In theory, these would be the apps you use most often and treasure most — the apps you want to keep no more than a finger-tap away. The 16 apps on my home screen are an integral part of how I get things done, making the iPhone into a remote control for my life.
The Top 12
Messages (SMS). More and more people are realizing that the best way to get my attention is with a short text message. Frankly? It's my preferred method of communication. I don't route tweets here; instead, my SMS client is reserved for messages that deserve immediate attention … and appointment reminders from my Google calendar.
Echofon. No question about it: Echofon is the *best* iPhone client for Twitter, making it easy to manage multiple accounts, view new tweets, and dig into background info (links, follower lists, user profiles). Adding photos and geo-location info to tweets takes just one tap!
Evernote. Evernote supplanted Together and Yojimbo as my "anything box," the place where I route random snippets of information. From trip itineraries to my library of .PDFs, everything I might want to have access to is at my fingertips thanks to Evernote.
Google Reader. While I'm testing Byline as an offline reader, I still find myself turning again and again to Google Reader (or, more specifically, the mobile version). The simple, flexible layout loads in seconds — and even performs admirably on a miserable AT&T Edge network connection.
Dropbox. Dropbox gives me instant, on-the-go access to any files I toss in. While Evernote is my repository of information snippets, I prefer to use Dropbox to store files, share them with friends and colleagues, and shuttle them between computers. I keep all files related to on-going projects here, so I can get to them from any Internet-connected computer, anywhere in the world.
(True story: I recently purchased a PDF of Wil Wheaton's latest book, Memories of the Future, Vol. 1. It was easier to read it using DropBox's file viewer than it was to read the darn book on my Amazon.com Kindle!)
Things. Things for the Mac is the best to-do and project manager for people who want to spend less time tweaking a to-do list and more time getting things done. Things for the IPhone keeps my to-do list in synch and lets me add to-do's on the go. Works like a charm … and has saved my bacon more times than I can count.
UrbanSpoon. What's for dinner? We're asking that less and less, and turning to UrbanSpoon more and more. Here in Atlanta or on the road, UrbanSpoon's aggregated reviews and restaurant approval ratings have steered us to great meals, even helping me find my favorite pizza joint in the USA.
Skype. Using in-room WiFi, I called Mom on my Skype phone from Bangkok, Thailand, talked 30 minutes, and spent about twenty cents. Skype makes video, text, and voice chats with other users (and even calls to landline phones) as simple and straightforward as they can be. As WiFi becomes more and more ubiquitous, will anyone need traditional cell phone service?
Now Playing. There are lots of "When's the next showing of Avatar?" apps out there, but Now Playing is the best. It integrates the movie review and scoring system I trust most (MetaCritic) and gives me the facts I need (locations, sorted by what's closest to me, plus start times for all upcoming shows) without bogging me down with poster art or video clips (though previews and extended info are there, if you want them).
SimpleNote. I don't use SimpleNote to store random snippets (I use Evernote for that), but I do use SimpleNote as my "magic clipboard," allowing me to copy text on one machine and have it instantly available for pasting on another. It's also good for creating, managing, and archiving short lists — and faster and more nimble for taking short notes on the fly than the iPhone's own Notes application (or even Evernote, for that matter). Anything I want to archive I just email to Evernote later.
Best Camera. Your best camera really is the one you have with you, and everywhere I go, I have my iPhone camera in tow. I use Best Camera to dress us iPhone shots for company, tweaking contrast and color just a bit before releasing shots into the wild. If you want to make the most of iPhone photos, Best Camera is a must-have app.
Pandora. I keep discovering new music as a result of creating custom radio stations with Pandora! The software does an uncanny job of predicting what I'll like — while also serving up songs I've forgotten … or wouldn't have discovered otherwise. More and more, I depend on Pandora to generate soundtracks for my morning, for my walk to work, for changing my mood — you name it.
On the Bubble
I reserve the lowest row on my home screen for apps I'm evaluating. If they become a part of my day, they'll replace one of the Top Twelve. If not … they get filed away or deleted.
Outside. By the time Outside loads, you could walk outside and check the weather yourself … but I confess the candy-colored animated graphics almost make me happy enough to forgive all the sluggish performance.
Byline. Because Byline synchs with Google Reader, this offline RSS feed reader caught my eye. (That, and the well-thought-out interface, make it the king of iPhone newsreader apps.) It's nice to have news stories archived for off-line reading, but with 3G and WiFi access in abundance here in town, it remains to be seen whether Byline offers me anything of value beyond the Google Reader mobile interface.
Instapaper. With one click, you can send the full text (with no extraneous graphics) of a story you're reading in your laptop or desktop browser to Instapaper; later, you can access that story from any Internet-connected device, including your iPhone. With a shortcut for sending stories to Google Reader and Evernote for archiving pages and text I really like, I'm not sure I need Instapaper … but the idea is cool, so I'm tinkering with it — and I do love the way Instapaper strips away distraction, leaving nothing but the text.
Google Buzz. Location-aware comments and reviews are an interesting idea, but, so far, I'm not finding much use for Buzz. Until it can serve as a clean front-end for all my social media interaction, I'm not sure it deserves a spot on the home page — or my iPhone, for that matter.
Are there apps that ought to be on my home screen that aren't? Let me know in the comments!