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iPhone Home Screen: October 2015

There have been a lot of changes to my iOS home screen over the last year. I switched from my iPhone 6 back to my iPhone 5S after I discovered how much I hated the side power button and inconvenient size of the iPhone 6. A few weeks before the iPhone 6S was released, I decided to go back to the iPhone 6 and get used to the size and see if my opinions changed. The short story is that they hadn’t. The side power button, while understandably within easy reach of the thumb, more often than not also lowers or raises the volume on the other side of the phone. It is an aggravation but one I had resigned to live with as they wouldn’t be changing it any time soon.

The main reason I switched back was the anticipation of 3DTouch in iPhone apps. I could see there was some great potential there and I wasn’t disappointed in that regard. As it stands, just a few weeks after the release of the new iPhone, the majority of the apps on my home screen support 3DTouch actions and they really do enhance the functionality of the phone in some surprising ways.

Because I wasn’t sure if the larger phone size would “stick” I kept an empty sixth row of icons on the bottom of the screen. Doing so would facilitate an easy switch back to the 5S and it was my escape hatch back to my preferred size phone. I ended up liking the empty space down there and left it alone even though I have surely settled on the iPhone 6S. While the size still sucks, the speed of the 6S is impressive and the new features like 3DTouch and “Hey Siri” support get used enough to make it worthwhile.

Row One

Editorial is still my go-to long form text editor and main way to view my taskpaper task lists. I’m not even using the power Python workflows and still find it an incredible app in terms of functionality and polish.

Fantastical remains my favorite calendar app on iOS. With 3DTouch giving you quick access to creation of a new event, calendar search and a preview of your next meeting, it remains on the home screen and gets very heavy use throughout the day.

I still have a folder with less-used apps in it. These are generally apps that get swapped out for their rival counterparts (Weatherunderground and Storm or Twitterific and Tweetbot come to mind).

VSCOcam is still an amazing iOS photo app. For taking photos as well as having a ton of great processing features, it stands far above the other photo apps I have used. 3DTouch adds quick access to the camera and importing photos among other things.

Row Two

1Password is a vital piece of technology at this point. If you’re not using a password manager, frankly, you are nuts. 1Password is the best of the bunch.

Pinner is a great little Pinboard app. I love that it has share sheet integration so I can share links from any app. It took over the duties from Pushpin.

YNAB is something I’ve been using to track my finances for a couple of years now. Having quick access to it means I can easily enter each transaction right after it occurs. Keeping your accounts up to date is one of the hardest things to do with a finance app like this so having this at my fingertips helps in that regard.

Since the operation I have been using Apple’s Health app to track things like heart rate and blood pressure. It isn’t great but it served as a decent repository for that data and stayed backed up between phone switches.

Row Three

Notes is the second Apple app that has earned a spot on my home screen. I like the multimedia aspect of it and the sharing between the Notes app in El Capitan seals the deal. I use it for checklists and reminders.

Music is yet another Apple app on the home screen. I still am loving the service. It isn’t glitch-free but it is a perfectly capable app once you get used to it.

Awful is my window into the SomethingAwful forums which remains a hilarious way to pass the time. Better than Twitter at least…

Overcast is the best podcast app out there. While I love the features in Downcast, Overcast’s Smart Speed is an amazing feature.

Row Four

Rego is a great travel app. I use it to mark places that we have visited as well as create itineraries for places we plan on going. The Today widget also has a “Mark this spot” button which I use a lot for parking. I mentioned it in the Nerds on Draft show on navigation if you want to hear more specifics in how I use it.

PCalc has become a great home screen addition. I find myself using it quite a bit and, since the Apple Watch app is fairly capable, there are a lot of ways the app comes in handy.

Storm and the WUnderground app both vie for position depending on the weather. When the weather turns inclement, Storm is great for showing the fronts, the wind direction and speed, thunderstorm warning areas and such. WUnderground is great for day-to-day weather information. If you create an account, you can use it on both apps to remove ads.

Outlook for iOS is a surprisingly capable iOS app for handling your Office365 or Exchange email. I use it exclusively for work email because I prefer to keep everything separate and it is a highly polished email client.

Row Five

Phone – another Apple app!1 Since this is a phone, it makes sense to have the phone app handy and I do use it often enough to keep it around.

TapCellar is the best beer app for iOS. There is no better app for managing and grading beers on the Apple App Store. Go buy it.

Safari is such a capable browser for iOS so I never felt the need to use a third party version. I definitely wouldn’t use Google’s Chrome and now, with ad blocking apps (I chose 1Blocker), Safari has gotten even better.

Spark is a new addition, replacing Boxer for now. It doesn’t have some of the interesting features Boxer has (like customizable smart folders with mail counts on them) but it has some pretty cool interactions. I haven’t deleted Boxer yet. We will see how things go with Spark for a while.

Row Six


Home Row

Launch Center Pro fell off of my home screen in favor of an app called Launcher a while back but with the customizable 3DTouch feature, I now use it as a way to create tasks for my taskpaper files using Drafts. It. Is. So. Cool.

Messages gets constant use. Integration with the Apple Watch and the fact that everyone I know uses it really makes it an essential app.

Slack is the best group and collaborative messaging app available. It is great. So very great.

Drafts is generally where all of my text starts (except where previously mentioned). All of my new tasks start in Drafts and they get sent over to my taskpaper file in Dropbox via some not-very-tricky automation. Now that Drafts is getting launched via Launch Center Pro, it is even more of an essential part of how I do things on iOS.

3DTouch has been a great addition to iOS. It’s quick adoption has seen it land on my home screen in the majority of the apps that reside there. Fantastical, VSCOcam, Pinner, Notes, Music, Overcast, PCalc, Phone, Safari, Spark, Launch Center Pro, Messages and Drafts all support it already.

  1. This has to be a record. 

TapCellar - The Next Generation

TapCellar just got a big update. Many of the user requests Gabe and I have received have been included – things like bar-code scanning and list sharing – as well as a number of performance improvements, fixes and enhancements. with over 45,000 beers available for your offline searching and perusing, it has gotten a lot more useful for those of you who care about what we call “anti-social” beer drinking.

Many of you don’t care about sharing your latest beer escapades with the world at large. You might share a suggestion or two with a group of close friends or make a note or grade a beer to remind yourself that you had a beer at one point, but social sharing isn’t a focus. That is where TapCellar works best. It functions as a personal diary, library and cellar manager for your beer experiences.

If you’ve been on the fence, now is a good time to try TapCellar. That said we’re introducing something with this version that might raise a few eyebrows.

With this release, we are making our “Pro” features in-app purchase. For those of you buying the app prior to this release, and for the next month, you will get all of the TapCellar features that we consider key to managing your beer experience, including the in-app features. You’ll also get all future upgrades and new features going forward. For now, this will set you back $4.99. To enable this switch for current users, the in-app “Pro” feature unlocks will be FREE for a month. For current and brand new users, just “purchase” these features from within the app for $0 and then, when the pricing tiers change (at the end of September), you’ll own them forever.

After a month, we will be changing the price of the base app to $.99 with the Pro features setting you back $3.99. For those of you good at math, you’ll see that the price of the app isn’t changing but we’re just lowering the barrier to entry for those of you who want to try the app without making such a huge financial commitment. We think you’ll like the app enough to unlock the Pro features.

Here are the release notes:

It’s been a great summer for beer and we’ve been hard at work trying to drink them all. We’ve also been hard at work adding some cool new features and cleaning out a bunch of floaters.

Barcode Scanning

TapCellar now has an optional feature to help you find beers faster. We can scan barcodes off of most beer bottles and cans to find them in the database. Barcode scanning requires a network connection.

Share as a List

We made this feature for ourselves and think it’s super cool. While viewing any list less than 200 beers, you can export a plain text version using iOS sharing. That means you can quickly text someone your top beers or post the spoils of a really good Asheville beer-cation.


TapCellar now includes OVER 45,000 beers and it’s all available offline. We work where you drink. Syncing should be much faster now. All of the data is still local but we try to go out and get the latest data every day. Syncing requires the TapCellar to be active but we think we’ve made it much faster so you’ll always be up to date. We fixed a bunch of bugs with data export and import. Our testers drink a lot. Err, I mean they are great at testing large exports. You can now purge label image caches if you’ve viewed a bunch of labels and want to save some space


We’ve changed the pricing model for TapCellar. The app is now much cheaper but offers an in app purchase for some of the new hotness. To celebrate, the in app purchase price is FREE as in beer.

An Apple Music Article I Agree With

Here’s a good Apple Music article on Cult of Mac.

Apple Music meets this simple, basic desire. I launch it on my iPhone or via iTunes on my Mac and I check out For You. I look at the new playlists that show up. Are they interesting? Most of the time, they are. I hit play. I hear new and familiar tunes all in a row; I rarely need to skip tracks. It’s instant, and has thoroughly replaced my radio in the car; something Spotify or Rdio never really did.

When I want to find an album or a song I want to hear, I use Search. I’ve only had one instance of not finding what I want so far – the catalog is huge. I can download albums to my iPhone with a simple tap; it’s as good as owning the songs for my level of listening.

I agree with this whole article. People are overthinking this stuff.

Apple Music - Deep Cuts

I have been happy with Apple Music so far. I went into it with some hesitation because (a) it was an Apple cloud service and those haven’t been solid at launch historically and (b) I was happy with Rdio as a streaming music service.

After using Apple’s offering for a while, I was confident enough that it would work for me and ended up taking a leap and canceled my long-standing Rdio account. I haven’t regretted it.

Apple Music’s “For You” section has been fantastic and I have been impressed by the well-curated playlists. After uploading the rest of my local music collection (about 19,000 songs)1, it is now available for streaming to all of my devices which has been working out really well for me as well. As a result, I have been re-discovering music that has been sitting on unplugged hard drives for years. The waltz down music-memory lane has been fun.

While I have seen some of the infrequent issues encountered by others2, these are things I have experienced before with other streaming services. They aren’t perfect. I admit it has been interesting watching my Twitter stream when there’s a temporary outage. It is like the internet has never actually used something on the internet before. With so many ways for things to break, interruptions happen. It doesn’t mean I am happy about it but I am certainly not surprised when it happens and never so frustrated by a minutes-long outage that I want to stop using the service and return to the dark days of syncing music to my phone again.

Jim Dalrymple wrote an article a few days ago skewering the service and leaving a very frustrated “goodbye” note to Apple Music for his readers to mull over. I read it and wasn’t too surprised by what I found there. It is no surprise that he is frustrated about losing 4800 songs but I find myself befuddled as to why he wouldn’t have backed up his music collection before uploading his entire collection into a 1.0 Apple cloud product having used 1.0 Apple products before (let alone their iffy cloud offerings).

Also, Jim’s music collection was the years-long creation of a music fanatic who had a lot of strange cuts, alternative versions of songs etc (with nearly-identical metadata no doubt) and spanning multiple albums. I don’t think this is going to be the case for 99% of the music listeners out there. Dalrymple, of all people, should know that Apple’s focus is on the mainstream use case. Being on the fringe as an Apple user can sometimes be a frustrating experience. Should Apple’s offerings serve niche users? Sure, but not for v1.0.

The takeaway here is more of a cautionary tale – if you have an extensive hair metal collection and four versions of the same Bob Dylan song, Apple Music might not deliver the best out-of-the-box experience.

I have some very eclectic music tastes however and Apple music still seems to serve my needs just fine. I am not alone either. Jonathan Poritsky, over at Candler Blog, wrote a great piece which really resonated. Go read that for a different take that is far different from Dalrymple’s.

I just want to put it out there that Apple Music is the best streaming service I have ever used. My guess is that there are a lot of people out there who have used it without any issues. But that’s not much of a story.

I agree, Jonathan. I agree.

  1. After backing up the data, naturally. 

  2. I was unable to connect to my library once or twice.