Home > Uncategorized > My iOS Apps, 2012 Edition

My iOS Apps, 2012 Edition

My last entry was about the apps I use most on the Mac. Same idea here, but for iOS. First, a few words on my iOS devices: I’m on the every-other-release plan for these things. I did not get a first-generation iPhone, but did get a 3G. I skipped the 3GS, got a 4, skipped the 4S, and now have a 5. I was not initially going to get an iPad, but I ultimately caved and got one (a truly fantastic decision), and I skipped the iPad 2, and now have a 3rd-generation (Retina) iPad. I will also add that I find both my iPad and my iPhone generally fantastic, bordering on indispensable. I cannot imagine not owning both of them, in no small part because of how well they integrate with the Mac. I strongly suspect Apple has sold more Macs on the back of their iOS devices than the other way around.

Note that I’m not including built-in apps like Maps or Mail or Safari. I obviously use those, but everybody has those anyway. Mail on the iPad in iOS 6 is actually a pretty nice mail client. Also, my iTunes library says I have 225 apps—that’s fiction, I probably don’t actually even use half or those. (Lots of them are games for the kids that I never play.)This is the list of stuff I actually use on a regular basis.

Anyway, on to my lists:

5 Must-Haves
These are apps that I would now be very hard-pressed to do without, or at least would hate to do without.

  • Check the Weather. I have had numerous free and paid weather apps on my iDevices over the years, and I almost never use any of them anymore now that I have this. Just the best weather app I’ve seen.
  • GoodReader. The #1 thing I do for work that I would rather do on my iPad than in any other way I’ve found—and this includes both paper or laptop—is review documents: student papers, submissions to journals, proofreading my own stuff, whatever. (This is, incidentally, why the Retina display is a necessary feature on the iPad.) GoodReader is the best I have found for marking up PDFs. (Yes, I also tried iAnnotate PDF, but I like GoodReader better.) The killer app for the iPad for me. Dropbox sync mandatory!
  • OmniOutliner. As I mentioned in my Mac review, I often think in outlines, and do planning and note-taking this way as well. What’s amazing is that this app could actually be a lot better, and even with its notable flaws, it still ranks in my must-haves.
  • 1Password. Again, I have 373 passwords. No way I can possibly remember them all. Here’s where they live for me. Critical that this has good cross-platform (that is, Mac OS and iOS) integration—through Dropbox, of course. Feels even more important to have this on iOS than on the Mac, where I think there are other viable options.
  • TweetBot. If there’s any platform that was designed for Twitter, it’s mobile devices. TweetBot is the class of the Twitter apps. I tried many of them, and was never happy until TweetBot. Bought it on both devices and have never looked back. (The link goes to the iPhone version, but there’s an iPad version as well.)

Some of the best other apps I use work on both iPhone and iPad, and I use them both places. Some of them you actually have to download two apps, one for each device, but some of these “just work” on both. In cases where there is more than one version, the link goes to whichever device I use the app on most.

  • DirecTV. If you are a DirecTV subscriber and an iOS device owner, you need this. Not all service-specific apps are actually all that great, and this one has some of its own issues, but the ability to remotely make the DVR record is something I use frequently.
  • Drafts. I jot down a fair number of quick notes that I’m not immediately sure what I want to do with them. Email? Post to Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else? Just save as text? Often more than one of these will apply. If you’re like me in that, then you need Drafts.
  • DrawPad. Sometimes you just want to draw a quick sketch with your finger. DrawPad makes that easy. (In actual fact, I actually think Penultimate is better, but that’s iPad-only and so I end up using DrawPad more.)
  • Flixster. My go-to app for movies. If there are alternatives I stopped looking at them so long ago I’m not even aware of them anymore. Also, free.
  • Notesy. For longer bits of text and, of course, Dropbox sync, I use Notesy. There are lots of text editors out there for iOS and they are constantly leapfrogging each other in terms of features and such, and I just gave up on the rat race and settled on Notesy and I have no complaints, so they’re doing something right.
  • PCalc. The best calculator for Mac OS got ported to iOS, and while I rarely use it on the Mac anymore, I do use it when mobile. I only wish Apple would let me delete their stupid and useless built-in calculator. PCalc is a little on the spendy side, but I need RPN.
  • Remote. I have an Apple TV. If you have an Apple TV, you want to be able to control it with your iDevice rather than the somewhat weak few-button physical remote that Apple provides, particularly for navigating a music library with thousands of tracks.
  • SoundHound. OK, I almost never use this on the iPad, but it is there. I know Shazam is more popular for identifying songs, but I seem to get better results with SoundHound. There is both a free and a paid version of this app, and I got the paid version when it was either free or $1. Not sure what the difference is, but the one I have does what I want.
  • SpringPad. I don’t like the Evernote terms of service (last time I checked, they own all your data and can do whatever they want with it, yet nobody seems bothered by this) or all the garbage that the Evernote Mac app installs (or did, when I tried it several versions ago), so I use SpringPad instead. I’m not a heavy user, but sometimes it’s the right way to go for me.
  • UrbanLight. Everybody has their favorite flashlight app, right? This is mine.
  • Wikipanion. If I’m at my computer and have my iPad handy, it’s a tossup which I’ll use to look something up on Wikipedia. A very nice front end.

Note that I do own Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for iOS, but I don’t actually use them that often, so they don’t get their own entries. The United Airlines app has improved a lot in the last few months and might make the list if I were feeling more generous. I also have Flipboard, which is really pretty, but I find myself not actually using it that often. Like with Mac OS, I also have OmniFocus for iOS, but I don’t really use it that much because of the overabundance of GTD cruft that just adds overhead. Finally, there is the Dropbox app itself. Dropbox as a service is fantastic, but I rarely use the actual iOS app.

iPad Only
There are a few apps that are iPad-only, or that I basically only use on my iPad, so they get their own category.

  • iBooks. I debated whether or not to include this since it is a free Apple app, but I included Remote, so I guess it gets a spot. (Yes, there is an iPhone version, but I never use the iPhone version). This is now my preferred way to read books. While Amazon’s Kindle app has a much wider selection, the iBooks app is a much better app and I strongly prefer it. Beats lugging around 700+ page tomes that I like to read.
  • Instapaper. Again, there’s an iPhone version of this, but I never use it. I love harvesting links from Twitter and then reading them later, and Instapaper is the way to go for that.
  • MacJournal. Very close to a must-have for me. Syncs with the Mac version (though not via Dropbox so it has to be done manually, which is why it’s not a must-have), but it’s where I take notes when I’m not going deep enough to need an outline.
  • Reeder. I don’t like reading RSS feeds on my phone, but the iPad is great for this. I never liked the NetNewsWire implementation on iOS, and I don’t like the Reeder implementation on Mac OS, but Reeder is how I like my RSS when mobile.

I also use OmniGraffle occasionally, but not enough to consider it critical.

iPhone Only
Again, there are a few that are iPhone only, or that I only use on the iPhone, and those go here.

  • Agenda. On the bigger screen, being a little wasteful with screen real estate is OK. On the phone, less so. This is much better for at-a-glance views of my calendar than the built-in Calendar app, so it gets a space.
  • Camera+. There are a few editing filters that seem to really work in Camera+ and sometimes it’s easier to frame and shoot with this, so it gets a spot here. Worth owning just for the release notes with each new version. Really, they’re hilarious.
  • TicketMaster. I know, I know, they’re evil and all, but hear me out. The iPhone app is actually easier to use and faster than their awful Web site, and it will dump your tickets into Passbook very neatly, so while the service fees are still outrageous, the overall ticket buying experience is actually better on my phone than elsewhere. How weird is that?

A special category. I’m not really that big into video games in general, but there’s something about mobile computing that makes games more attractive here than on any other platform. I have a few favorites:

  • Ascension. Absolutely awesome game. Even if you’re not really into card-style games, you should check it out. Great fun.
  • Catan. I don’t even own the iPad version, but because the iPhone version is Retina-compliant, it actually looks basically fine when scaled up on the iPad. A classic game with a reasonable implementation.
  • Civilization Revolution. Versions of Civilization are the closest thing I’ve ever had to a real love for video games as an adult. I have to be very careful with this game, because the mere act of launching it can cost me many hours of lost usefulness. Note that I never play this on my phone, though, as I can’t stand it on that small a screen.
  • Infinity Blade II. If you have an iDevice with the horsepower for this game, it’s worth playing just for the graphics alone.
  • Magic 2013 (a.k.a. Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013). If you’ve ever seen Magic: The Gathering played but thought it looked too hard to learn, try this game. And if you’re an old-school MTG junkie, you should still get it because even then it’s still fun!
  • SolForge. At this point, just a demo, but a very promising one that will hopefully soon be a full game, and should be fantastic once it is.

I’ve killed a few hours with the usual stuff like Angry Birds and poker games and such, but those are the ones I really love that might be a little more under the radar.

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