What’s On Your Home Screen?

iOS 8 Home Screen


It doesn’t matter what operating system you’re on and how you organize your screens there’s always one main go-to screen.  In iOS that’s called the home screen.  Everybody organizes their apps in different ways but one thing remains fairly consistent and that’s the most important or most often accessed apps typically end up on the home screen.  I actually arrange my screens based on themes.  For example I have a full screen devoted just to camera and video editing apps.  Since they are my guiltless pleasure I have nearly enough to fill up an entire screen.  I reserve another screen for entertainment apps such as Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, iTunes, etc.  The theme my home screen has going for it though is quick access to my most used apps.  I’ve decided to share my home screen with a brief description of the apps encompassing it.  Think of it as my top ten list for app recommendations (in this case top 28 list because that’s how many can fill up my iPhone 6 screen including the bottom four located on the dock).

Here’s my list in order from top to bottom and left to right according to the included screen shot (click on any link to download):

1)  Fantastical – I’ve tried several calendar apps and I just keep returning to Fantastical.  I believe it really sets the benchmark for calendar apps.  I prefer agenda (list) views over calendar (monthly) views and an agenda view is front and center in this app.  Rotating your screen horizontally gives you the traditional calendar view so it should appeal to everybody.  It’s always worked fluidly and flawlessly for me and easily bests the stock Apple Calendar App. You’ll notice that speed and reliability are very important to me as you read through the rest of this list.

2)  Photos – I’ve replaced virtually all of the stock Apple apps except for 9, 8 of which show up on my home screen mostly out of necessity.  There are other photo apps but in my experience the stock Photos App gives me the fastest access to my pics and until iOS 8 was the only place you could delete photos.

3)  Litely – As previously mentioned I’ve got another screen that houses all my photo and video editing apps except for this one (and Instagram but it’s also a social network).  With its dozens of preset filters and zippy/simple interface it’s really my secret sauce to serving up endless sunsets that are so easy to come by in my part of the world out to my social feeds. Turns out Litely was written by the same guy who wrote seven of the original Instagram filters.

4)  Google Maps – One word…Awesome!  Does any other mapping and navigation app come remotely close?  It recently saw an update to Google’s Material Design experience and it’s oh so lovely to look at.

5)  Checkmark 2 – Little known and still overdue for an iOS 8 update it’s still the best reminders app in the App Store in my opinion.  It’s best feature is location-based reminders with the ability to postpone said reminders.  For example you can set a reminder to take out the trash 10 minutes after you arrive home because if you’re like me and if your phone dings in the car the second you pull into the driveway then by the time you get in the house and are gang tackled by the kid and dog you’ve done forgot about the reminder 5 minutes later.

6)  Safari – Necessity here because though I love Chrome on any other platform Safari just offers a zippier experience in iOS though that’s changing as Apple is opening up their walled garden more and more.

7)  Settings – Necessity again because I change a system setting at least once a day (usually wallpaper) or am usually looking to connect to a wifi network.

8)  App Store – Because I shop for apps and look for updates daily.  Still a choppy experience but getting better.

9)  Google – Two words…Google Now!  Check it out.  It’s both a little creepy but so so cool when it dazzles you with just the right information at just the right time or place.

10) Weather – This is the lone Apple app that I actually prefer over third-party apps because I think Apple got it right.  I’ve tried a half-dozen weather apps and I recently dumped them in favor of the stock Weather App because it just does one thing and does it well.  It quickly displays all the pertinent weather info upon opening the app and does it blazingly fast.  It’s got a decent flat interface that doesn’t fill your screen with ads like so many other weather apps do.

11) Evernote – This one’s actually just filling a void left behind when my favorite note taking app was shuttered.  I was a big fan of Springpad, a direct competitor to Evernote until it abruptly closed up shop.  When it did it offered a streamlined method to port all of your notebooks directly into Evernote hence it’s arrival on my home screen.  Nothing against Evernote which actually is quite pleasing on the eyes and is certainly light years more robust than the stock Apple Notes App.

12) Rise – Rise is my alarm app.  I was duped into purchasing it with the allure of tapping the screen anywhere to snooze but found out after the fact that you had to leave the screen on all night in order to take advantage of its full feature set.  Leaving the screen on all night albeit dimmed just seems silly so I don’t.  Nevertheless I keep it because it’s stock set of alarm sounds and remaining feature set are better than the stock Apple Clock App.

13) Mail – Another Apple mainstay but only on my home screen until Inbox (see below) accepts my Hotmail account.

14) Wunderlist – Bar none the best list making app and I’ve tried them all!  Super easy to use and uncluttered but can be as feature rich as you want it to be (think sub lists for lists).  Especially love sharing a grocery list with my wife because you can go back through completed items and re-add them to the list again.  Handy for things you need every week like milk and bread.  Completely free to use and ad-free to boot.  It syncs shared lists with ease and allows you to drag to reorder items.  It’s the small things that count and being a lifelong list maker Wunderlist truly lives up to its name.

13) Drafts – One thing Apple’s stock Notes app does well is it allows you to dive right into creating a note fairly quickly.  Drafts one-ups it.  The app defaults to opening right into a brand new note every time you open it.  It’s got a nice selection of fonts and share options so for me it really has replaced the stock Notes App more so than Evernote has.   At $9.99 it’s a bit pricey though.  I’m still on an older version and waiting for a deal to upgrade to the latest but it’s still the fastest app period when needing to tap out a quick note.

14) Misfit – This is the accompanying app to the fitness tracker I use (the Misfit Flash).  The Jawbone Up app gets all the attention for fitness trackers but I find Misfit’s to be more than par for the course.  It’s got a crisp flat design and for an app that I frequently check throughout the day I can’t honestly think of a single hiccup I’ve ever experience.  It’s quite stable and that should always count for something.

15) Google News & Weather – Seems I’m always trying out a different news service.  This is the flavor of the month for me.  It’s claim to fame is being able to Google any term and creating a whole news feed on it.  For example when I was researching the aforementioned Misfit Flash fitness tracker prior to purchase I created a whole news feed that offered up several pre-launch reviews since it was new to the market.  It also tipped me off when it was finally available for purchase since they were being tight-lipped on the exact date.  It also shows a snap shot of local weather on its home screen.

16) Asana – Another list taking app.  This one’s claim to fame is that’s an enterprise app.  I’ve begun to track my projects and daily to-dos in it at work.  Not sold on it yet and really it is meant for team collaboration which I don’t do a lot of because that’s how I roll.

17) Kindle – The king of reading apps.  No other reading app comes close to its feature set yet it will get out of the way when you need it to and let you just read.  I bought into the Amazon reading ecosystem long ago when I preordered their 2nd generation Kindle eReader and have never looked back.  The Kindle App a mainstay on my home screen and each successive version adds clever little things to further enhance reading experience like page numbers, percentage completion, their X-Ray service, and estimated time remaining to read.

18) Pocket – A read it later service.  It literally is formerly known as “Read It Later”.  It’s an app that allows me to read web links that I save to read later in an uncluttered mobile friendly canvas.  It gives the Kindle app a run for the money on number of reading features.  It’s one of the few apps that actually gets the low light reading experience right by offering a dark gray background with off white text rather than the deep black with bright popping white letters most other reading apps do.  It’s so much easier on the eyes in the dark.

19) Paper – Facebook sucks but like the other billion people on the planet like it or not I’m stuck with using it because all my other friends use it.  Paper is one of the rare things they cooked up that actually enhances the experience.  Born out of one of their labs it’s basically a heavily gesture based alternative to the traditional Facebook App sans ads (for now).  It also allows you to subscribe to a stream of curated news feed.  Not fond of their daily selection of news content I’ve turned off those feeds and use it exclusively for viewing and posting to my Facebook feed over the decidedly vanilla and cluttered traditional Facebook App.

20) Twitter – Nothing flattering to say here.  Does its job adequately, no praises per say but no complaints either.

21) Instagram – I must admit to a bit of nostalgia for Instagram.  It did after all spawn my shutterbug app addiction.  It works well and stays fresh enough.  I just never understood it’s love affair with square photos.  Why does it always seem when technology gives us more screen real estate something comes along to put black bars all around it?  Still mad they sold out to Facebook too.  Forever tainted but like Facebook, we’re stuck with it because everybody uses it.  At least it’s been mostly left alone to thrive since selling out and the few ads that I’ve seen begin to populate my feed are usually tasteful.

22) Bible – Did you know this app has been downloaded 161.4 million times and counting?! There are actually better apps for traditional bible study (see Faithlife Study Bible) but the Bible App has the best overall package with a thriving social feed and an ever-growing library of free community supported devotionals many authored by prominent Bible thumpers.


Dock Apps

23) Phone – These next four apps encompass my dock apps that show up on every screen.  The first is the stock phone app and I’m beginning to rethink its place here as I consider how little I use it.  I don’t place a lot of calls and most usually am on the receiving end of calls so I’m not sure I can justify its coveted place anymore in the dock.  I’ve never really pondered searching for a replacement phone app.  Open to suggestions…

24) Inbox – This is Google’s next great thing.  Think Google Now for Gmail.  It’s currently an invite only affair and I’m super glad I snatched an invite.  It replaced my all time favorite app (Mailbox by Dropbox).  Though I believe it still carries a Beta moniker it certainly doesn’t feel like it.  What Inbox does is basically serve you up a feed of emails automatically organized in categories like Promotions or Financial but rather than leaving you guessing at content by what the subject line says it will pull out the pertinent parts and put them front and center.  For example it will offer a link to track a package without having to open the message or serve you up a movie ticket confirmation number right in the subject line.  It is also written with a heavy dose of Google’s new Material Design experience which personally I can’t get enough of.  It takes liberally from many of my favorite features offered up by Mailbox and even gives you the option to add reminders to your message feed which just seems to be a natural place to add reminders after all.  How has nobody else thought of that yet?

25) Songza – If there’s one app on this list I would encourage anyone to download it has to be Songza.  You simply will not find a larger library of curated playlists anywhere.  You can pick from moods to genres to activities.  Google recently purchased and incorporated these playlists into the Google Play Music App but for now seem content to leave this free ad-supported service intact.  The ads aren’t in your face either and mostly consist of a small static banner at the bottom of the screen and you can rest assured that no loud car commercials will interrupt your feed like so many have ruined the Pandora experience for me.  Please download it, you’ll thank me later…tip check out the “Songs From Apple Commercials” playlist.  It’s delish!

26) Messages – And finally the last app in my dock is the stock Messages App because it’s adequate for me especially now with the latest feature set added with iOS 8.  Most of my friends use iMessages so really it’s a no brainer for me.  I’m actually aware of the plethora of better alternatives but truthfully none of my core friends and family use them so…

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QuikTeks V4

  • 1367739444_clockTwo words…Fax Machines!  How are they still remotely relevant?
  • Got stuck in line behind a lady trying to pay for her already bought Groupon deal!  I think there should be some state administered exam people must pass prior to first purchasing a smartphone.  Nah that will never work; they’d make it a written exam and then fax the results to the wireless carrier of your choice who would charge you an administrative fee because you didn’t go paperless.
  • (Apple) I get the spirit of competition but not putting Google in your auto-correct dictionary?  I thought you prided yourself on making things just work.  Google is your default search engine (for now) so this makes no sense.
  • Why does my Walgreens app not recognize their own bar code nor their RX number I enter in its place but will send my Instagram photos to their 1 hour print lab effortlessly?
  • Why am I not asked anything when deleting something but am asked twice whether I want to resume viewing a video after I already selected ‘resume’? (Amazon Instant Video)
  • One word…Routers!
  • The problem with cable companies is they farm their equipment to the lowest bidder and we can’t do anything about it.  I’m on my fourth cable box (identical model, all hard drive failures); need I say more.

App Discovery | Timehop

IMG_2922

Welcome to my new series that I will called App Discovery.  I will provide posts like these periodically and they will differ from App Reviews by their depth.  In this series I will try to highlight apps I feel worthwhile for fellow Tekkies to check out so it is presumed that I offer at least a TekYa rating on apps showcased here.

To start I would like to showcase an app I’ve found to be at least novel if not timely.  Timehop available only on iOS serves one purpose and that is to serve you up daily doses of precisely what you did exactly one, two, three years ago and so on.  It does this by tapping into all of your social network feeds and regurgitating what you were doing, where you were doing it, what you were saying, and pictorially what you were sharing years past on the same date.  It can tap into all the usual suspects like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Instagram.  It goes deep on the photo front by syncing with Dropbox Photos, Photo Sync, Flickr, and even your iPhone camera.  Syncing with all services is as simple as signing in and okaying the usual obligatory do-you-really-want-to-give-all-access questions and for me synced flawlessly.

I love the reminders of all things past.  A couple days ago I was reminded that my son started crawling for the first time three years ago which is fantastic considering next year on the same date it’ll be displaying this year’s Instagram reminder of my son taking his first jumps into the pool and swimming.  One of the toughest things for apps to do is to garner at least once daily usage.  This app’s formula is perfect for such success.  I look forward to finding out what surprises await me each day since there’s no way to either look forward or backwards in the app unless, of course, if you want to methodically dig down each individual social feed.  The last morsel of history the app gives you is a snippet of news from years past via USA Today such as the six year anniversary of the first iPhone launch.

I will say the app isn’t very old and thereby is a bit buggy in its infancy.  I’ve waited for an update before going ahead and recommending it.  The latest update seems to have brought some stability however I am still unable to share to Facebook which seems silly anyways since I would likely just be resharing an already shared moment.  Nevertheless if you are fairly active on social networks I highly recommend the app.  It does one thing and does it simply and well and that almost always garners a TekYa rating in my book.

My Ideal Digital Father’s Day

IMG_1876I’d like to get a little bit personal here and share the events of one of the best Father’s Days I’ve ever had yesterday.  We live in a digital world, well I do anyways, and yesterday is a perfect example of how it suited me well.  Well mostly well as a bit of today’s technology was responsible for a tad rude start to the day.  I woke to the sound of an incessant beeping.  When pounding on my alarm clock didn’t stop it I realized it was coming from the kitchen and the wifey was not in bed.  After a couple of groggy calls to no avail I stumbled in to realize it was the digital timer on our oven that was sounding off letting me in on the surprise breakfast in bed.  I found my wife in the closet no doubt trying to stealthily put together a bag of goodies.  I let her know the cat was out of the bag and needed to get out of the oven as well or it would be overcooked and then I stumbled back to bed.  That was easily overshadowed when the wife and kiddo later appeared with breakfast and gifts.  The gifts were cleverly concealed in a Superman bag which was only too perfect for what was to come later.  Inside the bag was a great memento craft/gift they made, a new Logitech t400 Touch Zone mouse I craved for some time, and of a large jar of Reese’s Pieces:)  After consuming a yummy breakfast and showering I plugged in my mouse to my laptop and was awarded an effortless setup and a couple quick minutes to explore my new gadget while surfing the web.  Visits to FB and a few chimes on my phone would yield plenty of Father’s Day well wishes from many friends and family.  Thankfully a thoughtful cousin would mass text me and several of my other father friends.  I utilized the opportunity to succinctly perform the same well wishing task with a simple mass reply to all.   Soon I would be promptly instructed to get my shoes on because we were going to drop the kid off and catch a movie!

Remember the bag?  That’s right this is the opening weekend to Man Of Steel and my wife knows me best, though I must say I was a bit torn as I haven’t had a chance to see Internship yet.  Nevertheless despite not being able to resist the urge to read a couple bad reviews I was ready to take the plunge.  Come on it’s Superman after all!  BTW, DON’T listen to the reviews Superman is INSANELY good!  A quick check on my Fandango app would reveal that my local theater at least expected a good turnout for Man of Steel since there were showtimes every 30 minutes throughout the entire day.  Once arriving, I would of course check in to the movie on Foursquare and blast it out to brag to all my friends on all the usual social networking channels.  I planned ahead by including a pic I took of the Superman bag and gave it the filter effect via Instagram.  I would tag my wife so she would get props from all friends in her social feeds too. Read More

Do The Horizontal Limbo

1368047606_camcorder_stickerThe past few weeks have been big news weeks from the Boston bombing to the West, Texas explosion to the usual viral YouTube videos.  Most of the coverage has been captured by smartphone cameras and the recent viral hits have highlighted one of my biggest pet peeves –  ridiculous vertical videos!  Case in point is the West Texas explosion recording that’s been rebroadcast thousands of times.  Rarely has such a massive explosion and accident been caught on camera so close but Johnny-on-the-spot just had to film it vertically, grr!  I’d love to take off on a rant right about now but I won’t  because I’m sure I’ll digress into a putrid name calling tirade, instead I’ll try and politely give some simple advice that though I think should go without saying, it’s evident that it must be said.  I can list many examples of why technology is wholly geared to view images, motion or still, in landscape mode but instead I’ll only list the couple of examples where portrait mode is acceptable.  The first is the printing of still images and the second is Instagram.  Instagram clips images so they will display most effectively in portrait mode on a mobile device.  A recent example is Vine a new app released by Twitter that only formats short videos for portrait mode viewing.  That’s it folks.  Let me ask you, have you ever seen a camcorder turned sideways to film a video?  Short of trying to capture some funky special effects angle it’s doubtful you have.  The camera lens in a smartphone is only a smaller version of the those used in camcorders and work on the exact same principle.  Check out this great parody illustrating this lens limitation.  One more thing, forgot to turn your phone once you began recording that video?  Please don’t turn your device horizontally midstream and expect the images to flip automatically like they do when engaged within an app.  It won’t.  You have to stop the video, flip your device horizontally, then began anew else you’ll be filming your own version of the movie Sideways and the title will be more than just an analogy for life.