Revisting ​​Essential

Back in July 2017, I wrote about my 10 essential iOS applications. I thought now that we’re reaching the end of 2018, it might be a good time to revisit that list.

As I mentioned at the time:

I find it helpful to mix things up from time to time, even going as far as doing a reset of my app icon layouts periodically to reshuffle the deck chairs and throw out any old cruft hiding in corners. One of my favorite activities is to delete apps that don’t get used anymore, or used enough to take up my attention.

This time I took the approach of installing only the apps that I know I need on a daily basis, and then filling in the rest as the need for them arise.

A few weeks ago, I took a similar approach but this time with a far more aggressive regimen. I uninstalled nearly every third-party application from my phone. Then I started to analyze the feature/function of every app and determine if the app itself provided something more than just a wrapper around an already functional mobile web site.

I find that having fewer things installed on my devices brings me some joy.

Shopping, banking, social media, travel, news, food, weather, shipping. Almost app categories were fair game. About the only group that was mostly safe were apps that controlled the various smart devices around my house: Nest, Hue, eero, Rachio, Lutron, myQ, etc. 

From there, it was about finding the apps that were the truly essential apps in my workflow:

  • I recently switched to Outlook as my primary email/calendar application. This means I can displace the stock Mail and Calendar apps, as well as remove Fantastical, which was on my 2017 list. Currently, though, I’ve been experimenting with having only my work email in Outlook, and my personal email in the stock app, just for workload isolation. I can’t decide if there is more of less mental friction in keeping them together or keeping them separated.
  • I also have been using Microsoft To-Do as a reminders replacement, mostly because of the Tasks integrations with Outlook on Mac. (However, I’ve been bad recently at actually doing the things in here.) I’ve been comingling work and personal tasks in here. This has replaced Things for the time being.
  • 1Password is simply irreplaceable. You’ll pry it from my cold, dead hands.
  • Then there is Overcast for podcasts. I’ve experimented with alternatives in the last few months from the stock Podcasts app, Pocket Casts, and Castro, and always come home to Overcast for the basic reason that podcasts just sound better in there.
  • And of course, Tweetbot for Twitter. I just can’t quit you.
  • Shortcuts has replaced Workflow after Apple bought them and built much of it into iOS 12.
  • I keep the ads and other trackers away in Safari with Better.
  • I have Parcel setup to automatically track Amazon, FedEx, UPS, and USPS shipments, of which there are many this time of year. (Seriously, the entrance of my house looks like a loading dock right now.)
  • Zoom is a requirement for work.
  • As is Slack.
  • I’d be locked out of both of those without my RSA soft-token.
  • And I love the ability to upload receipts with Concur.
  • While authenticating through Workspace One.
  • AT&T Call Protect has become my new junk filter for phone calls. This replaced Nomorobo from the 2017 list, which is still a fantastic app, but AT&T’s app is network integrated.
  • Finally, despite my new love for Nespresso, I still have a requirement for Starbucks on the go and like to have my order ready as I walk in the door.

From there I started a review with the assumption that I could avoid anything else. Despite quitting Facebook a couple years ago, I’m still on Instagram for close friends and family. I tried for weeks to limit myself to using the web app, in an effort to avoid another app install, but also having it try to entice me to spend more time in it with a dedicated shortcut on my home screen. After trying to limit my usage, I gave in and reinstalled it because it was just too damn hard not to.

I had a similar experience with LinkedIn. The issue there was more around the usability of the website on a mobile device. It was pretty terrible. I’d like to keep this uninstalled but I occasionally end up dropping it back on and then off again. I’ve uninstalled it again recently.

My primary bank has mobile check deposit, and I have family members who for some reason continue to write me checks despite showing the multitude of better ways to transfer money around. So it was a given for reinstall because the only thing worse than writing a check is having to physically go into a bank. So 2007.

I had Microsoft OneDrive installed for accessing work files from my phone, but realized I never used it outside of the native integration of the Outlook app. So, I deleted it. This may return if I find some other reason I was using it.

Target came back, despite my original wipe of shopping applications because of its store card being integrated with the app. The only thing I like more than being able to delete an application from my phone is taking a physical card out of my wallet.

A few other apps that were considered essential in 2017, I’ve since abandoned. Carrot Weather is great, and probably one of the best third-party weather apps on iOS, but I find the stock app to be good enough most of the time. Pcalc is another great app, but I don’t find myself needing to calculate anything so complicated at the stock app can’t get the job done. Cloak was on the list last time and has since been sold and rebranded as encrypt.me. Like many things that get sold, it just doesn’t feel like it has the same level of love and care as the original owners, and so it’s been cut.