Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Current Top iPhone App Recommendations

Apps that Make My Life Better

JotNot Pro

This is truly one of those 'killer app' applications for the iPhone.  It basically turns your iPhone into a scanner.  For a long time I've searched for a note-taking device that will allow me ditch my notepad and pen.  Sadly nothing (not even the iPad with a stylus (I've tried)) beats this thousand year old tech.

This app however, does such a good job of translating a photo (or set of photos) into a readable PDF (or image) via special filters, edge detection, etc., that I no longer think of pen and paper as evil.  It solves the problem of me having to loose my notes once I've filled up a notebook, or loose access to them if I'm away from my desk.  I simply go to my meeting, take notes like a normal person using the pen and paper.  Then immediately afterwards I whip out my iPhone, shoot the pages and process them.  In under a minute I have a nice multipage PDF sitting in my google docs (or evernote, or iDisk, or Dropbox) online storage/sharing service.

Also it works great for any document I happen to have in my possession that I want a scanned copy of.  Yes I could have always just photographed it, however, with the image processing this software does (things like auto-cropping the photo down to just the page itself), the end result is really very close to running it through my scanner.

Best $0.99 I've spent in a long long time.

TomTom U.S.A

For years my Garmin Nuvi has stuck with me, routing me through the mean streets and highways of Dallas, Tx.  I've been very happy with it but it is time to move on.

I did a fair amount of research and have been holding out to see if one GPS Navigation system for the iPhone would become a clear winner (or if maybe google would do turn-by-turn directions for their iPhone map app).  With the addition of iOS 4 and the ability for apps to integrate closer with the audio capabilities of the iPhone (pause currently playing basically) I found I could wait no longer.  It was tough to decide and their are a lot of cheaper apps that do navigation.  However, none of them have all of the features (live traffic updates, Google Local POI search, etc) that I dearly crave.

So I bit the bullet and spent the $50 on TomTom.  So far I've been very pleased.  I mostly listen to podcasts while traveling.  I have a ProClip iPhone mount in my car that hooks into the aux-in port on my car stereo (so I can listen to music/podcasts on my iPhone via the car speakers).  It so sooo cool to have the podcast I'm listening to pause, hear the navigation instruction through the speakers, then have the podcast resume.  Before I had to choose between paying attention to my podcast, or pay attention to the instructions...sometimes with poor results.  :)  My only complaint is that the menu system is a tad on the confusing side.  Not horrible but there is a little learning curve to figure out how to do things (like clear the current route) that should be a bit simpler.  All-in-all though I'm very pleased.


Sometimes one just has to get one's groove on.  Works great with iOS 4 multitasking.  Free ad supported version, or pay version.  Pick your poison.


Amaze your friends with tales of what you just had for lunch!  Better yet, post a photo of said lunch. :)

Yahoo! Messenger

I'm actually not too thrilled with this app.  It works but isn't very configurable.  On the hunt for something better...but hey it does work.  Nothing beats being able to carry on an IM conversation from anywhere, anytime for basically free.  Maybe AT&T should look into this advanced 'IM' technology for their SMS network which must be costing them a fortune, since they are charging me like $0.50 per text message.


Google on the iPhone.  It is the chocolate and peanut butter combination of our age.


Google docs is great and all, but sometimes one just needs a really slick UI when entering a text note.  The real killer-diller however is the cloud aspect of this service.  Take a note anywhere (iPhone, laptop, web, etc.) and have it all magically synced and shareable from anywhere instantly.  They have even exposed their web service based API to the world.  So lots of other applications are using them as a way of syncing/sharing data around (note JotNot above for instance).  I'm currently using their thick client mac app on my laptop for note taking.  There is a lot of overlap of functionality between evernote and google docs.  However, sometimes a thick client is just faster and easier to deal with (I have a hot-key that brings up a new evernote notepad for instance) than a web based app.


This is perhaps my most useful iPhone app.  Don't tell the developers but I'd willingly pay 10x what they are currently charging for this app.  There is also a desktop application that this can sync with, but you don't absolutely have to use it (but it is nice).  Where to begin.  I have an issue with planning.  I hate it.  Or rather I used to hate it.  I hated the rigid structure that most 'planing systems' force upon you (once upon a time, for the period of a couple of years, I did the franklin planner thing (went to a class on it and everything)).  But on the other hand I also hate not quite knowing what it is a 'should' be doing.  That nagging feeling like I'm forgetting to do something that is probably important.

Disillusioned and frustrated, for years I've had the 'default' planning system most people use:  a calender application with occasional email reminders sent to myself.

Then one magical day I discovered the book/cult/philosophy of Getting Things Done.  Wow.  It was one of those rare moments of yearning for something, feeling fairly certain that one is searching in vain,  and then finding exactly what one is searching for.  Immediately after reading the book, I searched for a software package that would help me utilize this system.  I eventually found Omnifocus.  I fell in love.  There is a learning curve involved here and I wouldn't even think of picking up OmniFocus unless you've read David Allen's book.  But with a bit of effort I promise that those feelings of anxiety and stress (those related to planning anyway) will soon melt away.

Apps that are Just For Fun

Playing games is an important part of being human.  From fun and relaxation, to improving ones ability to think we gain from playing them.  Games are not to be overlooked as simple 'time wasters'.  Go forth and Play!  Here are some that I've enjoyed:

Angry Birds
Civilization Revolution
Star Defense
Zynga Poker
Paper Toss
Flight Control

No comments: