Time for an iOS app spring clean?

MyPhotoWall (1)

Post WWDC 2013, I wrote a little about the upcoming changes to iOS 7, including some of my expectations around the change.

As the public release of this next version of Apple’s mobile operating system looms closer, more and more information is coming to light on developer progress and approaches, including results from a survey by Twitteriffic developer Craig Hockenberry:

Of 575 valid responses, 545 developers indicated that they were working on an update for iOS 7. That’s an adoption rate of 95%!

In addition, from Macstories:

From what I’ve seen (and heard) so far, it looks like releasing new, paid, separate versions of apps for iOS 7 will be a common trend among developers.

In light of the above, it is probably an ideal time to do a spring clean of your apps, or at least consider what you are using and how. Will you be prepared to purchase a new, paid update for an iOS 7 optimised version of your favourite app?

For me, the answer is a resounding yes, particularly for any apps that are in heavy use in my workflow. Whilst at this point, the above is merely opinion on what may eventuate, those around and within the developer community would have a fairly good idea on what is to come.

Personally, I have no problem paying for an update to an app that takes full advantage of all that will be on offer in iOS 7, however I would have second thoughts with the apps I use less often. Remember, a paid upgrade will provide support to app developers for further enhancements, and may add to the likelihood your favourite app will stick around and see upgrades and added features in the future.

The second question then for me, is whether an upgrade to the operating system will bring me back to any of the native iOS apps. I am currently using third-party apps for email (Mailbox), calendar (Week Cal), notes (Drafts) and reminders (Due). Although it is unlikely we will see third-party apps able to be used as defaults, should there be a compelling reason for me to return to the native apps, I may do so. However the power of Drafts for example is unlikely to be surpassed by anything Apple would have to offer.

What drives me to change an app? Looks? Feel? Function? Primarily function, however I prefer not to use ugly or seemingly disjointed apps simply for one feature they may have above others. It probably comes down to a combination of each of these factors.

We’ll see in a month or two, however in the mean time, have a think about how your apps fit your workflow and consider what actions you may take once the iOS 7 upgrade reaches public release.

 

My Everyday Carry

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My initial post on this site introduced a passion for the various tools (both digital and analogue) I enjoy using to either plan, or get the job done. Whatever the particular “job” may be.

I have previously written about some of my “digital tools” in the form of the apps Day One and Byword, however an overview of the devices on which I use them, and some other “analogue” tools is best described in the style of post featured on sites such as the Everyday Carry; who also define this term as:

Everyday Carry, or EDC, generally refers to small items or gadgets worn, carried, or made available in pockets, holsters, or bags on a daily basis to manage common tasks or for use in unexpected situations or emergencies. In a broader sense, it is a lifestyle, discipline, or philosophy of preparedness.

Though the above sentiment is a valid one, you won’t find any knives, multi tools, torches or the like here. Thinking of a killer blog post idea (though you may argue that hasn’t happened yet!) and not having the tools on hand to record it is about as dangerous as my day gets. However, as someone who prefers to travel lightly on my daily commute, this is reflected in the tools I choose to work with. To and from work I use an Oroton black leather messenger bag in a similar style to this one.

Digital Carry

Both the iPhone and iPad undergo reasonably heavy use on a daily basis. The iPad is mainly used for early morning writing of blog posts or drafting reports for work, checking email, catching up on RSS feeds and reading magazines or ebooks. The iPad also fills the hour-long commute home, which is when I watch my favourite TV shows.

The iPhone usage is scattered throughout the day, heaviest on the commute to work, which invariably involves listening to podcasts and/or drafting or outlining posts for this site. Intermittently throughout the day it will also be used for Twitter and App.net, checking email, jotting down quick notes and getting tasks into Omnifocus. A few phone calls and text messages complete the picture.

Though two sets of ear phones may seem unnecessary, I use the TDK noise cancelling version for watching TV shows on the commute home, whereas the ear pods are for listening to podcasts or music in the mornings. The reason being I often continue listening during the 10 minute walk to work once off the bus, and walking around with the noise cancelling ones can be annoying due to the battery unit hanging part way down the audio lead.

Analogue Carry

  1. Oroton slim credit card holder
  2. Kaweco Sport Classic Ballpoint Pen
  3. Retro 51 Stealth Tornado Ballpoint Pen
  4. Montblanc Meisterstuck Fountain Pen
  5. Moleskine Cahier (Navy blue) Extra Large Notebook

The analogue tools – where to begin?

The slim credit card sleeve functions as my wallet and generally contains two credit cards, a couple of notes, my driver’s license and Medicare card. Anything more and it begins to feel not so “slim”. I don’t usually carry any coins if I can help it.

The pens and paper are generally used during my lunch break, to brain storm ideas for work projects or to generate or flesh out ideas for the next post on this site. My choice of the Moleskine cahier extra-large is dictated by needing a lightweight but reasonably sized notebook to carry to and from work (it is not required to fit in my pocket); pages that cope with all my pen types (fountain pen included); has a pocket for storage of note cards and other scraps of paper (a mobile “inbox” of sorts); and fits my iPad (perfectly) inside the back cover, so everything is easily held whilst walking around.

My current everyday pen is the Kaweco, after using the Retro 51 for approximately 12 months (both of which were purchased subsequent to becoming a listener of the Pen Addict podcast, a fact that would not surprise regular listeners of the show). The compact size and light weight of the Kaweco make it an ideal pen to carry. The Mont Blanc fountain pen is now 16 years old, and was a gift from my wife on our wedding day, therefore having value over and above anything else I own. I simply love writing with this pen (and I simply love my wife….even more than the pen).

What Next?

I plan on downsizing to an iPad mini later in the year (after the model upgrade), and am looking forward to the smaller size and weight which will further satisfy my relatively minimalist tendencies. Despite the fairly heavy reliance on the iPad for much of my writing workflow, I don’t believe I will lose any functionality with the smaller screen, given it still contains two-thirds the real estate of the regular iPad. An iPad mini will also fit into the back pocket of the cahier notebook, rather than merely sitting inside the back cover.

No upcoming pen changes on the horizon, though always a substantial number of options are presented via the podcast indicated above (which for that matter also applies to notebooks and other stationery items – Field Notes Night Sky edition currently on its way).

A little research is also planned in relation to altering the nib size on the Mont Blanc (towards a finer nib size), however I am yet to look into cost and how this may be done.

Conclusion

The above set up allows me to achieve everything I set out to on a day-to-day basis, with other physical items such as chargers etc remaining at my office desk for the times I need to top things up. As my iPad is a 16GB WiFi model, I set up the personal hotspot through my phone when out of the office, and email anything back to my desk I may be working on if it is required later in the day. Draft blog posts and updates in Byword sync via Dropbox and can be further edited on my phone whilst commuting home if required. There are a number of iOS apps I use to mesh things with my office work (a soul crushing Windows corporate network), however that is for another post.

I will be sure to provide an update to this post as things change in the future.

As the Dust Settles – my RSS setup

Leading up to the shutdown of Google Reader on July 1, I gave consideration to a number of options regarding where I would turn for my RSS feed source, and whether this would in turn lead to a change in my reader of choice.

Now almost a week later, I believe I have things pretty well sorted out for my needs. Feedly’s free service has been working well as my feed source, and though their style of reader does the job well, I prefer a slightly different interface when reading my articles. As far as the performance of the free service is concerned, I have had no problems at all. Many ‘power users’ will most likely prefer the advanced features of a paid reader such as Feed Wrangler or Feedbin, however Feedly has done everything as expected for my usage pattern.

So, the readers (my consumption is entirely on iOS – I have no need for a Mac or PC application)…

iPad – Mr Reader

Mr Reader screenshot

At least 90% of my RSS feed consumption is done through my iPad, as I generally have enough time when connected to WiFi either early in the morning or evening to sync and get through my feeds (which generally number around 80–100 articles per day on average). The key features I require? Simply a UI that is appealing to me, and easy sharing, scrolling and an article view I can customise. As I have just listed features of every available reader, the choice then comes down to the overall style of the reader, and Mr Reader fits the bill here nicely.

Mr Reader. 2

iPhone – Reeder

Reeder Screenshots

Reeder had been my iPad reader of choice for some time leading up to this change, however does not at this time have Feedly support (I believe the app has been pulled from the App Store whilst under further development). A recent update to the iPhone app now integrates Feedly support, and on the odd occasion when I do use my phone to catch up on articles, Reeder does the job well, and I find the UI very well designed for use on the iPhone.

Reeder Screenshots

Conclusion

With the many services out there available for both the ‘feed’ and the ‘read’ end of RSS consumption, there is a great opportunity to try a few combinations and find a set up which suits your needs. Whilst the above system may not be for everyone, the interfaces and functionality are spot on for me at the current time. Let me know in the comments below of the system you have settled on, and how well it is working for you.

A reminder – you have until 15 July to export your list of feeds via Google Takeout, and if you haven’t done so already or migrated to another service I would strongly recommend doing so.

Via the App Store:

Inbound Outbound – The power of mobile technology

The past month has seen a frenzy of prediction, adulation, debate and derision, all in the name of technology. From WWDC 2013 and what Apple has in store for us next, to the shut down of Google Reader, and the race to either be, or be a user of, the next big thing in RSS Feeds.

Amidst times like these it is easy to have our eyes fixed on the horizon, and overlook the power of what we have today. Nowhere is the power of today more evident to me than on my daily commute to and from the office. My own philosophy on this has always been “inbound for learning, outbound for burning”.

That is, on my way to work in the morning when I am fresh and (mostly) ready to take on the world, I ensure I undertake some form of education or self-development activity. However on the way home, when my brain is functioning somewhat sub-optimally, if at all, I allow myself to waste or ‘burn’ time by watching my favourite TV series.

“inbound for learning, outbound for burning”

The mobile technology I carry with me (16GB iPhone 4s, 16GB WiFi iPad) makes this all possible. In the morning, standing in line at the bus stop, I can:

  • Check today’s weather on Forecast
  • See what’s happening on Twitter through Tweetbot
  • Check and triage email using Mailbox for iOS
  • Post something interesting or witty on Glassboard for my family to read

Once on the bus and have an hour-long commute in front of me, I typically:

  • Listen to my favourite Podcasts through Downcast
  • Take notes about the podcast in Drafts, sending the notes to my Evernote account
  • Tap the show links and read further, view videos on the topics or download recommended apps to try
  • Search the web in Safari for additional information

Other days may involve reading books or articles in the Kindle app or iBooks, drafting blog posts in Byword, checking my calendar, adding tasks or reviewing projects in Omnifocus, or catching up on RSS feeds in Reeder. The journey is usually completed with a ten minute walk to the office and a few songs played via iTunes Match, making for an enjoyable last few minutes before those dreaded elevator doors close.

Home? Well that is an entirely different story. Again a quick check on Tweetbot and email at the bus stop, but once on the bus, I switch off and relax, catching up on TV shows using AV Player HD.

Upon reflection, the above I now take for granted (all of which were not possible even five years ago), some things so much so they are not even in the lists above (text messages, phone calls anyone?). The power we have to consume information or create content has never been greater, and this has certainly changed the way we go from A to B.

Do you have any typical patterns you follow or apps you use on your daily commute? Let me know in the comments below.