29 Apps Later: My Top iPhone Apps

What’s on your iPhone?

In a recent spate of emails, several of us were recommending apps to a person who was getting his first iPhone.  I have lots and lots of apps, but the ones below are the non-built-in ones I use the most.

Photo Mar 17, 6 07 13 PMFinding someplace to eat

  • AroundMe
  • Yelp
  • Google Places
  • OpenTable
  • UrbanSpoon
  • Starbucks


  • TrueHDR (this is the only non-free app listed)
  • PS Express (Photoshop for iOS)


  • New York Times
  • Washington Post
  • Associated Press


  • Google Voice
  • Twitter
  • Facebook


  • Evernote (A great tool for remembering stuff)
  • Dropbox


  • Kindle


  • WWOZ
  • Pandora
  • Public Radio
  • Shazam

Shopping & Travel

  • Cardstar (get rid of all those tags you carry on your keychain)
  • Orbitz
  • Kayak
  • Amazon


  • IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base)
  • iPark (Find your car)
  • Google Earth
  • Cogs

Top 5 Free Apps for Mac

The Mac App Store makes shopping for software fun.  Here are my picks for the top 5 free apps for the Mac.

  1. Caffeine:  Fading the screen to save power is a good idea, but sometimes you don’t want that to happen.  Caffeine keeps your screen awake with a single click.
  2. Text Wrangler:  A darn good text editor from the makers of BBedit.  I like it almost as much as UltraEdit.
  3. Ringer:  Take any song in iTunes and make it a ring tone. It uses a waveform view that makes it easy to pick out the right snippet.  Options allow fade-in and fade-out.  At the end, it drops the results right back into iTunes to be transferred to your phone.
  4. Stuffit Expander:  An easy to use toolbox for dealing with all of the file compression and archiving formats.
  5. MiroVideoConverter:  It converts video formats. It’s a lot easier to use than ffmpeg and gets pretty good results.

I’m always looking for things that make my computer easier to use. What apps do you recommend? What’s on your list?


*The apps were free when I downloaded them.  They may no longer be so.

Getting started with Google Voice

For a long time, a cell phone was the way to make long distance calls for "free".  Well, free as in I've bought a bunch of minutes that are not tied to a particular destination, and I've paid in advance, so it's cheaper than my Costco long distance plan on the land line.  Now, however, I'm running out of those minutes and am looking to my landline for some of my calling needs.  Google Voice has come to my rescue.

Here's how it works:  I created a Google Voice (GV) account with my cell phone as the primary phone, and only phone enabled for incoming calls.  The landline was added as another phone.  When I want to call someone, I use the GV website to call them.  The calling process is that GV first calls a phone I specify (i.e., the landline) then connects it to the called party.  As far as both ends are concerned, it's an incoming call.  Cell phones may eat minutes for incoming calls but landlines (at least, as far as I know about my own billing plan) don't.  

I signed up for GV to have a "business" phone number I could use that's independent of the numbers I'm otherwise assigned (cell phone, landlines, etc.) and for the useful features. Google Voice has lots of useful features — call screening, assignable voice mail messages, voice mail transcription, ring to more than one phone — but this one will save me real money. 

How does Google make money with this?  My wife says Google is selling information about who I know — mapping my networks by monitoring who I call and who I email.  Probably. Is that worth something to someone?

Tracking My Time with Toggl

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Today was a busy day. I was working on six different projects for two different clients. Nothing is unstarted and nothing is done; it’s all a work in progress.  How can I keep track of it all?  Toggl.

I’ve been using Toggl for free for almost a year now. I get enough value from it that I upgraded to the “pro” version.

What is Toggl?

Toggl is designed for effortless time tracking. You can easily capture fragmented worktime. Switching a task or creating a new one is as simple as one mouseclick.  It’s a cloud based service that’s accessed via web browser or desktop client (Linux, Mac, and Windows) or an app.  Enter what you’re doing and click start. When done, click stop. If you’re picking it up again later, click continue. Tasks are grouped by client and project.  The website can generate reports suitable for printing or as CSV downloads.

Toggl is not just for consultants.  At the end of the day (or week, or month, or year) it gives you a way to look back and see how you’ve spent your time. Toggl is a  great tool.

My iPhone 4 report

It’s been a bit over 3 weeks since I’ve had my iPhone 4 and it’s a keeper.  That’s not to say it was all sweetness. The first phone I got had issues.  I’d put it next to another iPhone 4 and compare the famous “AT&T Bars”.  I usually had half the bars of the other phone.  The battery was also a bit weak… It would often drain overnight.  Apple swapped the phone at a nearby store and the new one seems to be OK.  There’s still a power issue, but that traces to using push notification for two Exchange Active Synch accounts.  If I have the accounts enabled for push, the phone seems to spend a lot of time and power synching. It’s almost always warm.  Since I changed the synching to manual fetch, the phone is cool and the battery lasts for days, not hours.  I wish there were some happy medium.

The Grip-of-Death issue is real. If I hold the phone in either hand and cover the lower left corner, I can say goodbye to my AT&T signal (and whoever I might be talking to).  My free bumper case is on its way, according to a shipping notice from the Apple store.  It’s going to take about 10 days to get here.  Last time the post office scanned it, it had been sent from Tennessee to Georgia on its way to Chicago.

IMG_0014Face Time is pretty amazing.  It works pretty much like on the commercials.  The key to using it is to hold it in front of and slightly above your face. If you hold it low, you present a double chin and give a nice view up your nostrils.  It also has a gyroscope. I’m not sure what there is to do with it yet. There’s a gyroscope app, but what’s the point of that?  It’s bound to be integrated into something, soon.

Evernote: I get it!

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in7BPS.Lel1EI’ve had Evernote on my phone for a long time, using it to send lists of things from my desktop to the phone, like all of my frequent flier, hotel, and rental car numbers. And, before a trip, I’d paste the itinerary mailed by Orbitz into a new note, so it would be available on both the phone and notebook as I traveled. Today, I had one of those forehead slapping experiences. As Homer would say, “D’oh!”

I had a couple of ideas for blog pieces. I was going to email them to myself, but I know that email, once read, falls off the mind’s radar. Instead, I created a new note in Evernote called “Blog Ideas”. Now, I have a couple of to-do lists, notes for iPhone apps, if I ever learn how to make them, and a few more things. As a side benefit, this will reduce the amount of shredded paper that shows up in the dryer’s lint screen — the inevitable product of little notes I stuff into my pockets.

How do you use Evernote?