Well, it's that time of year again, when I reflect back on the year.
In past years, I've posted my 12 Apps of Christmas series. But this year, I want to be a little different. Instead of solely focusing on iOS apps for the iPhone, and limiting myself to 12 of them, which I could never do anyway, I'm broadening my scope to include any application, iOS or desktop, webware (online applications or resources), as well as hardware. The criteria for this year's selection is simply frequency of use: What do I find myself using over and over again, more or less on a daily basis, because I personally find that use practical and joyful.
These Are a Few of My Favorite Things.. will be a series of 4 posts:
- iOS applications
- Desktop Software
This first post in the series, probably the largest of the four, focuses on iOS applications. Keep in mind that many of these apps have also been developed for other mobile platforms! Here we go!
The iOS itself
Probably my favorite iOS "application" is not really an application but is the operating system (iOS) itself in the form of 4.0+ for the iPhone/iPod Touch and 4.2 for the iPad. I so desperately needed folders on my iOS devices! Additionally, the multitasking functionality has been a welcomed, though limited, feature. I frequently use the Home button double press to bounce between "open" recent applications.
Travel: FlightTrack Pro & FlightBoard, Navigon, Kayak HD, Night Stand
This probably doesn't apply to a lot of my readers; but, because I use these so much, I thought I would share. (Maybe your spouse travels a lot for work.)
I travel an insane amount. My travel workflow usually looks something like this: Use Kayak HD to find best fares. Book my flight. My email client, Mail on OS X, has rules setup so that incoming flight confirmations from the airlines are forwarded automatically to my TripIt account. My TripIt RSS feed then immediately places all of my flight information in FlightTrack Pro on my iPhone, iPad, and Calendar (iCal on OS X) as well as the calendars of my family members.
FlightTrack Pro provides virtually realtime flight, departure and arrival gate, and delay information as well as weather in the destination city, the layout of the plane with the seatguru seat map, and a map of the terminal. It even gives stats for the percentage of time that particular flight is on time, 15, 30, and 45 or more minutes late. You can see the flight path over a Google map and follow the plane's estimated location in flight during the flight. I've compared the location information with the onboard realtime inflight location information and found it to be astoundingly accurate.
Additionally, you can find alternate flights using FlightBoard, and call the airline all within the app. Finally, I use FlightTrack Pro to provide family and friends with depature and arrival updates through email, Twitter, or Facebook. For the business traveler or any person who travels a lot, FlightTrack Pro & FlighBoard, especially in conjunction with TripIt, are a must.
I often rent a car and drive in places unfamiliar to me. My GPS of choice is Navigon on my iPhone, using the TomTom Carkit. The carkit is essential as any GPS will very quickly drain your iPhone battery. The carkit provides charging, enhanced GPS signal reception, and augments the volume of the navigation voive. I've used GPS from many different manufacturers. I really like Navigon, which I mentioned last year, but this great app has gotten even better. It looks awesome on the iPhone 4. I also have the Panorama View 3D and Traffic Live addons.
A couple of the great features I'll mention: When approaching complex entrance and exit ramps, Navigon displays remarkably realistic imagery of the upcoming area complete with which lanes do what and the actual sinage to expect. This makes complicated big city navigation much easier.
Navigon knows the speed limit where you are. You can have it warn you when you exceed the speed limit by a specified amount that you choose. You can even set different amounts for the highway versus in town roads. This is incredibly helpful when you're more worried about navigation than local speed limits. (When I first used this application, I had no idea why it would say, "Warning." I was initially troubled, not knowing what it was warning me about. I finally saw, in the top right corner of the display, the little current speed limit sign with an exclamation point on it.)
My workflow typically includes getting the exact street address of my hotel and work locations and programming them into the GPS as favorites before leaving home. I've actually been somewhat amused at how many times I'm given the incorrect city in which a work location actually is found. Often, in larger cities, the city or village boundaries are a bit confusing to local people.
Finally, I'll mention Night Stand. When travelling, I always worry that I'll program the hotel clock incorrectly, or that's it's broken and will not alarm at all. I've even had the clocks be significantly incorrect. And if I decide to have a wakeup call, I worry the operator programmed it in incorrectly. So, I use Night Stand on my iPad as my alarm clock. I can see it from across the room, even without my glasses. And I love using the birds happily chirping as my alarm sound. It's far less jarring for those of us who aren't exactly morning people and are on west coast time with an east coast alarm.
Social Media: Twitter, TweetDeck, HootSuite, Twittelator
The iPhone versions are fine, but the iPad versions are incredible, making excellent use of the extra screen real estate. I use Twitter for a quick tweet fix on the iPhone and iPad. I find myself using the Twitter app more than any other Twitter client on my iPhone--almost exclusively. And I'm currently torn between TweetDeck and HootSuite on the iPad. I like the ability to share across multiple social media platforms. Currently, I'm leaning more toward HootSuite as my preference on the iPad and TweetDeck on the desktop. I especially like how HootSuite keeps click data/stats. Twittelator interests me because it will upload pictures shot on the iPhone to your own WordPress blog and use your URL scheme as the shortlink. (Twitter for iPhone is supposed to do this, but I've never been successful with the setup.)
This is becoming a real winner to me. For quick text messages, emails and tweets, I fire this up more and more. I get a very high level of accuracy and find waiting for the application to load less annowing than using the tiny keyboard on the iPhone.
Remote and Remote
Both are made by Apple. One I use to control my presentations when I travel. The other I use to control the music libraries of the various computers and AppleTVs in the house. The new Remote application for iTunes and AppleTV is very well conceived.
This is crazy, I know. But until the CardStar app was on my iPhone, I would not use any store discount or points cards at checkout. I refused to have a wad of them crammed into my pocket or in my wallet. But with CardStar, all of these cards (from the grocery store, the drugstore, the office supplies store, etc.) are in my phone. When I go to check out, the cashier just zaps my iPhone. In the few months I've been using them, I've saved over $400 I otherwise had been paying. I had no idea the savings were that significant. Now, I do confess to resenting the fact that these vendors now monitor my purchases. But, at the same time, I was glad to get the call about the recalled eggs that I had purchased that were part of the lot tainted by saminella. Had I not used CardStar, they wouldn't have known to call me.
RSS Feed Readers: Flipboard, Pulse
This is a delimna very much like my Shazam/SoundHoud and TweetDeck/HootSuite conundrum. I just can't decide which one I like best. I'm leaning toward Flipboard at the moment as it got insanely more personal with the ability to add your Google Reader account feeds (in total or in part). Flipboard really did deserve the nod it got from Apple recently. I prefer its clean readable approach over some of the website designs that are sometimes visually cluttered or filled with ads.
iA Writer (iPad)
I greatly prefer the keyboard in this simple text editor to the one on the iPad itself. I am annoyed every time I want to move the cursor just one or two characters or words and have to stop typing to try to position my finger exactly where I need the cursor. (Do I just have big fingertips or really bad eye/hand coordination?!) The iA Writer keyboard has keys for that: forward or back an entire word(s) or character(s). Apple could learn something here! I also use the apostrophy, colon, semicolon, etc. a lot. Having them on the screen keeps me focused on what I'm writing. Manipulating the keyboard to get to the keys you need quickly becomes a nuisance.
Other iOS apps worth a mention:
Pandora, Shazam, and SoundHound are among the all time great music apps, especially the iPad versions. I've blogged about these before; so, I won't go into detail about them here. But I highlight them again as they just keep getting better.
iMovie on the iPhone is limited but way cool! Who ever would have thought you could actually shoot and edit an HD movie on a phone?!
iTimeLapse is an app I'm now very interested in exploring more since I just purchase The Glif. (More on The Glif in hardware.) I love time lapse photography and this app does an amazing job quickly and easily creating and uploading a time lapse movie. I can see teachers using this in elementary school on the new iPod Touches.
1Password rocks my world. 1Password works on the iPhone, iPad, and desktop for both Mac and Windows. It provides an excellent password management system that can be continuously and automatically synced via your free DropBox account. With 1Password, you remove a great deal of the hassle of maintaining truly enhanced password security for every account you have. 1Password also will store all of your software serial numbers. I highly recommend everyone use this software and stop using a small number of passwords for everything in your life!
MyNetDiary HD for the iPad helps me more effectively manage my battle with the bulge. I use it every day, every meal. It helps me monitor my carbohydrate intake which greatly simplifies my diabetes/insulin management.
I am not affiliated with any of these applications or their companies in any way. I simply use these applications a lot and like them.