A lot of iOS users shared their home screens to the world in the last week thanks to Betaworks releasing their #Homescreens app. You can find my own here. I felt that this would be a good jumping off point to talk in greater detail about my home screen and the apps I use every day.
My home screen is an ever changing landscape. New apps move in, old ones out. I am trying out apps all the time, so it should come as no surprise that it can be difficult for me to decide on one set and stick with them. And this is a good thing. Software goes bad if it becomes so dominant that innovation becomes needless, look no further than the pre Firefox and Chrome versions of Internet Explorer. I like that new players are constantly pushing out the establishment. It keeps things fresh and current.
At one point nearly my entire home screen was made up of folders. This was okay for a while, but I got tired of having to tap twice to open every app. And thanks to the larger screens of the newer iPhones, I now have extra rows to play with, giving me enough slots to put the daily used apps on the first screen. This current layout has actually been with me for a while now, and I am very happy with it. For the sake of brevity I will confine myself to my first screen only. So here is my current home screen layout.
Notice the lack of folders. I have banned folders to the second screen and beyond, and there are a lot of them, don’t worry. In order to be on the home screen the app needs to be one I use on a nearly daily basis, usually multiple times throughout the day. An app where a number badge is required to be seen quickly would also qualify for the home screen. Each row has a theme, though I will break the rules of this theme if it will make a more functional home screen, rather than sticking to the theme for a worse experience. Also, I try to arrange the screen with a balance of colors.
The Information Row
The first row is my information row, apps I use to keep up to date with what I am doing and what I need to know.
- Sunrise Calendar – This is my main calendar app. Apple’s calendar is okay, but I really prefer the layout and integrations of Sunrise. I don’t need to manually enter information from other services I use such as Tripit or Eventbrite. This calendar is able to connect directly to those services. This spot on the screen has gone back and forth between Fantastical and Sunrise over time. Ultimately I prefer the usability of Sunrise (and the fact that invite notifications actually work), but do still prefer Fantastical for event entry. For that, I use the Drafts today extension, but I will save that for another article.
Evernote – One of my favorite apps of all time. Evernote is a phenomenal note-taking app, as well as a great platform for storing information of all kinds. It is probably the longest running third party app on my home screen.
Todoist – This is the newest member of the home screen, albeit in a trail mode. I have been an Omnifocus guy for a long time, but recently decided to try out Todoist. The main reasons are integration with other apps such as Sunrise, the web app for access from anywhere, and a somewhat simpler process. Regardless of the specific app, this is the “to do” spot on the home screen. I plan to do a longer write up on this topic later.
Google Maps – The ability to easily find your way anywhere whether you are familiar with the area or not is one of the biggest wins for the smartphone as a category. Just think what it was like traveling before. Now you can go to a city where you have never been and find anything with the tap of a finger. I think that Apple’s own Maps has come a long way, but Google still wins overall, particularly when it comes to search (go figure).
The Utilities Row
The theme is a little weak here admittedly, but this row is comprised of apps that provide particular utility when it comes to personal data and access to said data.
- 1Password – This is probably the most important app on my home screen. Passwords are awful, everyone agrees with this. 1Password is my favorite solution to this awfulness. I actually use the app itself less often now that they have their share extension available. But still easily important enough to keep its place here.
Passbook – This one used to be buried a few screens away, but Apple Pay has elevated it to the main screen. It is still a bit more aspirational than anything else, but I fully intend to be leaving most of my credit cards at home in the near future.
Dark Sky – Dark Sky is my favorite weather app. Not just because it’s focus on the immediate future is far more useful than many more complicated apps, but it also is accurate and has a nice, simple UI. So many weather apps are just ugly versions of ugly webpages. Not this one.
MoneyWiz – Finance apps are everywhere on iOS, and most of them are terrible. Seriously look at the reviews in this category. MoneyWiz has for years been my favorite. Not only does it work extremely well, it is also cross platform and has a very reliable sync solution. Version two is on the horizon and brings some great new features. I am beta testing it now, so look for a full review of that one soon.
The Social Row
This row is all about social networks, well with one transitional app that has to be there. Social networks are huge on smartphones, and I am no exception. Twitter actually is the most accessed here, not even so much for me to be a social butterfly, but more to keep up to date with what is going on throughout the day.
- Facebook – Love it or hate it, Facebook is huge. I don’t spend a lot of time in here to be honest, but I do like to easily see when I have a notification.
Tweetbot – Still my favorite Twitter app. Try as they might, Twitter is going to have to pry this one from my cold dead hands. Okay, not that drastic, but unlike Facebook I use Twitter a lot. Tweetbot works the way I use Twitter. I mostly read, and spend a lot of time moving between lists to keep up to date. It’s fast, clean, and not controlled by Twitter’s marketing department.
Photos – Okay, this one does not fit, but I had to put it somewhere. I use my iPhone as my primary camera most of the time. The actual Camera app is not needed since it is easier to launch it from Control Center, but I do need to have a quick way to see the photos themselves. And it transitions nicely to the next app.
Instagram – I love Instagram. I am actually a little impressed that Facebook has not ruined it. It is my favorite way to share photos with my friends and family.
The Home Automation / Miscellaneous Row
Okay, my theming really breaks down here. I originally was going to do a whole home automation row, but I really wanted Kindle and the App Store on the home screen, and the other home automation products don’t get used as often as the first two. I have considered swapping out the latter two with TiVo and WeMo, but I don’t think I access them enough to make that change. It may still happen though, but for now:
- Philips Hue – This one is now in slight danger of moving to screen two thanks to its very good Today Widget. But otherwise it is a no brainer. This is how I interact with most of the lights in my apartment. Light switches are so ten years ago.
Sonos – I am a Sonos lover. It’s a great system for listening to audio, and a really nice home theater solution. As I write this article I am listening to podcasts playing through every room in my apartment. AirPlay has its merits, but I still prefer Sonos for home audio as it is more flexible and less error prone.
Kindle – This didn’t used to be as big on my iPhone, but with the 6 plus being so nice a screen to read on, I find myself using this app much more than previously. I still prefer a physical Kindle for long term reading, but I don’t always have it with me. This is great for a quick read when I am out and about.
App Store – I think this one is self explanatory.
The Fitness Row
Here my theme does hold for the entire row. These are my top fitness apps. I still have others in a folder on the second screen, but these are the ones I use every day. Fitness is a huge part of what I use my iPhone for.
- RunKeeper – Still my favorite fitness app of all time. I don’t think I would be prepping for my tenth marathon right now without it. Having it right there on the home screen is not only a statement to how much I love this app, its a great reminder to myself to do some kind of workout every day.
Breeze – RunKeeper is the only company other than Apple to have more than one app on my home screen. Breeze is their step counting app. I have owned many pedometers over time, but now that my iPhone itself is the pedometer, I like Breeze the best. I especially love taking a longer than expected walk and sending that data over to RunKeeper to live among my other workouts.
MyFitnessPal – If you want to lose weight, you have to watch what you eat. This is the best app that I have found to quickly and easily enter this information. Not to mention it integrates with pretty much everything.
Health – Another one that is mostly aspirational. If you have read anything I have written here recently, you probably are aware of my wishes for this platform to succeed, and for my sadness at its failures. Still holding out hope that the Apple Watch pushes this app to realize its potential.
The Second-Most-Important Row
These are the apps I use a lot. Multiple times a day, actually multiple times an hour. They are so close to being dock worthy, but miss it by that much. If the iPhone ever allowed more than four icons in the dock, one of these would take that place. It has the largest concentration of stock apps on my screen.
- Phone – This was an unmoved dock item until recently, and even now I don’t actually use the phone all that much (though I have been a little bit more as of late). The main reason it is here is for contacts. The Contacts app is completely superfluous on the iPhone as the Phone app does literally everything it can do, plus all that phone stuff.
Safari – Obviously the web browser is important. I was using Chrome for a while, but Chrome on iOS does not work with the 1Password extension, so back to Safari I went. I have found using it more enjoyable than I anticipated.
Instapaper – This is another long time home screen app for me. I love Instapaper. It changed my commutes for the better. I save dozens of articles every day and read them while offline in the subway to and from work. It has had a profound impact on how I consume text.
Music – It’s one of the main functions of the iPhone, right? I secretly wish it was still called iPod with the classic logo. Just nostalgia really. Oh wait, can we be nostalgic about the iPod now? Yikes!
The Row to End All Rows
These are the apps that I basically live in. If I pick up my iPhone, there is a 50% chance that it is to use one of these four things. I am in and out dozens of times during the day. If you want to know what I use my iPhone for most of the time, this is the answer.
Mailbox – Mailbox really did change how I interact with email. I used to carefully file everything, had a massive inbox that was difficult to get through, and just got overwhelmed most of the time. Inbox zero has become nearly a religion to me and Mailbox actually made it easy. It has its quirks to be sure, but I still prefer it to the standard mail client.
Reeder – RSS is not dead. It’s actually the main way I read on the internet. Reeder is where I get my news, star it, which triggers IFTTT to send it to Instapaper for later reading. I have tried numerous RSS clients but Reeder remains my favorite, especially with how seamlessly it handles my constant breaking of reception on the subway. Somehow it manages to stay in sync.
Messages – I text way more than I make phone calls, which is probably not unique to me. I never really got into alternative apps for messages. Text messages are still the most reliable way to reach someone else as far as I am concerned.
Overcast – This is the podcast spot, which has held many apps in its day. Overcast has become my favorite. It is fast, cleanly designed, and syncs to my iPad without issue. Smart Speed has saved me literally days of listening time. I listen to podcasts way more often than music, in fact podcasts are probably now my main source of entertainment. Speaking of which, have you subscribed to Technecast yet? We are available in Overcast’s directory.
- Unless you count Instapaper and Overcast as both being by Marco Arment. But Marco sold Instapaper to Betaworks, so it really no longer counts. ↩