Note: this piece originally appeared in Issue 24 of the Club MacStories Weekly newsletter, reproduced here with permission and slight edits. Thanks again to Federico and his team for giving me the opportunity to share.
In addition, the first mention of each app contains my affiliate link, where I earn a portion of each sale if you buy said app.
If you know me and my level of interest in Apple & workflows, you might be surprised to see me still using an iPhone 5S. Well, I bought it two years ago for the step tracking & I’m just now out of my 2-year contract.
Be that as it may, I’ve had a very long time to settle in nicely to my layout of apps. I’ve even gone so far as to pull core functionality out of the homescreen and into the Notification Center to pack more in to what I can do quickly on my phone, even with one less row of apps than most people have these days.
One doesn’t work without the other, so here we go.
Omnifocus has been a key part of my workflow since last year, where I went all-in with my work tasks once I became an analyst. Building repeating projects for reporting made it much easier for me to clearly identify the steps involved without having to figure it out again each time, and the act of putting simple tasks as the first step in my to-dos helps me break out of lulls and just get started working.
Day One has been my photo journal for a few years, though I confess I need to add a ton more photos that I forgot to upload. The Day One 2 update is great, with multiple journals being something I longed for and now the IFTTT integration fitting perfectly into my widespread use of social media.
Drafts, as it is for many, is where most text starts on my phone. I use it to jot down thoughts or to-dos for Omnifocus, search 1Password, and save clips from across the web using the extension. Lately I’ve been trying to use the Apple Watch widget to dictate text on my wrist, just because I can.
Launch Center Pro was the crown jewel of iOS for me for a while, especially thanks to MacStories. It got me into iOS automation and I’ve created a litany of URL schemes. However, lately my actions have fallen into disrepair as recent versions of iOS solved a lot of the problems LCP helped me with. However, I have a pending project to bring more direct use in the future using action sets and some location- & time-based notifications — it’s been more of an issue of taking the time rather than not finding Launch Center Pro to be enough. I can’t take it off my dock because I start to feel lost — if anything I still use it to start Sleep Cycle every single night.
Outside of the dock, my two primarily used apps are Overcast and Pocket. Both were originally installed as a way to use my phone offline while commuting on BART to work. Like most users, I love the way Overcast enables me to listen to more podcasts overall with Smart Speed and hear everything fine on the train with Voice Boost. Pocket became my read-it-later app of choice because of the one-to-many tagging feature for articles as well as its strong archive. Originally I loved Instapaper and recently came back to it for its Highlights feature, but it wiped my organization upon archiving. With Pocket I have a rich and complex history of almost everything I read online, organized by my own categorization.
Working in social media as an analyst, I’m constantly keeping an eye out on the platforms and using them myself to avoid growing stale in my my knowledge.
I check in daily with Swarm to build out my database of visited venues and feed into the Foursquare recommendation system, not to mention competing with coworkers for Swarm mayorships. Tweetbot is my favorite Twitter app and I have a menu in Launch Center Pro that launches me into the variety of Lists I have set up to follow select users. However, Twitter.app has an amazing search, handles interactions a bit nicer than Tweetbot, and of course gets all of Twitter’s latest features.
Facebook and Instagram get a lot of regular usage as well, but Snapchat and Tumblr are there to prompt me to use them more often. Medium is new to my homescreen as I’ve been keeping a closer eye on it, especially now that they have mobile publishing tools. I get most of my Medium content through Twitter, so it’s not used as a browsing experience often for me, but the new Collections feature should help with that. I look forward to seeing Medium continue to grow.
Slack has recently hit my home screen as I’ve transitioned to a mostly-remote role and I find myself using my iPhone/iPad for work more as I’m not stuck strictly on the laptop all day. I spent a long time trying to get my agency on Slack and now all 500+ of us are on it together. Once Slack Calls comes fully to mobile and they add Video Chat too, I’ll be one happy worker
Clear still has my love as well, particularly because it’s great on Apple Watch in the grocery store. I’ve been begging them on Twitter for over a year to add collaborative lists so I can properly coordinate with my girlfriend, because I finally convinced her to use a great app and she loves it too.
With the recent addition of an old Play:5 speaker to my living room, the Sonos Controller app has found a place on my homescreen. I use it to play Apple Music at home and the main Music app otherwise. I’m a huge fan of the high quality sound even at low volumes, and like many underestimated the value of having a dedicated device controlled by remote over streaming from my devices — the Sonos has been on constantly, even more than we used my full sound system. I’m hoping Apple’s upcoming updates to the Remote app make that type of playback control for the Apple TV possible from the iPhone, which would bring a lot of the same value for me.
Airtable has really caught my eye, bringing the power of a database in a mobile- and collaborative-friendly way. I’m trying to log the apps I come across for a future project I’ve been planning and am even experimenting with a grocery/food database to help cut down on costs.
Sharing my homescreen doesn’t really make sense to me without including the Today widgets in my Notification Center, because I’ve ported some daily functions there with the help of Launcher. I’m glad Apple let Cromulemt Labs’ app back into the store because I have two excellent rows of launcher widgets now.
The oddest of the bunch is Reeder, because it’s another one of my most-used apps, but I found myself bugged by the icon at the end of the day when my RSS feeds were clear and it was basically an empty app.
The introduction of Low Power mode made a battery shortcut just make sense, as well as a Bluetooth link now that I have wireless headphones. The rest of the apps in Launcher are just handy to have available quickly but also not have them take up a spot on my homescreen.
Underneath Launcher I have the native iOS battery widget, which is super useful now that I have Bluetooth headphones and an Apple Watch. If you’re reading this newsletter you likely noticed I have the % indicator turned off on my homescreen, and you more than likely noticed my phone being at 57% charge at 10:57 am — these two are related because I’m still on a 5S and the battery life has gone to crap.
I’ve come to terms with my phone, however. Since I know for sure it is going to die if I don’t charge it during the day, I just keep cables/docks around the office or home and a battery pack handy if I’m out & about. It’s generally not a problem and I’d rather have peace of mind and a routine to charge it than a nagging indicator each time I’m using the device.
Fantastical takes the third spot on my Notification Center because it’s super handy to have a month view accessible. Plus I can see my upcoming meetings quickly and jump into the detail view, where I might need to know the meeting room or a dial-in number.
Brb, gotta change the litter.
Note: I have more widgets in my Notification Center, but don’t use them often enough that they’re worth mentioning. The Complications & Glances on my Apple Watch have replaced many of the quick actions I would otherwise get from the Today view — but I’ll save that for another piece.
The future of my homescreen
With the mixture of work and play across my homescreen and Notification Center, I feel like I’ve settled into a good flow on my iPhone. Everything has its place, plus I have the power of Spotlight when I need to find something different.
With the iPhone SE on the horizon and my contract just now expiring, I’m considering staying at the same smaller iPhone size to maintain portability but updating the functionality & camera, plus more storage.
But really, I just want better battery life.
This piece is also published on Medium.
I also highly suggest MacStories — it’s one of the best Apple-related sites out there right now. This piece was written for Issue 24 of their members-only newsletter as part of Club MacStories, supporting great work from the whole team.