Confessions of an iPhone Junky

Confessions of an iPhone Junky

The Techie Scheky series offers tips and tactics for being more productive and creative through technology (especially with a Mac).

I love my iPhone. No, seriously, we’ve got a thing going on. I’ve owned every last one of them since the very first iPhone. In fact, my “sickness” is so great that I’ve actually purchased each and every one of them on the very first day. Considering the introduction of iOS 5 and my recent acquisition of the iPhone 4S (yum), I thought this would be the ideal time to walk you through how I use the device and to offer up some thoughts on the latest model. There is no “right way” to use the device, but I wanted to share how and why I use it the phone.

When it comes to getting things done, the iPhone is second in line, right behind my beloved MacBook Air. My iPad has honestly started to collect a fair amount of dust. While many love the extra screen space of the iPad, I simply feel more at home with the iPhone. The smaller screen combined with the single app focus of iOS tends to play well with my ADHD and keeps me on task. I also find it far more enjoyable (and faster) for reading. I can’t remember who pointed this out to me, but the screen is essentially the same size as a standard magazine or newspaper column and our eye is very attuned to reading on it. When it comes to writing, I find I type much faster on it than the iPad (but to be honest, I haven’t played all that much with the new split screen in iOS 5). The variety of text editors are far greater and far more powerful on the iPad, but this hasn’t really factored into the way I write.

There are certain scenarios where I prefer the iPad: iThoughts HD is ideal for mind mapping, Omnifocus for iPad is fantastic for planning my week and the device cannot be beat for watching video, but I haven’t quite managed to turn it into the productivity tool that so many others have. That said, I’m about halfway through David Sparks’ new book iPad at Work1 and am excited to try out a few new tricks to see if I can get a little more out of it. However, when I can’t sit in front of my laptop, the iPhone has proven to be fantastic device for everything from communication, reading, writing, research, for storing resources and of course a little bit of fun every now and again.

When it comes to using the phone, I have a few self-imposed limitations that have made a big difference. I only allow myself two screens worth of apps and I don’t use any folders on the home screen. My primary apps are on the home screen and with the exception of a few key utility apps (like Dropbox, TextExpander and 1Password), which live on the second screen along with a mix of things I’m playing around with, but don’t really use all that often. I’ve also limited badges (those little red numbers tend to distract the hell out of me) to three key applications, Voicemails, Text Messages/iMessages and Omnifocus. This ensures that when I see a red notification badge, I take notice. I could get all weird about app placement, all I’ll tell you is you inevitably find the right spot for the things you really use.

As far as the new phone is concerned, it’s a great upgrade (although a junky like me would have no problem crap-rationalizing a new iPhone). I’m sure I could go on for days, but here are just a few thoughts on the new 64GB iPhone 4S (in black for those keeping score) and the new iOS5:

  • The Camera – As a parent, this was worth the cost of the upgrade alone. The pictures blow alway the old photos from the phone. The depth of field seems richer, the colors better and the resolution is noticeably higher. The video improvements are also significantly better than the iPhone 4. The extra space that is now available in the 4S will also be welcome when you consider shooting and keeping video in 1080p HD!
  • Siri – For me, this is interesting, but not the killer feature that most are talking about. For the sake of discussion, I’m actually going to break this into two things: Siri the “assistant” and the dictation that is now a part of the iPhone 4S. The novelty is great, but when you consider network speeds in New York and the poor service in Brooklyn, the lag time can be frustrating. It also seems to be getting smarter as time goes on. At first, it kept mispronouncing my last name but after a few times of hearing it (or having others change the phonetics on their own phones) Siri changed over to the correct pronunciation.
  • Dictation – Many consider this part of Siri, but since it is available in almost any app, I actually feel this is something separate. Simply hit the microphone button next to the space key and start talking. The results are pretty accurate and seem to be getting better as it learns my voice. The one thing that will take some getting used to (and take some time to become “normal” in public) is speaking out the punctuation. It’s made composing short emails and texts significantly faster.
  • Notification Center – While this is available on all iPhones and not just the 4S, I’d be remiss not to mention it. Many, including Ben Brooks have complained about this, but I find it a welcome addition. Could the buttons be bigger, sure. Could there be some sort of visual cue to check it, absolutely. These are also things that we are almost certain to see improve in future updates. Just having any kind of a solution for organizing the myriad of messages that come from various applications across the phone is helpful. It especially helpful now that I’ve killed application badges by providing an innocuous, yet informative hub and unlike others I’ve had no problem whatsoever remembering to check in.

Overall, it’s a leap forward and an absolute no-brainer for anyone upgrading from the 3GS. Geeks such as myself should have no problem talking themselves into upgrading from the iPhone 4, but the average user can easily wait until next year’s phone is released. Then again, as I said earlier, any parents out there are going to welcome the bump in camera performance.

I’m a long-time PDA and smart phone user. I had the Newton, a variety of Palm Pilots and Treo phones. All of them were helpful, but the iPhone was the first device that ever really delivered. Are there compromises that come with using the phone? Sure. However the majority of those compromises improve the overall experience (other compromises improve Apple’s bottom line, but that’s another post for another day). It’s an exceptionally powerful tool and once you get over the novelty of flinging birds at pigs, you’ll be surprised with what you can accomplish.

I’m also going to follow up next week with a walkthrough of the apps I use for those who may be looking to get a lot more done with this little device.

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3 Responses to Confessions of an iPhone Junky

  1. Nice post. I just made the leap to a 4S from a 3GS and it’s a tremendous leap forward. I like your overall take on the phone and it’s interesting to hear how you use the phone and I LOVE your talk on the self-imposed limitations. I’ve copied you with regard to which apps have badges… I look forward to your app walkthrough.

    • I had turned off most badges on my Mac a few years ago. Only recently started with iOS (and it has become a LOT easier in iOS 5), but it makes a big difference.

      Looking forward to geeking out on the apps next week. I tried to do it all as one post, but decided it might be advisable to make it two when I cracked 2500 words… :)

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