I’ve had an iPhone 4 since the day it came out for AT&T last year on June 24. It was not only my first iPhone but also my first smart phone of any kind. I’ve been trying out all sorts of apps since then and I’ve settled on an iPhone home screen setup that I’ve been using for some time now. I thought I’d share it with you and talk about why I keep these apps on my home screen.
The three social networks I use the most, in descending order, are Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare. I’ve tried out several Twitter apps but find the official app is the strongest one available. The Facebook app isn’t as good as it could be — it lacks many features you find on the full site, such as the ability Like comments, @ tag content in status updates and comments, and access the old style Groups — but it’s the best option available. I’ve also tried out several Foursquare apps, and until recently my main reason for sticking with the official app was because it didn’t crash as much as most 3rd party apps. But the new Explore tab is tremendous, so now I think I’ll stick with this app even if the others I’ve tried become more stable. All three of these apps are free.
Rounding out the top row is my Bible app of choice, the ESV Bible app by Crossway. I used to use YouVersion, but I find the reading experience on the ESV Bible app to be so much better with its full screen reading mode. You don’t need an Internet connection to use it, which is a huge plus. I’d estimate that I now do roughly half of my overall Bible reading in this app. Furthermore, it’s amazing how much more I read the Bible now that I literally always have one with me. This app is free. The same developers make a premium ESV Study Bible Plus app that I’ve had my eye on for a while which includes study Bible materials. That app costs $14.99.
All four of these apps are default iPhone apps. I moved the iPod app out of the Dock row because I just don’t need to get at it as much as my text messages. That said, I still use it more than any other music app. You might think it a little odd that I keep the App Store on my home screen. I download apps all the time (236 since I got my iPhone, 175 of which are currently on my phone). Plus, I’m a little obsessive compulsive about checking to see if there are any updates available for these apps, so I’ve kept in on my home screen. I use the Calendar app all the time. I have it synced to my Google Calendar. It’s one of the things I like most about having a smart phone, the ability to have my full calendar right at my fingertips and make plans accordingly. I kept Maps on the home screen because I’m usually using it while I’m in a car. I need easy access to this app, even if I don’t use it too often.
This row includes two folders, which I’ll highlight in detail momentarily, but first I’ll look at the two apps standing alone. Evernote makes up one half of what I refer to as my “second brain.” I use Evernote as an idea box. When I have an idea for an essay, for a web project, for ministry, or whatever, I open up Evernote and either type it in or, more often, use the audio recorder to record a memo for myself. I’ll be able to access all these notes from my Evernote desktop apps at home or work, or from anywhere I have an Internet connection using the Evernote web interface. I don’t need a web connection to use the iPhone app, only to sync my notes across platforms. This app is free.
The other half of my second brain is OmniFocus. At $19.99 it costs four times as much as any other app I’ve bought to date. And it’s been worth every penny. OmniFocus is a project management app. Sometimes I use it as a simple to-do list for the errands I need to run. But it’s real strength is in breaking a project out into many smaller steps, with the ability to give each step its own due date and other specific information. The app pushes reminders to me when an item is about to be due. Over the past year I’ve taken on a lot of new responsibilities in totally unrelated spheres, and this app is one of the reasons I’ve maintained my sanity through it all. Shawn Blanc wrote an excellent and massive review of OmniFocus for Mac, iPhone, and iPad a few months back should you be interested in more information on the app.
Even though I have a number of different camera apps I still use the default Camera app quite a bit. Ever since Apple included the HDR setting — and chose not to make it an API available for 3rd party app makers to use — it’s become a very strong option. Plus, it’s really my only video camera app (FlickIt also takes video but limits you to 90 seconds).
I think Instagram is my favorite photography app though. The filters are great and the square Polaroid-esque shots it produces are really slick. There’s also a lot of amazing tools being made to work with Instagram, such as Instaprint, Inkstagram, and Instagallery (especially the iPad version). Instagram is a free app.
The other six apps in this folder I don’t use too often, but it seemed foolish to make a separate folder elsewhere for them. The Photos app doesn’t really need much explanation: it’s the browser for my photos. I use FlickIt to upload photos to Flickr. Camera+ used to be my go-to camera app. It has some features that none of my other apps have that still make it a strong choice for some situations, such as the ability to set separate focus and exposure points, a grid overlay for taking straight pictures, a stabilizer to guard against blurry shots, a countdown timer, and burst mode for a rapid succession of shots. I only use Picplz to comment on the photos of other Picplz users, though I used to use it to add photos to my Foursquare checkins before Foursquare added that feature to its own app. It’s not a bad app though, and some may prefer it over an app like Instagram. Path is one of those apps that I want to start using but haven’t yet. It’s to share photos with friends without posting them to a social network for all the world to see. Potentially very useful. Finally, I use the Flickr app to browse Flickr. Camera+ costs $0.99 and the others are all free.
As with the Photography folder, most of these apps don’t get a ton of use but it seemed logical to keep them together. Yes, I have two YouTube apps. The first is a link to the mobile web app, which is many respects is the better of the two products, and the second is the built-in YouTube app. The apps for Vevo, Vimeo (web app), Justin.tv, and Dailymotion are just for browsing their respective video offerings. I don’t have a fancy cable TV package at home; instead I stream Netflix and Hulu Plus to stream content to my iPhone, TV, and computer. VLC is no longer available in the App Store, but it’s used for playing video files not natively supported by the iPhone. AirView is an awesome app. We’ve all seen the iPad ad where the guy is watching Toy Story 3 on his iPad and he tosses it to his Apple TV using the AirPlay feature. This app allows other iOS users to toss videos to my iPhone. Yeah, so wicked. Justin.tv will set you back $4.99 (I downloaded it when it was still free) but all of the rest of these apps are free (though you’ll need to pay to use Netflix and Hulu Plus once you’ve downloaded the free apps).
As much as I’d like to move the Settings app off the home screen I find that I go into it quite often, mostly for issues with wifi networks or to put my phone into Airplane Mode (something I do often so I can “get away from it all”). Instapaper is the newest addition to my home screen. I’m trying to add this service into my workflow as a way of saving articles I find on the web that I don’t have the time or ambition to read the moment I find them. This app costs $4.99. Reeder is a fantastic app, one of my favorites, and a must-have for any Google Reader user. I’m a huge fan of Google Reader and RSS feeds in general. (Learn more about RSS in this post I wrote a while back.) It’s how I’m able to read over 100 blogs every day without wasting my entire life in the process. Reeder syncs with my Google Reader account so I can read my favorite blogs on the go. It costs $2.99.
UPDATE: Since writing this post I’ve published an article on my technology web column explaining how and why I use Google Reader and Instapaper to read content on the web.
This folder is a work in progress. I use WordPress for my personal blog and for several other websites I’ve developed. I’ve actually never used this app to write a new post or page for any website, but I do use it to approve new comments and write follow-up comments. (Thus, you may question why it’s even in this folder. I do intend to use it to write new posts eventually.) PlainText is a cool little app that syncs with my Dropbox account. (Learn more about Dropbox in this post I wrote earlier this year.) It allows me to create and edit .txt documents in a folder within Dropbox. This sync option makes it far superior to the default Notes app, also included in this folder for sake of continuity only. Lastly, Glyphboard is a useful web app character map. All of these apps are free (you can remove the ads in PlainText for $4.99).
My dock is pretty boring with its four native apps: Phone, Messages, Safari and Mail. At some point I’d like to use Google Voice in place of the Phone and Messages apps, but I’m not eager to do all the work required either to port my existing number or to train people to use a new number.
About the Title
The name of this post was lifted from a website called 1st and 20, a collection of iPhone and iPad home screens from designers, developers, and tech writers.
What’s on your Home Screen?
If you’re an iPhone user, tell me about your favorite home screen apps in the comments.