Ben Chinn

Slightly nerdy ramblings and linkage

A Fresh Old iPhone

While upgrading the version of iOS on my iPhone a couple of things went wrong. First, I didn’t have enough free space on the phone to download the update. This happens pretty much every time I upgrade the OS, which means I have to delete a bunch of photos and any unnecessary apps and try again. After the upgrade was downloaded and started installing, the phone insisted on being connected to a computer with iTunes and then would not wake up until it had been restored to factory settings. This left me with a fresh iPhone 4S loaded only with the stock apps from Apple. To make matters worse the iPhone had not been backed up since December 2013.

I’ve taken this opportunity to start from scratch, trying to refrain from downloading any additional apps unless I have a real need for them. I’m trying to enforce this policy for installing apps on the phone: keep only need one of each kind of app, use stock apps when possible and don’t install apps on the phone that can be exclusively used on other devices (i.e. my iPad or MacBook). So far these iPhone apps have made the cut:

  • Editorial: the one writing app I’ve downloaded, used to write the first draft of this post.
  • Automatic: I recently acquired the Automatic car tracker and driving analysis tool (perhaps more about that in another post) and the device is useless if not paired with an iPhone running the app.
  • Pocketcasts: For listening to podcasts during my commute.
  • Life360: For automatically messaging my wife in certain situations, (when I’m on my way home, etc.) especially useful when paired with other services via IFTTT.
  • Day One: The best diary/journal/log app. I like to add photos to entries with my phone and access previous entries when I’m in meetings and want to see what tasks I’ve completed lately.
  • Textexpander Touch: A critical utility for using text snippets in some of the above apps.
  • Buy Me A Pie: A great little app with a ridiculous name, it creates, shares and syncs grocery lists. The built in library of foods and color coding of items makes this indispensable for collaboratively creating shopping lists and making sure I always pick up everything necessary at the supermarket.
  • Whisper: A messaging app for I don’t get a lot of messages this way but if I do I want to be alerted on my phone and be able to respond right away.
  • Instapaper: I keep this on my phone mostly to get links into Instapaper although it’s sometimes nice to read saved items there too.
  • Uber: Not an app I use a lot but good to have when I do.

Having jettisoned so many 3rd party apps, I’ve had a chance to rediscover the Apple supplied apps, many of which I had replaced with 3rd party software long ago.

Mail: I had been using Dispatch for a while but the Mail app is just fine and loads messages faster.

Calendar: This app doesn’t do anything really well but is totally usable. If I want to check today’s schedule I use the Today view in the Notification Center and I’m generally at my laptop when adding events.

Weather: I’ve downloaded a lot of weather apps over the years but the one that comes with the iPhone is actually not bad, especially since I live in the Bay Area and don’t have to be concerned with heavy precipitation or extreme temperatures.

Phone, Messages, FaceTime, Contacts: These apps never had much competition on my iPhone.

Before, my iPhone contained about a dozen folders, all with several apps. Now I have only four folders and only one screen beyond the first home screen.

Generally I’m using my phone less now and that’s fine. Reaching for my iPhone during downtime had become a reflex and there was so much there to distract me: feeds, news, tweets, etc. Now my phone is loaded mostly with the tools and information that is truly useful. Will this last or will I start loading up my phone with more apps, more functionality, more to steal away the otherwise unspoken for moments in my life? I hope that I can keep the decks clean for a while now, especially since I’m already experiencing the benefits of a slimmed down iPhone.