To misquote Elton John: I’m an Apple man. iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro… I have them all, and am a willing inhabitant/prisoner of the Apple ecosystem. There are many reasons for this, but I won’t bore you with them. So, this list of favourite smartphone apps is iPhone-specific. That said, all are cross-platform, so are actually available for your Android JellyBeanIceCream etc. nonsense also.
I’m not going to mention the built-in “Calendar” and “Contacts” applications at length as these should be useful in a blindingly obvious way. If you don’t have all of your non-work (real life) appointments and all of your non-work (real life) contacts available on your phone, then that’s the first place to start. Do it. And update/backup the information regularly!
So, now the list. In no particular order:
“Evernote” (by Evernote)
- What is it? It’s a cloud-based cross-platform note-making application. What this means is that you can make/update a note on your iPhone, and then see that new/updated note on all other devices that you have Evernote installed on (tablet, laptop etc).
- Is it free? Well, yes, until you hit a storage or device limit (I recently started paying an annual subscription for Evernote after hitting the “3 device” threshold), having used it free (and having felt fairly guilty about that, as it was just so useful!) for many years.
- How do I use it? Well, some examples of my basic (text-only) notes are: Shopping list (updated as I run out of things), Finance (I keep rough running totals of bank account and credit card balances here as I withdraw from ATMs or spend on my cards), Golf Tips (notes I’ve made which I read through, pointlessly, before playing), Quotations (favourite quotations from various people). It is also possible to create more complex notes (with fancy fonts and formatting, and embedded images, for example), and I made good use of this when studying recently for a Jazz Guitar certification; creating the notes on my laptop rather than on my iPhone. I particularly like the ability to sort notes by “last updated” date, which means that the ones you update most frequently are at the top of the screen. Intuitive stuff!
“1Password” (by AgileBits)
- What is it? A place to save all of your passwords, credit card details, membership numbers, software licence codes: any confidential personal details that you need to remember and you need reliable and secure access to. All of the data is protected by the “one password” that you need to get into the application (so, theoretically, you only need to remember this one password, hence the name). In fact, on my iPhone, I access the application by fingerprint (so that’s effectively my “one password”). The information is saved (very securely) in “the cloud” which means that, once updated in the app on your iPhone, you can open 1Password on any of your other devices (I use it on my iPad and MacBook Pro also) to see the synchronized information.
- Is it free? No. Pay for it. It’s worth it! And then delete whatever insecure and awkward method you currently have of storing your hundreds of passwords (excel sheet, word document, post-its etc!). I’ve used several password storing applications over many years. This is the best, by far, in my opinion.
- How do I use it? The application includes a built-in browser, so one feature I particularly like is the ability to open 1Password, click on the URL associated with a “login” category item, and have the built-in browser open, with username and password pre-populated. I’ve set up a number of these “login” items as favourites, for even faster access. Similarly, if asked to fill in credit card details on a webpage, I can get these automatically populated by the app with a keystroke. On my laptop, using the Safari browser, I have the 1Password browser plug-in enabled, so that I can perform the same automatic field-population for websites I visit, after logging into the 1Password plug-in. All very cool, safe, time-saving, and organised.
“Todo” (by Appigo)
- What is it? As implied by the name, this is your electronic “to-do” list. You can set up single tasks, projects (with multiple sub-tasks) and checklists, all with a few key strokes. These can be set to repeat (e.g. weekly) or to prompt you for action on future dates. Altogether, it’s the single best way of organising yourself, with the significant side benefit of taking that sneaky and sleep-disturbing feeling of “Hmm, I know I should be doing something, but I can’t quite recall what it is” out of your head.
- Is it free? No. And it’s relatively expensive. But, it is absolutely one of the best personal productivity investments you can make.
- How do I use it? I started off with this app on my iPhone, iPAD and MacBook pro (the data synchronising via the cloud) but have since left it installed only on my iPhone (the one device that I will always have with me) as I rarely used it on the other devices (unlike Evernote, where a laptop keyboard is conducive to making extensive or complicated notes, Todo notes are generally short and simple to enter/update on your phone). I set up repeating tasks for haircuts, dental check-ups, insurance renewals, paying ground rent, charging my fitbit etc, and individual tasks as soon as I know I need to take an action at some future date (for which I need a reminder) e.g. as at the time of writing (Jan) I intend to renew my passport on my next visit to the U.K. in the Summer, so I have a task with a June date to remind me of that nearer to the time.
Evernote, 1Password, Todo are absolutely the must-have apps for my iPhone; these are the apps I use most often, and most gratefully, on it. Some also-rans you may want to check out are: Dropbox (as I mentioned in this post), iTranslate (cut-and-paste language translation), iCurrency (for FX calculations e.g. to check how many Singapore $ is £150 at today’s rates… very handy for quick calculations when on vacation, via an excellent GUI), Flipboard (newsfeed amalgamation: via an addictively-flickable interface), WeatherPro (German weather forecasting app: efficiently accurate!). But do check out my core three must-haves. They really are life-enhancing, and make it truly worthwhile to carry a smartphone around if, like me, you rarely use it as a phone!