Apple A hopeful place

iPhone Home Screen – Year in Review

The first page of my home screen for my iPhone is a sacred real estate. It is the one screen where I carefully curate my apps. Placement and grouping are considered because the apps on my first screen are daily use apps. Here it is:

Because real estate is precious, each year I perform an annual reflection on this space. Apps are deleted or – worse – moved to the useless chaos that is anywhere else on my phone.

Before we get to the review, a few words on app placement. First, the dock is home for required applications and the place I spent the most time evaluating membership. For the first time ever, I moved the Phone app out of the dock and the Bear app to the dock. More on Bear in a moment. As for the Phone app? I don’t use the phone much anymore as it’s been mostly replaced by Slack and Messages.

As for the rest:

1Password continues to evolve and give me both a sense of security as well as insight into the health of my corpus of passwords. However. the process of finding and entering a password on mobile remains an incredibly high friction workflow. I paid for 1Password.

Google Maps & Waze? Google maps are better the Apple maps. Sorry Apple, but there have been far too many small little map errors that have eroded my Apple map confidence. Also, Google Maps allows me to download a section of a map for offline use which is handy for long bike rides in the middle of nowhere. Waze, yeah, it’s better for real-time car rides. Your mileage may vary.

Wunderground. Rands rule: I will always try any new monospaced typeface, productivity app, and weather app because I firmly believe these are unsolved problem spaces. While I continue to enjoy and trust the lens Dark Sky (Paid for it) provides into my day, and I particularly like the map (when it loads), the ten days graphed forecast in Wunderground is absolute gold. It reliably tells me both the arrival time, duration, and intensity of forthcoming weather.

Simple. Yup, I still use Simple as a ban for the Rands Slush Fund. Why? They continue to be clean and, well, simple.

Snapseed and Camera+ continue to be my go-to apps for pre-Instagram image processing. 80% Snapseed, 10% Camera+, and 10% Instagram.

United. Because of miles. Not happy about it.

Tweetbot. Because of indie.

Strava. Because smaller more connected [villages] are bringing us a healthier internet. I have a lot to say about Strava in a future article. I pay a subscription fee for Strava.

Feedly. Because RSS is not dead. I pay a subscription fee for Feedly.

Spotify. Because I find iTunes to be UX nightmare. I pay a subscription fee for Spotify

Google Photos. This is a recent addition that has been on brain for years, but I have the same trepidation as I have with [using Chrome]. What is being done with my data? I could read the terms of service, and I’m reasonably confident Google isn’t sharing my photos with anyone because that isn’t what they want.

Here’s the “Things” album automatically created when I imported my current photo set into Google Photos:

Google doesn’t want to use my photos for anything other than training data. It allows them to learn which of my photos contains skyscrapers, forests, and cliffs. Yes, it’s creepy, but feature provides me unusual and unexpected value because of the variety of new lenses it provides my photo collection. It feels like magic. It’s not magic. It’s machine learning.

Photos Yeah, Apple’s Photos is still on the front page. Oddly, Google Photos doesn’t allow me to mark photos as Favorite, and I use that a workflow step in photo editing. I’m also hoping that Apple’s Photos improves.

Google Calendar Apple’s Calendar app is unreliable and I can not have my calendar not be rock solid. Google Calendar is fine, but I am fully prepared to be amazed by something else.

The four dock applications:

Bear The majority of my writing happens on Bear’s desktop application, but in a pinch, I’ll edit and write on mobile. Bear is the first application that I feel is best of breed on both mobile and desktop. It’s not with small flaws, but neither desktop nor mobile feels like second class. As a human who trades in words, Bear is a dock must-have. I pay a subscription fee for Bear.

Slack I work at Slack. Sooooooooo.

Messages Convenient and handy messaging with all my humans.

Gmail and final thoughts It is my great delight that there is very little mail in my life these days. Thanks, Slack. However, as I finish up this piece, I find it curious how much Apple is on the first screen of my iPhone X. Here’s the default home screen from the iPhone 3GS:

A full screen on the iPhone 3GS was 20 apps. A full iPhone X has 28.

My guess is 20 of the 20 apps on the iPhone 3GS were made by Apple. Yup, even YouTube. This makes sense since it was very early days for the iOS application ecosystem, but fast forward to my iPhone X and here’s the scorecard:

  • Number of “required” Apple system apps on the first home screen: 3 (System Prefs, App Store, and Phone)
  • Number of Apple apps still in play: 4 (Safari, Photos, Clock, and Messages)
  • Number of apps I paid for or am paying for via subscription: 6
  • Number of Apple apps that replaced with another vendor: 7 (Calendar, Maps, Weather, Notes, iTunes, Mail, and iPod)
  • Number of Apple-made maps replaced with Google equivalents: 3.5 (Google Maps, Google Photos, Google Calendar, and Gmail. I gave .5 for photos since I continue to use both apps regularly… which is weird)

You’ll notice in the bottom right corner I leave one spot open.1 I like to think that spot is in play. It’s a hopeful place waiting for the next app.


  1. This is valuable real estate and if I could, I push that empty spot to the upper left, but the home screen hasn’t seen a significant design upgrade in, well, ever.