Over the next few weeks, each of us here at TiP will be writing up our lists of the most important apps in our lives. To make it challenging I told the guys we’d only be selecting 5 of them. And, believe me, if you were to see the number of apps I’ve downloaded or purchased, you’d see how much of a challenge that is. And to make it harder to cop-out, we’re not allowed to choose any of the default stock apps as our choices. Since they’re already on the iPhone, we don’t have a choice to have them, or not.
When choosing the ones I couldn’t live without the hardest thing was not selecting the awesome apps I’ve got installed that I maybe don’t necessarily need. For instance, Instagram is a great app, but I could live without it happily. As for not being able to live without them, it’s apps that I find absolutely vital to get through each day.
1. Digg Reader – FREE
When Google Reader shut down, the entire blogosphere kicked up a stink, but it ended up being a great thing for app development. Other companies got in on the RSS feed scene, and some of them were more impressive than others. Digg is a company I’d thought disappeared years ago. In the early days of broadband internet, I remember seeing the little “digg” logo next to articles on certain websites. It was essentially just a way to show that you “liked” a particular post. Then it reinvented itself. And it worked fantastically well.
I have Digg Reader installed on my iPad and iPhone. What’s great about it is that the home page is more visually focussed, giving some interesting and key news stories from around the world. But, I can switch to a more productive view by entering the side menu and browsing the feeds I subscribe to. The fact I can access the service through my browser on the Mac means that anything I read on one will show as read on the other. That uniform experience makes the app a no-brainer.
2. Google Hangouts -FREE
Let’s get this out there right away: Google Hangouts is the most beautifully designed messaging app for any platform, anywhere. Its minimalist user interface, straight, fine lines and clean look make it appealing to most who see it. It’s sure as hell more beautiful than WhatsApp, it doesn’t take as much effort to set up as BBM and it’s not a Facebook product, which means it works. Its recent update also meant I can’t give it up on iPad either.
Perhaps what I find great about it, is that it’s a brilliant all-in-one. I’m not limited to just instant messaging. I can have private or public video calls, one on one, or in groups. And all it takes to join is a Google account, which so many people have. That doesn’t mean they’re all on there though. And I kind of like that too. I have maybe 3-4 friends or family members who I know use it, and work colleagues at Phonedog, and former colleagues, maybe a couple of PR people I’ve built a relationship with. To some, the idea that not everyone is on there is a bad thing. To me, it isn’t. I’m far more selective about the people I’ve circled on Google+ than I am with Facebook.
3. Sunrise Calendar – FREE
I’ve been on a mission to find the perfect calendar app for iPhone and iPad for years, and I think I’ve finally got one. It syncs with your Facebook account with events you’ve been invited to, or are attending. It access your on-device calendars and is compatible with Google, iCloud and Exchange. It updates in the background to make sure you have all the information you need, lets you add reminders, includes birthdays (from Facebook), timezone support and shows the weather for the next couple of days, broken down to 2-3 instances within the day.
In short, it’s as close to being the perfect calendar app as you can get. What’s more, its design and gesture control is gorgeous. It shows faces and profiles of people I’m meeting with using LinkedIn. Perhaps more crucially, it supports natural language, meaning you can just quick-add an event by typing something like “Meeting Matthew for coffee at Starbucks on Sunday at 11am” and it’ll glean all the relevant information and create an event. It also uses Google Maps to help give directions to your events… and so on, and so on. Did I mention it’s free? And that it’s universal for iPad and iPhone? It’s just fantastic.
4. Tweetbot 3 for iPhone – $4.99/£2.99
It’s the only non-free app on the list. And some of you may wonder why a Twitter app makes it on to my list of essential apps at all. Simply put: The thought of not having instant access to Twitter sends shivers down my spine. Yes, there’s a free official Twitter app, and I could access it using the browser, but I’m pretty sure I’d be so frustrated by the experience I’d thrown my phone out the window. That, or turn gigantic, green and angry.
Tweetbot is not only beautiful and well designed, it works. It syncs with the app on my Mac through iCloud, which means any time I read something on the Mac, I don’t then have to go and read it again on iPhone. And vice versa. I can add multiple accounts, I can set notifications for things I really want to see and it updates in real-time without moving me from my position in the stream.
5. Remote by Apple – FREE
I have an Apple TV. And Apple TV does have its own small and beautifully formed aluminum remote controls. The problem: I have kids and the remotes (I have two) are tiny. Once I’ve finished a long day in the office and want to kick back with some Netflix, or watch a TV Show or Movie I’ve purchased, I really don’t want the hassle of looking for them. Because inevitably, they will get lost during the day. Nine times out of ten, they’re in between the cushions on my sofa. But, if you have kids and sofas, you’ll know that sticking your hands down the gaps in the cushions is a risky undertaking. If your hand doesn’t end up covered in sticky two-day old Cheerios or toast, you’ve done very well.
Apple Remote on the iPhone means I always have a remote on me for my Apple TV. What’s more, when I go searching for titles or actors, I don’t have to navigate through the letters pressing right, left, up, down and select like I would on the physical remote. Instead, a keyboard appears on screen, and I can type as easily as I would anything else on my iPhone. I can also use it to control the iTunes library on my Mac using Home Sharing. In short: It’s the least-hyped, but one of the most essential apps to me on the App Store.
What are your most essential apps? Leave them in the comments below or tweet me: @TiP_Cam