The following is a regularly updated catalog of my iOS home screens and Apple Watch faces alongside commentary about notable applications, complications, and wallpapers.
The primary focus for my home screen changes over the past month has been subtle refinements of my existing setup — small optimizations to app placement to give me easy access to the apps I use most. I actually referenced iOS 12’s Screen Time feature in the Settings app to help me determine what my most frequently used apps were and then made adjustments to my existing layout based on that information.
The results weren’t too drastic, it turns out I already had a pretty good handle on what I use my iPad for. But I demoted Terminology, 1Password, and Blink into my ⌥ folder. Those are three apps that I’m incredibly passionate about, but it turns out I don’t launch them very often. In the case of 1Password, I use it everyday, but almost exclusively through the app’s action extension.
The demotion of those three apps gave me the opportunity to surface Instagram, Screens, and Pages to the top level of my home screen. Instagram was an app that I was trying to hide from my home screen to limit my usage. But over the summer, everyone’s posting beautiful vacation photos and I’m finding myself launching the app more frequently. And I’m not sure if my time away from the app or the increased number of photos in my timeline had any influence on the service’s advertising algorithm, but I haven’t seen nearly as many annoying ads in my feed.
I also swapped the locations of Edit and Bear. I rarely make changes to my device’s dock, but I find myself tapping on Edit’s icon at times when I previously would have launched Bear. And my Screen Time statistics back that up. I’ve spent about an hour-and-a-half in Edit over the past week and less than half-an-hour in Bear. That’s a testament to Edit’s utility — despite its relatively small feature set, I still spend more time using it than the vast majority of the apps on my iPad.
The only adjustment I’ve made to my iPhone home screen is the addition of Vekt and Happy Scale on my second screen. I should be working on a piece relating to weight tracking apps soon and these two are on my short list of apps to consider.
I moved some apps around based on usage, but the biggest change was deleting Infuse from our Apple TV. It’s a beautiful app with a lot of nice features, but the app didn’t do a great job of tracking our playback between devices. We’d frequently have to manually select the next episode because the app didn’t offer it to us. I also wasn’t happy with its Top Shelf extension, which put too much of a focus on recently added items instead of on shows we’ve been watching lately.
I’m not thrilled about going back to the Plex app — it’s still a bit clunky. But it’s much more reliable than the alternatives and that’s more important than aesthetics.
I installed the watchOS 5 beta late in the month and haven’t made any changes aside from adding the Siri watch face to test out all of its new capabilities. My initial impressions aren’t great, though. Maybe this will change when iOS 12 launches and more apps are built with the Siri face in mind, but in its current state, I haven’t found the Siri face to surface enough relevant information to supplant my other watch faces.
Nothing too massive this month. I’ve reinstalled Slack on my devices to keep up with the Jeff Perry’s Tablet Habit channel and to touch base with some of the groups that I was once fairly active in. That pushed Workflow into my ⌥ folder where it likely belongs. I’m a massive fan of Workflow and use it everyday to help me get my work done, but I rarely launch the app directly. Most of my interaction with Workflow is through the action extension and widget.
The most important new addition to my iPad is K.Q. Dreger’s Edit app, which I published my review of shortly after its release. In short, it’s an app that focuses on the act of writing instead of storing text. You only get a single text field and it utilizes the system’s share sheet to send that text to other apps for long-term storage, publishing, or whatever you’d like to do with it. I use Edit to jot down short-term notes, compose tweets, and draft replies. It’s a great app that just about anyone could benefit from using.
With the inclusion of Edit on my home screen, I’ve moved my Instagram shortcut into the ⌥ folder. I’ve been trying to reduce my usage of Instagram lately because I don’t really like what my timeline has become. I see far too many ads, of which very few of them are relevant to me, and I just find myself feeling depressed when scrolling through it. I’ve taken some steps to try and improve the experience — following more photographers that publish beautiful, inspirational shots — but it hasn’t helped as much as I’d like it to. The best thing I’ve found is to just launch the app less frequently.
As I’ve done on the iPad, Edit has been added to my first iPhone home screen and I’ve moved Instagram to my second page. And given its less prominent location, I’m no longer using the Workflow shortcut to launch the app. I’ve moved Noisli into my ⌘ folder since I’ve been listening to 8- and 16-bit video game music on YouTube while I work lately, instead of the usual white noise.
I’ve also shifted Workflow and Coda into my folders to make room for Slack and Video Games by iCollect, which I expect to write a review of soon. But in short, it’s a video game database app that’s helped me keep track of my collection.
The only change I’ve made on the tvOS front is the installation of Scoreboard, which I use to keep track of board and card game scores. It has a simple, easy to use interface and a major advantage compared to keeping score on paper — everyone playing can see the scores without having to ask the scorekeeper to call them out.
Only one minor change to watch faces this month, I’ve moved Vekt to the dock and placed the Breathe complication on my Activity Digital face. I’d like to incorporate more meditative breathing in my life, but for some reason, the Breathe app’s notifications have been broken for me. I haven’t received anything other than the weekly summary notification in a month or two. Adding the complication to one of my watch faces will increase its visibility and hopefully result in more frequent usage.
I’ve made a handful of minor changes to my iPad’s home screen over the past month — shuffling around some applications based on their frequency of use. Fantastical and 1Password have graduated to the top-level of my home screen. They’re two apps that I use often enough that having them hidden in a folder just didn’t make any sense.
I’ve also demoted Pandora, Screens, and the TV app into my ⌥ folder. Pandora is an application that is most often used when we have guests at the house. And when we have guests, my iPad usually sits out of the way on my bedside table — on the opposite side of the house from our living room and kitchen. It’s much easier to play Pandora on the Apple TV where everyone can see the album art and interact with the media playback controls. From there I can send it to our HomePod or just play the audio through our home theater speakers.
Screens doesn’t see nearly as much use as it used to. My in-laws spend most of their time on their iOS devices now, so I don’t get as many tech support calls from them as I used to. And even if I did, Screens wouldn’t be of any use to me.
As for the TV app, my wife and I use it almost every night during dinner. We sit out on our patio, eating something delicious off the grill, and watch whatever TV strikes our fancy. But I’ve started initiating playback from the TV apps Today View widget instead of launching the app directly. This frees up a bit of space on my home screen and still gives me easy access to our media.
As you may have noticed on my iPad home screen — or my various references on Twitter — I’ve started using Day One. I’ve had the app in the back of my mind for years, but for whatever reason, I never took the time to just sit down and start using it. But I’m glad I finally did.
There are two key reasons I wanted to start using Day One. I wanted to take more photographs and I thought having a place to keep them alongside notes and commentary regarding the events around the photo would be a huge incentive to actually take more photos. And I wanted a way to keep track of the work I do throughout the day to help myself feel a bit more accomplished.
As of this writing, I’ve only had Day One on my devices for five days, but it has already integrated itself into my life. I’ve taken more photos in the past week than I had in the previous month and I feel great about the work that I’m doing. I don’t know if this momentum will be sustainable, but I’m hoping it is.
Day One has become the punctuation marks to my life. Whenever I finish anything of note, I reach for my iPhone to jot down my thoughts on the experience, insert a photo, type in some tags, and I’ll be able to recall that exact moment for years to come. That’s a powerful feeling.
And just like I’ve done with my iPad, I’ve shuffled around some apps on my iPhone’s home screen. I’ve deleted V for Wikipedia. I’ve had the app installed for months and I just never use it. It’s so much easier to open Safari, type in a search term alongside “!w” and let DuckDuckGo redirect me to the Wikipedia results.
I’ve also switched back to Apollo from Monochrome to maintain consistency between my devices, demoted LongScreen into my ⌘ folder, and moved Noisli onto my second home screen page to better represent their actual usage.
Notable Changes: I went on a bit of a shopping spree, buying a handful of games that I’ve had saved in Lookmark for months. I’ve also moved some applications around based on how frequently my wife and I actually launch them.
I’ve purchased Dandara, AG Drive, Inside, and Zen Pinball. Of the bunch, I’d recommend checking out AG Drive — it’s a fun, fast-paced racing game that’s reminiscent of F-Zero. I can’t say much about the rest, I haven’t actually spent a lot of time with them — they’ve only been on my Apple TV for about a week and we’ve been fairly busy with outdoor, house-related projects.
I’ve also uninstalled the Lowe’s TV app. I thought I would find it more useful since we’re still fairly new homeowners, but I usually just end up searching for videos on YouTube instead. The videos I find on YouTube tend to be of similar quality when compared to the ones produced by Lowe’s and I get a much larger selection of videos to choose from.
I finally took some time to adjust and optimize my Apple Watch setup. I’ve added two more watch faces and have made some changes to the ones I had been using. Each of my watch faces is designed with an activity in mind and I’ll run down each of them alongside the complications used.
- Multicolor Modular: Used throughout my work day to help me keep track of tasks. Utilizing the Date, Things, Activity, Carrot, and WaterMinder complications.
- Apricot Utility: For use at social gatherings where I want to class it up a bit with an analog face. Utilizing the Activity, WaterMinder, Date, and Carrot complications.
- Flash Modular: For use in most other scenarios throughout my day — my general-purpose watch face. Utilizing the Date, Carrot, Activity, Timer, and WaterMinder complications.
- White Activity Digital: This is my fitness-focused watch face that I use when I go for walks with my wife, do yoga, or just about any other physical activity. Utilizing the Workout, Vekt, and Cardiogram complications.
- Rose Red Modular: This is the watch face I use for sleeping. Because my tracker of choice — Sleep++ — is able to track my sleep without any inputs, I don’t even use any complications on this watch face.
It’s worth noting that, since I’m using so many watch faces with a myriad of complications, I only have two apps in my dock — Now Playing and PCalc. If I want to launch any of the other apps on my device, I simply switch to a watch face that features it as one of its complications.
I mentioned in last month’s update that I felt like I wasn’t utilizing the system to its fullest and it eventually pushed me to moving app icons back to my home screen. I still think it was a worth-while experiment, though. As you can see, I still have a larger number of icons in my dock and I’m only using one home screen instead of the two I did previously.
Having thirteen apps in my dock is just so much more convenient than the ten I had before. Quick access to a few more apps wherever I am in the system has been a nice little upgrade for me. But I’m glad I moved the folder back to the home screen and unpacked some of the apps it contained.
Having a folder in the dock seems like a neat idea, but in practice its not much better than jumping back to the home screen. There’s a limited number of apps that I actually use in Split View and every app that lives in the folder requires one additional interaction to access compared to an app on the home screen — swipe up for the dock and tap open the folder instead of simply clicking the home button.
I’ve uninstalled Scorekeeper and Alto’s Odyssey from my iPhone. Scorekeeper was an important tool for me to keep track of freight at my day job, but as some of you may know, my last day was April 16. I’m still learning on Treehouse and plan to pivot into web design over the next few months.
As for Alto’s Odyssey, it’s still one of the best games on the platform, but I don’t need another distraction on my iPhone. In its place, I’ve decided to install Noisli, a nifty white noise application that let’s you save custom noise combinations. When I’m writing, I toss in my AirPods, and turn on my Focus preset, which is a combination of rain, thunder, wind, and fan sounds.
A new addition to my monthly home screens update — tvOS. I’ve considered it all month and came to the conclusion that I should have included the platform from the very beginning.
Current home screen apps:
- Alto’s Odyssey
- WWE Network
- Lowe’s TV
- Horizon Chase
- Drawful 2
- App Store
Almost no changes on the Apple Watch front. I’m still wearing it everyday, but the state of third-party apps and complications is pretty stagnant. The only change I’ve made since last month is changing the date complication on my utility face to the one that includes the day of the week.
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.