I love my iPhone. The multiplicity of “apps” (applications) available make it possible to do a whole wealth of tasks that I previously did in other ways with my phone. Actually, when non-iPhone users comment on my constant use of my “mobile phone”, I say to them: “You think this is a phone? That’s only one thing I use this for!”
But the number of apps is somewhat bewildering, and you often find yourself paying good money for rubbish. You only know that it is rubbish after you buy it and try to use it for a while. Mind you, the prices are usually very cheap and sometimes free, but nevertheless, it is annoying to buy something and then find it doesn’t work. Some apps have “lite” versions that are free, so you can check them out before “upgrading” to the full paid version. Also, I have found that sometimes when I purchase an app that doesn’t work quite as I think it should, there are later updates (free) that improve it. So first impressions are not always everything. It is good to look at the release date for the app, and to read the reviews of the app before purchase. Often you will see the comments on these reviews get better the longer the app is in circulation – that is because developers who care about their app also put time into improving it in the light of feedback.
So I thought I might do a post on the apps that I have found really useful and use everday. This might turn into a series, depending on how long my reviews turn out to be.
I’ve done a post already about Dropbox (nb. please use this link to sign up for Dropbox – it will gain both you and me an extra 250MB storage space: http://db.tt/rvgBYop). There is a stand alone app for Dropbox to allow access to your files on the “cloud”, but many other apps also work with Dropbox. I will highlight this as we go along.
The next app that I would like to highlight is Instacast. I hate iTunes. With a passion. And I never could get it to work the way I wanted to for all my podcasts. The only good thing that iTunes had over Instacast was that it had “continuous play”, which has now been fixed with the latest major update of Instacast. Instacast is the simplest and most straightforward way to manage your podcasts on the iPhone (or iPod). It works a little bit like a feedreader, in that it updates the feed to all the podcasts you subscribe to, telling you what the available episodes are. You can then set the phone to either download automatically, or manually at a time of your chosing. It is important to set the settings to download only when you are attached to wifi – otherwise you could use up your data allowance rather quickly! (Note: the settings for Instacast are not in the app itself, but are accessed through the built-in Settings app on your iPhone). You can star favourites, see which programs you have cached, email details to yourself for following up later. All works very neatly. I highly recommend this. The only thing is that you will probably find yourself with more to listen to than you have time!
Speaking of feedreaders, I have always used Google Reader as my feed. Now I access this from my iPhone with Mobile RSS. There is a Mobile RSS Pro version which you pay for, but I have been using the free version which provides all I need. More than I need, really, as I end up with with far too much to read, and spend quite a bit of time flicking between the stories. Still, it’s like having your own personal newspaper. You just sign up for the feeds (newspapers, journals, blogs etc) you want, and it’s delivered straight to your phone. You can email items on, or send them to Instapaper or Evernote (I will talk about these in a moment), or open links, or copy links etc. Very useful.
Then I must mention Instapaper. I don’t actually use this on my iPhone – although there is an app for this – but I do send items from my iPhone to Instapaper. Instapaper 1) saves you reading long documents on the internet on your computer screen, 2) saves you from having to print off such documents in order to read them elsewhere and at a time more convenient to you. I actually use it with my Sony e-Reader, but, as I said, you can use it to read articles on your iPhone. If you have an iPad, I reckon this would be the bees knees. Many internet browsing apps and other apps have connections to Instapaper, so it is often the touch of a button to save a document for later reading. Again: I highly recommend it. There is no charge for Instapaper on the internet (the developer does ask for a donation, which I was happy to make), but the app for the iPhone does cost.
Finally, for this post, I would like to mention Evernote. Evernote is a downloadable software program which you can use to store any kind of electronic note: a link to a blog, a “to do” item, a photograph, whatever, and tag it and date it for later use. It lives on your computer, and syncs on the internet so you can access it through other devices. Both the computer software and the iPhone app are free, and many other apps give you the option of saving to Evernote. Because it syncs with your computer, anything you upload to Evernote with your iPhone is downloaded onto your computer, where you can access it even off-line. I have a tag called “blog on this”, which I use whenever I see something that I think might make an interesting blog item. But I also use it to keep stuff that I need to remember for work or home – even photos of bills that I need to pay, so I don’t have to carry the piece of paper around with me. I also have a tag for books that I might like to buy at sometime in the future. This is truly “extended memory” of the best kind.
I will cover some other apps in later posts – I might devote a single post to all the devotional apps I use (I don’t use the Confessional app, btw), and another post to cover the utility apps that I find very helpful (eg. the app that makes your iPhone into a torch!). The only things my iPhone doesn’t seem to provide is a screwdriver and a pen knife!