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My iPhone Home Screen: August 2013 Edition

I haven’t done a Home Screen review since iOS7 launched because I knew things would be changing a lot in the coming months. While that’s certainly the case, there is also the consideration that some apps just wouldn’t work in iOS7 and some would look downright dated[1].

I’m not going to write specifically about iOS7 at this point but it has changed the landscape of my Home screen considerably. I’ve been trying out a lot of new apps; some stick and others move on pretty quickly. I’ve also found that I am using more stock Apple apps than before. It’s not just because they’re new and shiny. Their functionality has been significantly improved. I’m starting to think that they might end up hanging around for a while.

Row One

The Apple stock Phone app is finally settling down after a very difficult period in the early beta phase. The layout is cleaner but the functionality has changed little. I keep it on the Home screen so I can check for badges indicating missed calls but I initiate most calls from either the Contacts app or Alfred.

Mynd is a new addition, unseating Tempo (for now) as my daily organizer. As with Tempo, it mines your contacts, emails and calendar to build a daily view of what you have planned complete with driving directions and traffic warnings. I’ve been using it for about a week and it seems less ambitious than Tempo but it works well and I like the look of it. If it is able to make it through a few weeks of heavy use, it may see a longer review from me here.

I keep the stock Calendar app on the Home screen for the date display and to stay aware of pending meeting invites.

I still keep a folder on the Home screen with assorted useful apps (Droplr, Glassboard, Fantastical, Tempo and a few others that I like having a tap or two away). It’s always a handy place to stash things that are being temporarily supplanted by a new app.

Row Two

1Password is in a prime spot and I still use it constantly. The new version was recently on sale and I spent a few days proselytizing to friends who don’t see this sort of thing as essential. As news of the NSA and rampant hacking becomes more and more dire, having a storehouse of your uniquely created and encrypted passwords and identities locked away will be a good first step for the budding paranoid.

Wunderlist is a neat little shared list app that I use to share things like trip ideas with friends and shopping lists with my girlfriend. Nicely designed and incredibly useful.

Pinbook remains quite useful despite the growing list of incredibly competent and interesting apps that support Pinboard. Pinboard is one of those things that I wasn’t sure I needed until now, a year later, I find myself including it in the short list of nearly-indispensable services in daily use.

Downcast remains a solid podcast app and the recent release of the Mac version[2] of the app has only made it more useful.

Row Three

Twitterific remains the most attractive-to-use and functional Twitter app even though Twitter is getting decidedly less use as more of my attention is focused on ADN.

With text files remaining a key part of my daily workflow, having Nebulous Notes on both iPhone and iPad is essential. The hotkey creation and scripting on the iPad is great and the iPhone app remains a solid and stable text editor used mainly for finding files in my Dropbox repository and editing them when I’m away from my Mac.

Calca is a new addition. Being a big fan of Soulver for a few years, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Calca but it ends up being much more in sync with how I thought Soulver should work. In other words, it fits the niche of a markdown text editor/calculation engine that Soulver does. I have been using it a lot and the fact that I can open any text file in it and see calculations “just work” is fantastic. It’s an interesting and useful app.

Despite the fact that I have a problem with having to download and try every marginallly different or useful-looking weather app for iPhone, Check The Weather remains the best one available. The integration with Forecast.io’s API and the smart layout and design keep this app on my Home screen despite some truly innovative work done in this space.

Row Four

Riposte is the best ADN client. It has an apparent over-simplicity to it but, after a little use, you find it goes very deep. At this point, its interface mechanics are indelibly burned into my muscle memory; so much so that I try to swipe left to go “back” in more apps than just Riposte. I love this app.

Whisper for ADN is made by the same folks who made Riposte so the “swipe left” trick works here too. Again, this is a pin-perfect execution of the ADN private messaging API and I’m using it to chat with many of my friends on ADN. It even enticed a few non-ADN users over to the ADN side once they saw how well implemented an instant messaging app it was.

Awful App is a somethingawful forum reading app. It’s like Reddit except with better content and people.

VSCOcam is an incredible photography app for the iPhone. I love the functionality and aesthetic and they seem to be trying to do something unique and different with it. I am really happy with the photos I’ve been taking with it and the editing doesn’t seem like a chore. I’ve been using it as a go-to iPhone photo app for a few months and I’d recommend it to anyone at this point. They’ve created a curated gallery of VSCO user photos using their VSCOgrid system and some of the results are pretty stunning.

Row Five

Contacts remains mostly unchanged from previous iOS incarnations. I use it enough at this point to keep it on the front page. Buzz has lost its shine in iOS7 and many of its functions still aren’t working for me.

Mail is vastly improved in iOS7 so far. It has finally risen in functionality to the point where I can relegate Sparrow and other email apps that were taking its place for the last couple of years. Since I’m now a Fastmail user[3], I’m finding that having the freedom to use any mail client rather freeing and Fastmail has been an excellent alternative since moving away from Gmail.

OmniFocus remains stalwart, consistent and constantly-used as my task management app.

Safari, while undergoing quite a few changes on the move to iOS7, is still quite capable. There are few design choices I could live without (like the auto-hiding toolbar) but it seems fast and capable. I still get confused when people insist on using alternative browsers on their phone. To each their own, but it seems like it is complicating the most simple thing on their smartphone especially when their best-in-class mobile browser is so tightly integrated with the OS.

The Dock

Drafts still gets heavy use. Small notes, Fantastical parsing, parking directions, entering items into OmniFocus… the uses are endless and the app just keeps getting better and better.

Messages, given the state of IM today, could be better but is my current messaging app of choice. For the few friends who don’t have access to a Mac during the day or don’t want to type on their phone during busy IM exchanges, there’s always Whisper but overall, it is a great way to get your instant messaging done on the Mac and iOS devices. It’s not without its faults but they are likely outside the scope of this post.

Trillian is what I use for my friends who insist on using Gtalk. A necessary evil until they move over to iMessages or Whisper/ADN (which won’t happen any time soon, I am guessing).

Launch Center Pro provides a fast way to get to apps I use often. I have a lot of the apps and shortcuts that control the Mac Mini attached to my TV. When watching movies or shows with VLC, LCP is in constant use and makes things very quick and convenient.

Despite the many changes brought on by iOS7, overall the changes have been welcome. As more apps make their optimizations for the OS and as Apple continues to tweak and improve it over time, I’m feeling more and more like this is the OS that the iPhone 5 was meant to have and I’m looking forward to how things shape up over the next few months ahead of the inevitable launch of the new iPhone models in September.


  1. Yes, it sounds ridiculous to say that given that the OS hasn’t even launched yet but after you get used to the initial shock of iOS7’s “look”, it becomes apparent that this OS is going to be a huge step up. ↩

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