The following is a regularly updated catalog of my iOS home screens and Apple Watch faces alongside commentary about notable applications, complications, and wallpapers.
As you may have noticed, there have been some massive changes to the way I organize my iPad’s home screen. It’s an experiment at the moment, influenced by folks like David Sparks and Peter Jang who have optimized their home screen for iOS 11’s new multitasking features. I’ve wanted to give this a try since last fall, but never got around to it until now.
I’m no longer using my beloved linen wallpaper and have replaced it with the default background from El Capitan, which can be found in Stephen Hackett’s macOS wallpaper collection. The linen texture shines as a backdrop for text and icons, but doesn’t hold up well on its own. I was already using the El Cap wallpaper on my lock screen and now that there are no icons or text to obscure it, I thought it was fitting to use on my home screen as well.
I’ve been enjoying the setup so far. At least for the most part. I like having quick access to more applications — twelve in the dock’s top-level, rather than the ten I had before. And I actually like having a folder in the dock where I can place less frequently used applications that I might want to open in Split View — a process which is significantly better when the second app you’re launching is located in the dock. But I don’t really feel like I’m making good use of the system’s capabilities.
On the Mac, I often utilized the desktop as a temporary holding place for all of the files I was working with. They were easy to find — often just a ⌘+H away — and because I kept my desktop tidy, I was never distracted by any superfluous documents. But on iOS, app icons are the only items that can be placed on the home screen and not having any there feels like a waste.
And this home screen strategy also introduces an additional interaction to reach certain apps. A handful of my frequently used apps, that were previously just a single home button click away, now require a swipe and a tap before I can launch them. Having a folder in the dock is useful for quickly launching more apps into Split View, but it can get in the way if you’re just trying to launch an app that could have alternatively been placed on your home screen.
I plan on living with my current setup for now, but in a week or two, there will almost certainly be app icons back on my home screen. I think my best plan of attack is to start moving apps out of the dock that I never open in Split View. That category of apps seems well-suited for the home screen. But I’ll have to see how it plays out when I actually start shifting things around.
I’ve switched back to Tweetbot from Twitterrific. I wrote about it in early March, but in short, the folks at Iconfactory just made too many design decisions that I disagree with. Tweetbot is far from perfect, but it’s much closer than any other Twitter client available.
I’ve also been testing Monochrome for browsing Reddit on my iPhone. I downloaded it upon Matt Birchler’s recommendation and it’s a great app. As Matt notes, it handles GIFs quite well, playing them in-line without having to tap on them first. It sounds like a minor feature, but it really improves the Reddit experience.
I mentioned Calzy in last month’s update and it has become my go-to calculator app. It’s highly customizable and thoughtfully designed. I’m still a huge fan of Llumino and Calcbot, and I’ll probably use them again in the future, but Calzy has been a pleasant change of pace.
I’ve deleted Dribbble and Product Hunt from my devices. They’re decent apps, but I just never launched them. I suspect Dribbble will return when I start doing more web design work, but for now, I don’t need it.
I won’t go into the specifics, but my wife and I used some of our tax return money to open a Wealthfront account. We’ve had our eye on the service for quite some time and now that we own a home, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to start saving for the long-term. Wealthfront’s app is easy to use and looks gorgeous. I’m not going to recommend it exactly — you should always do your own research before making any investments — but I can say that we’ve been very happy with it.
And lastly, I actually have a game installed on my iPhone again — something I typically prefer not to do. But Alto’s Odyssey is just too darn good. For anyone interested, I’m at level 33 and my high score is 123,265.
Still no changes on the Apple Watch front. I’d like to spend a little time searching for some new Watch apps to refresh my setup, but with the massive changes I’ve made to my iPad home screen, I suspect that will capture most of my attention over the next several weeks.
I decided to reevaluate the email clients available on iOS. I tested the following apps:
I eventually settled on Newton. It’s not a huge upgrade over Airmail, but it ticks enough of the boxes that it was worth switching to, at least for the time being. What this little exploration of email apps helped me realize, though, is that there is no definitive email app on the platform. Every single one of them has great, unique features that pull me toward it, but just enough annoyances to keep me from falling in love with the app.
Right now, I consider Airmail, Newton, Spark, and Dispatch to be the leaders in this space and I’ve used each of them full time at various points over the past year. I typically find myself switching email clients every few months and I expect that will continue going forward. That is, unless one of the existing apps makes a tremendous leap in functionality, reliability, and interface design.
I’ve also switched to using Reeder as my Instapaper client. I still have Instapaper’s app installed on my devices for the action extension, but I keep the icon tucked away inside of a folder. My main reason for using Reeder is that it let’s me quickly see how many articles are in my queue without having to enable the app’s icon badge, which helps keep my home screen distraction free.
But it’s not all about a clean home screen. I like that Reeder gives me the option to browse my reading list by domain name. This has helped me eliminate an enormous number of irrelevant articles over the past month — my unread count has gone from nearly six hundred to just a dozen. Based on this alone, I think Reeder is a far superior Instapaper client than the service’s own app.
I’m taking a break from Calcbot on my iPhone and using Llumino for the time being. It’s a beautiful calculator app with a handsome icon and user customizable themes. I‘m currently using the cross effect paired with a dark and light blue theme.
I’ll almost certainly come back to Calcbot eventually, but I was getting irritated by a bug that would cause the app to be unresponsive for a few seconds after hitting the equals button. I know it has something to do with the Calcbot’s history syncing because I can clear the receipt tape to speed it up, but you have to do it manually — there’s no way to limit the number of saved calculations in settings.
I just recently installed Twitterrific to try out the app’s “delete and edit tweet” feature that Nick Heer pointed out to me. I have a lot of opinions about this app and I’ll probably be writing about it soon. But here’s the short version: I will be switching back to Tweetbot, but I’m going to miss Twitterrific’s Project Phoenix icon.
No changes on the Apple Watch front. I’ve put a lot of effort into refining my iOS applications and workflows, but I should be getting back to focusing on wearable apps soon.
1Password has been moved to my second home screen and replaced with Apollo. I knew that I usually interacted with 1Password through the app’s action extension, but I only just recently realized how infrequently I launched the app directly. There was no reason to keep the app on my first home screen when that slot could be filled with an app that I launch more often.
Along those same lines, Workflow is another application that I don’t launch directly all that often. Now that I have a solid base of useful Workflows built up, I typically launch the app through a home screen shortcut, the application’s widget, or action extension. It has been replaced by Paper, which I use to sketch out ideas or to draw crude diagrams for visualizing my thoughts.
After linking to Josh Ginter’s piece on Lire, I went down a rabbit hole of reevaluating the RSS reading apps on iOS. I’ve switched from Reeder to Unread for now. I don’t know if I’ll stick with it long term, but there’s a lot to like about the application. If I find that I have enough to say on the topic, I might be writing about it in the future.
Like on iPad, I’ve also moved Workflow to my second home screen, replacing it with Apollo. And I’m using Unread in the dock instead of Reeder. You might notice that Reeder is still hanging out in my ⌘ folder, that’s what I typically do when I’m trying out replacement apps. This way, if I decide to go back to my old go-to, I don’t have to download and reconfigure it to my liking — it’s already ready to go.
The biggest changes I’ve made are in the second home screen. I’ve completely reorganized these apps, making an effort to keep the ones I use most towards the bottom of the screen and at the top level of each folder.
There isn’t too much differentiating the items in each of those folders. The ⌘ folder only has one page whereas the ⌥ folder has as many as I need to house the rest of my applications. I try to fill the ⌥ folder with Apple’s default applications and apps that can be better thought of as system extensions — widgets, action extensions, primarily Watch-based apps, etc. But that concept isn’t as rigid as it could be. There are a lot of applications in the ⌥ folder that could just as easily live in the ⌘ folder.
The only notable addition to my iPhone’s home screen is V for Wikipedia. I purchased the app after seeing it on Federico Viticci’s home screen and I’m still trying to integrate it into my life. But I’ve realized that I don’t actually use Wikipedia as often as I thought I did. Maybe this past month has been an anomaly, but I’ll keep V around for a little while longer to see if I start using it more often.
Things has become further ingrained in my day-to-day life and because of this, I never found myself using my old modular face with Carrot Weather as the center complication. Initially, I pared it back to the Things-focused Modular face and the Utility Watch face.
I switched to the Modular face when I was at work or trying to accomplish tasks at home and I’d switch to the Utility face whenever I was doing more leisurely activities. This worked just fine, but I no longer had WaterMinder’s complication available on any of my Watch faces. I ended up throwing WaterMinder in my Watch’s dock and also added it to my iOS device’s widgets to increase the number of interaction points and, hopefully, continue tracking my hydration.
The other major addition was the Rose Red-colored Modular face, which I use when I go to bed. I thought it was a good idea to start tracking my sleep and used my old Series 0 to do so at first. But, by switching back and forth between two watches, I started having problems keeping Things in sync. I’ve settled into using my Series 3 for sleep tracking and my day-to-day carry. I set my Watch on the charger for about thirty minutes before I go to sleep and that usually gives me enough charge to make it through the following 24 hours.
The complications on my bedtime Watch face:
- Things, for iPad and iPhone
I’m using the Linen texture wallpaper on my iPhone and iPad that I wrote about back in August.