What’s on my iPhone: my vital apps

Following on from my recent post attacking my iPad, I thought I would write a post on my iPhone – and how/why it is the single most important weapon in my tech arsenal.

I rely on my iPhone 3GS daily for pretty much everything. It is invaluable daily and essential when traveling. The iOS 4 update a few months ago suddenly made it even more compelling.

I thought it would be interesting to share with readers what sits on my number 1 screen and why.

1) The folders

There’s no way I can go into detail about each individual folder, but logically each folder is labeled according to function. All the folders lucky enough to sit on screen 1 are there for a reason. I’ll start with highlighting a few apps that sit in the folders which I depend on. First up ‘SlingPlayer’. My client software into the world of SlingBox. Secondly , within my productivity folder  is a scanning app known as Jot Note Scanner . Essentially, a tool that enables me to scan in any document (via the camera and the clever software) and upload to a number of cloud services. I have found this a vital workflow app and I use it daily to throw documents into my Evernote account. It pretty much handles all documents from images to receipts.

2) Apps (outside the folders)

Basically, all the apps that sit outside my folders are there for a reason. I depend on them constantly. Mail, email – obviously. Messages, SMS messages – obviously.

What’sApp is an incredible app. It enables you to SMS/picture message friends using the application. It’s also cross platform, working on Blackberry and at beta stage on Symbian. This also completely eliminated the need to send out pricey SMS messages to friends and family overseas.

Next up is Evernote . I upgraded to the premium service – so I can access my notes offline (great when traveling or without access to the web). The evernote concept is basically cloud computing. However, through its multi-platform applications it means you are never far away from your data. So for example, stuff I throw into it from my iPhone syncs up with their cloud service and is available on my other computers instantly.

3) The dock

Moving further down into the dock you will see the phone app (although these days I hardly use it). I pretty much use Twitter exclusively as my social network of choice – so the Twitter app was a no brainer. Skype is there too. I have posted a number of times concerning Skype. So no need to say anymore. However, I will add that iOS4 has really transformed my use of Skype. Essentially, I leave it on 24/7 (battery permitting). A critical app for me – given I am overseas. Not only does it eliminate the need to use the landline for calls – but I have the SkypeIn package. I still cannot believe that for around £4 per month, I get a London telephone number and can make unlimited calls to UK landlines.

4) Other contenders

Multi-tasking has also helped in quickly accessing other apps which I frequently use. One of those apps I use daily is TuneIn Radio .  I love radio, and have tested most of the radio apps in the Apps Store. However, this is the one I always return to. Not only does it have an elegant user interface – but accessing global radio stations is simple. The ability to schedule alarms and record shows also make this a killer app for me.

It also goes without saying that I still use the default iPod app. I consume all my podcasts, music and  AudioBooks via the app. However, I still maintain that Apple need to improve this key app. When traveling (without a laptop) keeping up to speed with my favourite podcasts is not easy. What Apple need to do is provide a simple way of automating podcast updates through this app. This is a big frustration for me – and I think Apple need to do something major to move us away from the tethered sync and go approach.

Also worth plugging the Kindle App too. I don’t read as much as I should. But being able to purchase Kindle books via Amazon and have them auto-sync to my iPhone and iPad is amazing. Sure, Apples’ iBook store can do something similar. But I feel much more comfortable with buying books through Amazon. It gives me more flexibility should I ever decide to ditch the iPad and get a Kindle 3 .

Last up I wanted to mention the travel folder I have. I don’t use this folder daily, but some of the apps in there are worth mentioning. First up is the Tripit app. When traveling I simply forward on travel reservations etc.. to my tripit account and they appear in this application in an elegant itinerary format. Second up, is Navigon . In my view this sat-nav app has the edge over  Tomtom. I use it when I’m back in the UK.

As much as I am frustrated with Apple these days, I have to give them full credit for the iPhone. I have been a user since the second generation, 3G and still enjoying it as much as I did when I first got it.  I have toyed with ditching the platform for a decent Android phone. But, until Android scales up the quality of its Market Place apps, I cannot see myself going anywhere else (except the iPhone 4 of course).

A new feature idea for iPhone

As I recently downloaded an app, that I would label ‘productivity’ related, it got me thinking. iPhone would really benefit from a feature which gives the user an ability to group or cluster apps by theme or category.

Sounds a bit anal. Perhaps. But hear me out. At the moment when an app is installed (not updated I might add) it sits next to the last app installed. If you are anything like me you probably have in excess of 80 apps sitting on your iPhone. Each rolling page holds 16 apps, so for me, that’s a lot of finger scrolling action. There have been occassions where I struggle to find the app I’m after.

I’m no software coder by I’m sure the Apple SDK would allow for two killer features:

1) Category and/or app tagging

Wouldn’t it be great if we, the users, could filter iPhone screen views by category. The SDK could require all developers to categorise their apps. In turn these would form the basis of filtering on the iPhone. For example Easy tasks, would be categorised as ‘productivity’ and would sit alongside similar apps. You get the picture.

A similar feature is already there in The Apps Store. However, I suspect it’s either Apple manually deciding where an app fits or the developers submiting where they want their app to appear.

Furthermore the user would be able to add/ amend categories.

2) Location aware categories

So in addition to filtering, why note take advantage of the GPS. The iPhone knows where you are, so why not have a feature that would auto filter apps based on location and/ or day of the week.

Imagine it knows you are shopping and up pops your shopping list app to the front screen. Or perhaps you are at home, watching tv, so a tv listings app appears. I accept this would be very tricky to pull of, as we do not necessarily use particular apps in particular places. Humans are unpredictable afterall. But much like the new ‘Genius’ feature in iTunes, after time, iPhone would begin to understand the location based habits of a user.

Perhaps this is one step to far, but if implemented correctly it might just turn iPhone into the most intuitive and smartest operating system ever.

So if you are reading this Apple, please note where the idea came from. I won’t ask for much. Just a shinny new 17″ MacBook Pro would be sufficient.

A round up of my favourite iPhone Apps

I have owned my iPhone since July 2008 and I can genuinely say it is the best mobile computing device I have ever owned. And I have had a few in my time, including the legendary Psion 5MX and, more recently it’s modern cousin the Nokia E90.

What makes it so special? Well aside from the obvious, form factor and user interface, it is the applications that never cease to amaze me. With that in mind , I figured i’d share my five top apps;

1. Twinkle
A location aware, Twitter app. It’s increasingly more popular than Twitteriffic and free to. My twitter client of choice. Over and above any OSX app I have ever used.

2. WordPress
Having installed WordPress on my website server, it is now my CMS of choice. The WordPress client on my iPhone enables me to blog directly on my iPhone. Sure this version doesn’t have all the features from the web based version but it can handle images and save draft posts.

3. EasyTask
My GTD app of choice. There are a whole bunch in the apps store, I have tried several but found myself coming back to EasyTask. It includes all the features you’d expect, projects, contexts and a nice ‘dashboard’ view. It also enables you to sync tasks to the cloud. Oh and it’s free.

4. X-Plane
It’s not always work on the iPhone. Far from it. This flight simulator was ported from OSX. Put simply. It’s stunning. The graphics, use of the iPhone’s acceloromator, frame rate and rendering make this, without doubt a must for any flight sim fan.

5. Mail
A core Apple app out of the box but it’s simplicity and functionality is both intuitive and crisp. With push and fetch enabled, I’m never more than one minute away from my email.

I literally have six slide screens worth of apps. Most of which didn’t make my top five cut. However, pretty much all of them are top class. I’ll post again, with a further five.

Given the interest in the platform I’ll also post regular app reviews.

Website transition complete

After a few days of development work my new website is up and running.

Having used mobileme for hosting, developed through iweb, I must confess I was not impressed. I felt uncomfortable that I was teathered to my Mac for any postings or updates.

What’s under the hood?

Go Daddy! host my site. I opted for a Linux shared server running mySQL and PHP 5.. The blog itself is powered by WordPress 2.6.1.

Installation of WordPress was a breeze, much easier than I thought. After a bit of playing around with WordPress I can now post updates on my iPhone. This is a deal breaker for me. The ability to blog from anywhere with a device that travels everywhere with me is great.

It is ironic that despite the Apple ecoystem around me, Apple does not offer any way of posting to blogs to MobileMe via iPhone.

I will not be renewing my MobileMe account next year.