My Perfect iPhone (Work Edition)

After sharing my thoughts on the iPhone 4S it seemed fitting to dive down and talk about the applications I am using. Sad (yet true) as it may be, my iPhone spends more time with me than any one person or possession. It is my constant companion. It gets a tremendous amount of use and plays an essential role in both my personal and professional life. Over the next two Techie Scheky posts, I’m going to share what I use for work and what I use for fun.

While I’ve tried to cover “why” and “how” I use it, it’s often in the “what” where things come together. With that in mind, here are the applications and workflows that I count on to make the iPhone a killer device for work:

Communication

Email – This is always big part of my day, but to be honest, I use the iPhone as more of a triage device than a power email client. I use the standard Mail app to clear out any garbage, and quickly respond to any messages that can be handled in a line or two. For the most part, I just make sure that my inbox can be quickly processed when I finally get to my computer. I also go out of my way to turn off push email. This means I only get new messages when I decide to enter the app.

Messages – I tend to suck at text messages. It’s just never been my favorite form of communication. In fact, most close friends know that it’s better to email me. When I think to respond, I’ve always enjoyed the built-in app. Hopefully the new notification center will help me improve a bit at staying on top of things.

Phone – So often we forget that this thing is actually a phone. Not being much of a phone guy myself, it is often my least likely use for the device (which is likely why I’ve been able to stick with AT&T for all of these years…).

Social Media – I spend a decent amount of time both for work and pleasure using Facebook and Twitter. Historically, I’ve used Hootsuite for the convenience of working on multiple platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. I also love the ability to create a customized home screen that syncs across my laptop and phone. This lets me quickly pull together a mix of fields from several accounts and search terms and provides the ability to quickly swipe left and right to move from field to field. Lately, I’ve been tempted to switch over to TweetBot. It isn’t quite as powerful as Hootsuite and is Twitter only, but it sure is elegant. The latest release of the official Facebook app is also a significant update making it tempting to abandon Hootsuite on-the-go.

Utilities

These are the apps that I don’t access every day, but are essential to getting things done on the phone:

  • Dropbox – A great way to sync data across all of your devices. It’s essentially the file system that Apple didn’t provide with the iPhone. While many are moving to iCloud, I’m sticking with Dropbox.
  • TextExpander – While this doesn’t work with Apple’s own apps, this amazing little app takes small snippets of text and expands them to larger ones. It makes writing on the iPhone (and everywhere else for that matter) go a lot faster.
  • 1Password – Since I don’t know any of my own passwords by heart anymore, this swift, yet secure app is a great way to keep track of all of your login credentials.
  • CardMunch – The only thing I hate more than business cards is entering business cards into my contacts. CardMunch eliminates the need entirely by automatically scanning information from cards and making it easy to add the info into your phone.
  • TripIt – A great app for those who travel. Sign up and forward your itineraries to the provided email address and you have all of you will always have easy access to all of your travel plans at your fingertips.

Reading

News and Blogs – This is a two-app process for me. I tend to use Reeder as an “Inbox” for all of the RSS feeds I subscribe to. I scan the headlines and pull interesting articles to Instapaper. I’ve talked at length about how I use Instapaper, but I read most of the articles that come from my feeds and any other articles I come across on the iPhone app.

Books – I’ve been a long-term Kindle user, as is my wife. We have quite the collection going, so I don’t see myself switching over to Apple’s own iBooks anytime soon. It’s become a bit of a hassle since Apple made 3rd party apps remove the button to the store, but I like the ability to seamlessly go between a Mac, iPhone, iPad and an actual Kindle. It’s been a long timr since I’ve looked into the iBookstore, but when I was first choosing between the two, the Kindle selection also blew iBooks away.

PDFs – While this is not a massive part of my phone experience, I’ve always found GoodReader to be the ideal way to handle PDF reading and annotation. It syncs with Dropbox and has a ton of features for the few times a year where I really need this.

Writing

This section will be far simpler than the others. While I do a lot of writing on the iPhone, I do it all in the same app. There are several apps that are far more feature rich, however I love the simplicity of the Simplenote. It has TextExpander support, syncs with nvALT on my Mac through Simplenote’s free sync solution and keeps me focused on what’s important: the actual writing of words. While the smaller screen size might feel uncomfortable for some and isn’t ideal for editing, the screen size really forces you to focus on exactly what you are writing at the moment.

Resources

Calendar – While I was fine with the standard Calendar app, I’ve been enjoying the look and feel of Agenda. I know that many prefer Calvetica for the faster appointment entry, but the overall functionality of Agenda just makes it really easy to get a feel for what my day looks like. I also love the new integration with Due. Now I can create a meeting or appointment and quickly set up a reminder for earlier in the day if I need to need bring something from home.

To-dos – I love the Omnifocus app; it gives you a ton of ways to organize and view your tasks and they have clearly put a lot of time and polish into the application. I’m also a big fan of the quick-entry feature which allows me to easily dump something out of my brain and into the app. Omnifocus syncs seamlessly with the iPad and Mac app making it easy to keep everything I have to do together.

Reminders – Even though iOS 5 now has its own built-in reminder system, I still love Due. It is super fast and super easy to set up a reminder and when the time arrives, your phone essentially stalks you until you do what needs to be done. It has some shortcomings, but it is still the best option I’ve used for remembering the little things. This app has saved my marriage on more than occasion.

Reference – So much of life’s miscellaneous items go into Evernote. While all text is handled through Simplenote (and to a lesser extent, Scrivener on my Mac), just about everything else including PDFs, scanned images, pictures, web clippings and attachments of all kinds are stored there. It gives me a single place to go on any of my devices to find just about anything. While larger and active files are stored in Dropbox, just about everything else worth keeping will inevitably reside in this “catch-all” application.

Stats – I count on Ego to let me know how our company’s website (for my job) and my own site (for my own, well… ego) are doing. It doesn’t dive deep, but it’s a great way to check in and see if there is anything out of the ordinary I should be looking into or more likely worrying about.

There are several more apps that I keep tucked away in folders on my second screen, most but these encompass my go-to applications for work. They are the ones I really use rather than the many (too many) that I’ve purchased. Next up, I’m going to touch on those I use for fun or for personal pursuits, but I figured this gives you plenty to consider for the time being.

What are your killer apps for work? Anything I’m missing out on? Let me know!

  • http://www.freelancewritingblog.com Ruth Zive

    Really, really helpful!  I’m going to go check out some of these resources right away!  I’m especially interested in Simplenote, Due and Agenda.  I love Poyntz…it’s a blessing on the go, and a great iPhone app.

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      Thanks for the suggestion off to check out Poyntz. Think you will love those three, btw. Great apps and all are being actively developed.

  • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    Thanks, this is very helpful I use my iPhone similar to the ways you use yours, except I don’t do a lot of writing on my iPhone. I like how you suggested several different apps for the categories. especially the calendar apps. My favorite calendar app quit syncing with Google and the developers are unresponsive. I will give your suggestions a try!

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      Glad you found it useful! I’ve been loving Agenda and it plays really nicely with Google!

  • Joel Valdez

    iOS 5 is killing a lot of those apps, reminders, calendar, to-dos… All of them synced with iCloud.. Good list though

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      Not sure I entirely agree. I think iOS is a great backbone and offers a great solution for the average user, but the apps themselves are always limited and rarely get a ton of features after their initial release. I agree that Reminders (especially when paired with Siri) is a bit disruptive, but I still love the persistent reminders of Due. As for Agenda, you can still use the Calendar app as the backbone and Agenda as a better front end. And as far as To-Dos go, I don’t think there is anything in iOS that compares to a full featured program like Omnifocus or even Things for that matter. 

      I mean something like Reading List is a nice feature, but it doesn’t have anything on Instapaper.

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  • http://lynton.name Michael Lynton

    So do you have Omnifocus on the iPhone and iPad? I want to venture out and add one of them into my flow, but I’m not sure which one to start with. I hear the iPad version is the best, but I always have my iPhone with me… decisions decisions

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      Sorry for the belated response. I was out of town for a few days. The iPad app is definitely superior, but considering just how much I lean on my iPhone, that would be the no brainer for me. I always need to be able to capture. The minute that fails, I will. Sure you can do paper and transpose later, but for my money, I want access, not features. Then again… the iPad version is pretty damn slick… especially for reviews.

      • http://lynton.name Michael Lynton

        I think it’s inevitable that I will get both versions. I think I really need to work on my capture though, and the iPhone could definitely help with that. I think I’ll start there and help get myself in the groove. Thanks for the feedback.

        • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

          They do manage to suck you in :) That said, I couldn’t agree more. Capture is the key.