The last few months have seen some pretty big changes to how I use my phone.
Not having a sustained schedule due to everyone working from home, I’ve been focusing more on routines lately to regain a semblance of that normalcy and those widgets have come in very handy to see what’s next and what my priorities are without opening apps and diving in.
Widgets excluded, most of the home screen has stayed the same over the past year or two. Calls/Messaging are top left, the least accessed through the app icon since half the time I’m responding to messages or calls, sharing from the web, or using a shortcut to call/text my 4x most active numbers on the slide-out screen. Notion on the iPhone is now reference-only for the most part, primarily because it’s so slow and hard to use on a small screen so is relegated to the top row.
Two new additions this year are Matter and Snipd, which both do what previous apps did substantially better. Matter is a wonderful read-later app, slick and clean, with tonnes of useful features; Snipd is a podcast player that has automatic transcriptions so you can ‘highlight’ or clip audio and make it searchable by syncing it with something like Readwise or Notion.
4. Notion — So slow, ugly, and outdated. I hope this gets a big overhaul soon, as any one of a dozen apps will eat its lunch in the next year if it doesn’t.
5. Shopify — I’ve made it so only one of my four stores is accessible via my phone now. It’s the only Shopify store I fulfil orders from myself, manually, and I’ve found the less information I have about my work on my phone the less prone to distractions and obtrusive thoughts I am.
6. Halide — the best camera app I’ve tried.
7. Snipd — functionally great podcast app: looks nice, auto-transcriptions and AI chapter generation, allows you to clip, save, and search podcasts. I can only imagine this tech will be in every player soon, but for now, it’s amazing and very well done. Snipd > Airr.
8. Seconds Pro — Timer for meditations, and workout intervals. I hate this app. It’s so clunky, unintuitive, and above all, it’s so hard to look at. You can pick your colour themes so long as you like one of six garish colours. It spits out ‘Mindful Minutes’ which syncs with Whoop and Apple Health which is nice, but I’m actively looking for a replacement.
9. Spotify — I’ve been listening to music far less during lockdown as I’m not driving or travelling as much.
10. Audible — I’m aiming to read 32 books this year, and like last year, Audible will be a vital part in squeaking a few more hours each week.
11. Matter — A new ‘read later’ app: beautiful, fast, better discovery compared to Pocket or Instapaper, and has excellent synthetic voices which make listening to articles as audio more tolerable.
12. Youtube — Still there, still paying for Premium, and it’s getting far more use than ever before which I’m not crazy about.
13. Chess.com — not much better, mostly play the puzzles and against the computer. Beating 1000s easily now.
14. Whoop — Started using Whoop again in 2020, but once my plan expired I bought an Oura ring to test the sleep tracking but ended up hating it. Pre-ordered the Whoop 4.0 which should be here soon(?). Still love the tracking, bands, and features, just wish it had Apple Health integration and custom tagging of data points.
15. Strong — The best strength training app. This may not be empirically true anymore, but I haven’t worked out as much in the gym as I hoped to this year, but am endeavouring to do more in 2022 so this may change.
16. Safari – Browser.
1. Spark — Email. Still not thrilled with this, but I haven’t found anything that’s better.
2. MyFitnessPal — I still pay for Premium, I still love it. Tried Lose It! which is nice and does some things really well, like being able to switch primary view to carbs/protein instead of cals, but keep coming back to MFP.
3. Notes — It’s surprisingly good now, bounds better than it was even just a year or two ago. It’ll never replace something like Notion or Craft, but it’s quick, syncs well, and stores data offline and is perfect for a quick note without cluttering up.
4. TickTick — the best to-do list app I’ve found. I follow a very loose GTD and this has great features that Omnifocus doesn’t, has geo-location features which are missing from Things, but frustratingly doesn’t allow hiding deferred or future tasks which can make things a little messy.
Updates from Last Year
No Tesla app — I’m driving less due to the lockdowns and as more businesses expand online there’s been less need to use it for work and shopping. The primary features I used it for are on a widget in the ‘Today View’ slide-in instead which shows me the battery level and allows turning the air-con on etc. We’re planning to travel more this year finally, so the car may even be sold and I’ll upgrade in 2023 (if the Roadster or Cybertruck ever come out).
YNAB is gone too. I spend relatively little compared to my income that budgeting is a secondary thought now, the automated Syncfor YNAB app pulls all the data in perfectly from my banks so there’s even less need to check it regularly.
Apple’s Notes has replaced Drafts 3. It probably shouldn’t have, but I don’t want to dive into learning AppleScript just to get the most from Drafts. I’ll just copy and paste from Notes and give up those 2 seconds of my life.
Things I’d change:
I still don’t care about my lock/home screen wallpapers and I probably should either remove the image entirely or put something more personal or inspiring there.
Craft will likely replace Notion entirely for me if they ever implement databases. Notion kinda sucks but is so flexible due to databases and formulas that I can’t move away from it just yet. Craft has become my go-to app for daily writing and along with Apple’s Notes is a store of information I need offline (travel docs, ID, and so on — I currently back up on both, along with printed copies because I’m paranoid: three is two and one is none, after all).
Once Logseq releases a mobile app, I’m sure that will be on the homepage as that’s the app I use most for writing and as a Second Brain.
I can’t see moving away from Whoop unless the 4.0 is as bad for me as the worst reports I’ve seen online. Unlikely, and after being with them for several years, customer service has treated me incredibly well, and I have faith in the team there.
Halide may go soon too, as I’ve noticed every once in a while that photos won’t save. That’s unacceptable and while seems like it’s just a bug it does worry me I might not be able to capture something timely or spontaneous using the app.
Overall, I’m quite happy with how I’ve been using my iPhone this year. Usage is down, utility is up, and I experience just a little more joy when I use it because of that. Not having social media on my phone really is the way forward, and I like the idea of going back to a ‘dumb’ phone, but with the businesses that might not work out quite as smoothly as I optimistically imagine. An experiment I’ll undoubtedly run sometime in 2022 — this post next year might be a lot shorter and may include Snake.