone.
I've been buying apps for all of them, since long before the term "app store" was in use. And they weren't cheap.
Ten years ago, I would pay $40-$50 for an app on the Pocket PC without giving it too much thought - that's what it cost for decent apps back then.
That's probably why I buy so many apps on my iPhone these days. Most apps sell for between $1 and $5, with the very odd one costing more than that. I'm happy to "gamble" a couple of bucks on an app to see if it will do what I want.
At the moment, I have 180 iPhone apps in iTunes, but I don't use them all. In fact, there's really only a small number of those that I use more than once or twice a month. In this post, I'm going to go through all the apps on my home screen and talk a little bit about how I use them.
Here is my current home screen, as of January 29, 2012:
And a brief explanation of the apps installed (all links will open the iTunes Apps Store):
- Phone: This is the phone app, which is self-explanatory.
- 1Password: 1Password stores your website logins as well as other secure information. It protects them with a single password and will autofill them when you visit the site. I use this to access sites like Paypal, my bank and other places that I have strong passwords from my iPhone. It syncs up with 1Password on my Mac so everything is available in both places.
- Camera+: Camera+ adds a bunch of features compared to the built-in camera app. The one I like the best, which keeps me using it, is the ability to take multiple pictures in sequence very quickly. It caches the images in memory so you don't have to wait as long between shots as you do with the built-in camera app.
- Instagram: Instagram lets you take pictures and share them on the Instagram website and other social media. It has some neat filters built-in and it's a great way to take some quick shots and share them with your network.
- Ego: Ego will give you analytics information for a bunch of services - Google Analytics, Twitter, Tumblr, Vimeo and more. I switched to Ego from Quicklytics recently and like it a bit better. Quicklytics is better for Google Analytics in particular, but that's all it supports. Either one will work well but it really depends on whether you just want GA data or you want other services too.
- Maps: The built-in Maps app, which I use pretty regularly for looking up addresses and other places.
- MarkdownMail: This app lets you write email in Markdown1 and it will convert it into properly-formatted HTML. I've been using Markdown more and more lately, and this makes it easy to covert. And while it's designed for writing email, it works just fine for other Markdown writing as well.
- Capture: Capture is a quick-record video camera app. The reason I prefer it to the built-in app is because it starts recording as soon as you open it. No need to make sure you're in video mode or press a button to start the recording. Those extra couple of seconds are sometimes the difference between catching or missing what I want to record.
- Shazam: Shazam is a music identification app that will "listen" to music through the iPhone's speaker and tell you what song it is. I use it all the time both for identifying songs I like and don't know and songs I know but can't quite remember the name.
- Safari: The built-in web browser. Again, pretty self-explanatory.
- Agenda Calendar: I use Agenda Calendar mainly because it has a cleaner interface than the built-in calendar app, and it has a week view which is something the built-in app lacks (or lacked - I haven't opened it recently so I don't know if Apple has added this). I actually go back and forth between Agenda Calendar and Calvetica all the time. I like them both and just can't seem to decide which one I prefer.
- Omnifocus: Omnifocus is an extremely powerful to-do/project manager application on the Mac, and this is the iPhone version. It syncs all my project data with my Mac so I can track what I'm doing from my iPhone as well. This is one of the more expensive apps, at $19.99, but I'd say it's indispensible if you're an Omnifocus user.
- Due: Due lets you set up timers and reminders but in a much more effective way than the built-in Clock app. I have a bunch of timers set up that I use on a regular basis, such as a timer for my Pomodoro blocks.
- Dialvetica Contacts: Dialvetica is a contact app that sorts your contacts according to the ones you access most often. If you only have a few people that you call or email, it's probably not necessary, but there aren't enough spots in the built-in "favourites" list for the people I call regularly so I use Dialvetica instead. It also remembers which number you use most often for each contact, say their mobile or home number, and will dial that automatically unless you choose a different one.
- Mail: The built-in email app.
- Tweetbot: Tweetbot is my current favourite Twitter client for the iPhone. Twitter clients are another app that I tend to buy whenever something new is released, so I do jump around a bit, but Tweetbot hasn't been beat for several months now.
- Reeder: Reeder is my favourite RSS reader for the iPhone. It syncs with Google Reader, which is how I subscribe to feeds, and the interface is excellent. I used to try every new RSS reader as well, but since I found Reeder I haven't even been tempted to look at anything else.
I use more apps than I have spots for on the home screen, so I have three folders to store apps that are somewhat related to one another.
- GoodReader: GoodReader is a pretty amazing app. It's mainly touted as a PDF reader but it will also read other formats like MS Office, iWork, images and even audio & video formats. I mainly use it for reading PDFs on my iPhone. It will reflow the text from a PDF into a standard text format that makes it extremely easy to read, even on the small screen. You can still view the original PDF and scroll around but the reflow view lets me read comfortably.
- Kindle: The Kindle app lets you read Amazon Kindle ebooks on the iPhone. It formats them nicely for the small screen and has (so far at least) saved me the $80-$200 cost of buying a Kindle.
- Instapaper: Instapaper is a service that will pull the text out of a web page and put it in a format that is easy to read, without ads, images or any other clutter. The iPhone app lets me read all my archives from my iPhone. It will even sync them from the web service so I can read them when I'm offline.
- DuckDuckGo: DuckDuckGo is a relatively new search engine that I've been using quite a bit, and this is the dedicated app for it. I haven't completely replaced Google with DuckDuckGo, but it seems to have a lot less junk in the results than Google often does.
- Flipboard: Flipboard is another news reader app, but it's kind of unique because it formats the feeds more like a magazine. I don't use this one nearly as often, but if I'm standing in line somewhere or just want to kill some time catching up on news, I usually open Flipboard to do it.
- Messages: The built-in text messaging app. I'm not a big texter, but I use it enough that I prefer to have it accessible from the home screen.
- MacHash: MacHash is a Mac-specific news reader app. It pulls in the feeds from all the major Mac-centric websites and lists them all in one place. You obviously need to be a bit of a Mac fan for this to be of any use, but if you like to stay on top of what's happening in the world of Apple, this is a good way to do it.
- Audible: Audible.com is an audiobook store that has a huge selection of books. I've been a member for over 10 years, and have a big library of books that I've bought over that time. You can load them onto your iPhone or iPod through iTunes but I prefer to use the official app. It gives you more control over your library than simply playing them in iTunes.
- Music: The built-in music app (which used to be called iPod)
- Instacast: Instacast is a podcast catcher/player. It manages all the podcasts I listen to (which are numerous, as you can see by the 107 unlistened episodes) and makes it easy to subscribe to new ones. Again, this duplicates some functions of the built-in music app but the easier management and improved controls make it preferable in my opinion. Just be careful if you have limits on your data plan. I initially had the 3G syncing turned on and I burned through well over my 6GB monthly limit in the first month - an expensive lesson! You can turn off 3G downloading in the app so it will only download over WiFi, to avoid this problem.
- Rdio: Rdio is a music subscription service that lets you access unlimited music from their library, and even download it to your iPhone to avoid data costs while streaming, for a single monthly cost. There are other similar services but Rdio is the only one available in Canada that has a good-sized library.
- Notesy: Notesy is my current text editor of choice. This is another category that I tend to test a lot of new apps but I keep going back to Notesy. It has the three features that are most important to me - Dropbox sync, Markdown support and TextExpander support. The other app I really like is Nebulous Notes but I find the Dropbox syncing in Notesy is a little more solid.
- iThoughts: iThoughts is my favourite mind mapping app on the iPhone. It does a surprisingly good job considering how small the screen is, and I use it for planning and brainstorming a lot. It can export into various other formats which makes it easy to move mind maps back and forth to my Mac.
- MindMeister: MindMeister is another good mind mapping app. The advantage it has over iThoughts is it ties into the MindMeister web app so I can share and collaborate on mindmaps. I don't use it as often, but when I need to work on a map with someone else it's perfect.
- JotAgent: JotAgent is a note-taking app that works with both Dropbox and Evernote. It creates a new note and saves it to either location automatically, so it's great for taking quick notes. I don't use it nearly as often as Notesy but when I need to jot something down quickly, it's perfect.
- Evernote: Evernote is a great way to store all kinds of information, and the iPhone apps lets me access that stuff from anywhere. I store lots of things in it, such as when I was buying new tires recently. I took a picture of the size of the current tires and put it in Evernote so I could pull it up when I was talking to the salesman in the tire store. It's kind of a catch-all for anything that doesn't fit into my other tracking systems (like Omnifocus).
- Carbon Fin Outliner: I normally use mindmaps for outlining and planning but once in a while a project makes more sense as a simple outline. Carbon Fin is simple but it works well for working up a quick outline.
- Dragon Dictation: I'm pretty comfortable with the onscreen keyboard on the iPhone so most of what I do is typed. But if I'm driving or doing something that makes it hard (or dangerous) to type, I use Dragon Dictation to write. It can do anything - email, documents, text messages, etc. - because you can just copy & paste the text into the ultimate destination once it's dictated.
- Birdhouse: Birdhouse is billed as a notepad for Twitter. It basically lets you write tweets and store them to be posted later. I find it handy if I have an idea for something I want to say on Twitter but I want to let it simmer a bit before I post it. I'm not sure I'd recommend buying this app, however - it hasn't been updated in a long time and seems like it may be abandonware.
- Springpad: Springpad is a competitor to Evernote and I've been testing it out on the recommendation of Mark Thompson. It still hasn't completely "clicked" for me but it definitely seems to be a bit more polished than Evernote. My biggest hangup is there doesn't seem to be an easy way to migrate all my data from Evernote, and I've got a lot of stuff in there. This is one of the reasons I like text files so much - they're pretty much universal. If I decide I suddenly like a new text editor better, there's no issues with accessing all my existing files.
- Day One: I've been trying to keep a journal for years, but I've never managed to make a habit of it. I like the aesthetic aspect of pen & paper but I never seem to have it handy when I want to write. Day One is the first journaling app I've found that makes me want to write regularly. It works in conjunction with Day One for the Mac so my journal entries are always synced between my devices.