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. 

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11 Responses

  1. I actually agree on the observation that the “productivity app” problem hasn’t been solved yet. Could you please elaborate on that point maybe in a different post?

  2. I moved clock to Control Center and it allowed me to move the app into my “” folder. It took less than 1 work week to get used to.

  3. Simon Tan 6 years ago

    Thanks for sharing! Re: productivity apps, I noticed you don’t have any apps like Dropbox or Box on this screen. Do you use anything like them for work?

  4. Romans 6 years ago

    thanks for this, however feedly app is UX nightmare, take a look at Unread: RSS reader (
    it has very elegant design, and swipes for easy navigation.

  5. If you want a little more flexibility on your home screen layout I have been using this hack and really like it:

    I use a completely black home screen, which on the iPhoneX has the advantage of even more battery life to boot 🙂

  6. Leandro 6 years ago

    Where can I find the background on the first screenshot? Thanks!

  7. I have found Fantastical to be an excellent replacement for Apple’s Calendar app. I use BusyCal on my Mac.

  8. Chip Hifrat 6 years ago

    I must say that I disagree with you about Apple Maps and Apple Calendar. I’m no technical slouch but find the Google equivalents to be just down right a PITA to use (I do like Gmaps multiple location feature though).

    Also, I have the same wallpaper as yours but can you tell me if it’s a leftover from a previous iOS version or was it included with iOS 11? Also, if I change it will I be able to get it back?

  9. Brian 6 years ago

    I agree that the home screen is sacred space. I’ve tried my best to organize my phone for maximum efficiency, and have reserved the home screen for my most essential apps, putting the most essential ones on the lower right, in easy reach of my thumb. My phone features:

    * Folders for productivity, reference, audio/video, financial, shopping, news and travel/transit apps.
    * Clock (native iPhone)
    * Calendar (native iPhone – I like the dynamic day/date display)
    * Google Maps
    * Cozi (family calendar)
    * Weather Underground (best weather app I’ve found that’s free)
    * Google
    * Fitbit
    * Evernote
    * Photos (default iPhone)
    * Notes (default iPhone – since iOS 10 I’ve been using this more and more)
    * Waze
    * Kindle
    * Pocket
    * Day One
    * Safari
    * Overcast

    On the bottom row I have Things (best productivity app I’ve found, though I agree the perfect one is a Holy Grail), Mail (default iPhone), iMessage and Phone (yeah, I still use my phone for phone calls).

    Subsequent pages have settings, storage and utility apps that I use only occasionally.

    I’m also a heavy user of the native Reminders app. Thanks to Siri, I don’t need to keep that on my home page.

    New apps have to meet a very high bar of usability and usefulness. Plus, I’m always mindful of storage restrictions. I try out only a few and keep even fewer.