I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that, if you’re a nerd with a smartphone, there are likely a number of apps on your device that are there because they’re more cool or trendy than they are useful. Perhaps they’re purely aspirational–you’ll use them one day when you’re a better person.
I’ve been thinking about this lately while examining a few of my habits and trying out some simplified approaches to how I use my devices. I quickly discovered that I don’t need a complicated text editor, an RSS reader, or a dedicated read-later service on my iPhone.
As part of this self-examination, I’ve started to back away from social services like Twitter, and I’ve cut back on how much news I read. This led me to remove most of my RSS subscriptions from my Feed Wrangler account.
In the end, I had so few subscriptions that keeping my smart streams (which is Feed Wrangler parlance for folders) made no sense. Everything fit into one bucket.
Around this time, my friend Sam mentioned he had been giving Safari’s Shared Links a try. I had forgotten all about this feature. It can pull in links from Twitter and from RSS feeds. I moved my RSS subscriptions into Shared Links, and it’s working fantastically for me as a replacement for Feed Wrangler and Unread.
Score: -1 service, -1 app
Once I started using Shared Links, it made sense to give Reading List a try as a replacement for Instapaper. Having everything in Safari is really pleasant.
I lost some functionality in the switch. I used to have Pinboard auto-bookmark anything I added to Instapaper. I also had IFTTT sending all of the blog posts from a couple of sites I really like directly to Instapaper; I didn’t want to miss any of their posts. These things don’t work with Reading List.
After almost a month, I still don’t care. Haven’t missed it once. If I need to bookmark something, I use the share sheet provided by Pushpin. And now that I’m subscribed to fewer RSS feeds, I no longer accidentally overlook posts from my favorite sites.
Score: -2 services, -2 apps
Editorial, while a stunning achievement in iOS development and a wonderful text editor, is overkill for all but a handful of people. Byword, iA Writer, and Drafts are perfectly serviceable. Actually, most people would find Pages more familiar and comfortable.
I settled on Drafts for writing blog posts because it has a few shortcuts I really like and allows for quick jotting of ephemeral notes. I don’t have to care about syncing or tags or Dropbox or a Mac counterpart with Handoff built in or long-term management of text files. Just write some words and send them somewhere with an action or a share sheet. Very simple. Plus, it just feels lighter and less fiddly than Editorial.
If I need a note back on my Mac, there’s always email. Yes, it’s unsexy and not a nerdy solution, but it works and doesn’t require more software that could break or turn into abandonware.
I’m actually surprised that I don’t miss the functionality from Editorial. I had customized the app to such a degree that I thought I wouldn’t be able to live without it.
I’m planning a follow-up post that details how I use Drafts to write this blog.
Score: -2 services, -3 apps
Bonus: Two-Factor Auth
I’ve been a user and a fan of 1Password for years. It was recently updated with the ability to generate “one-time passwords,” which is what apps like Google Authenticator and Authy do. I had been using Authy, but now 1Password handles all my two-factor auth needs, and I have one less app on my phone.
Score: -2 services, -4 apps
The take-away here is that, despite how you self-identify (prosumer, power user, etc.), you might find that stock apps or simpler solutions can work just as well as (or better than) the fiddly, nerd-friendly alternatives. Choosing the simpler setup usually means introducing fewer potential points of failure in your day to day work. That stability could save you more time than any fancy workflow.
Since my last post about moving to the iPhone 6 Plus, two major bugs have appeared. One is new, and one is a recurring thorn in my side.
Reminders stopped syncing
This problem has been happening off and on (mostly on) for years. After setting up my new phone without restoring from a backup, everything worked perfectly, which was heartening. About two weeks ago, that changed. Shared lists stopped updating between my iPhone, my Mac, and my wife’s phone. I had to log out of iCloud on my phone, log back in, and set everything back up to get Reminders to work right again. I’ve given up using it on my Mac, as it’s simply unreliable.
Terrible? No. But it’s pretty damned annoying.
Apple Pay lost all my cards and deactivated itself
I’ve tried to use Apple Pay twice over the last two weeks only to end up staring blankly at my phone while holding up the line and frustrating my cashier. Tonight, after it failed again, I checked Passbook out of curiosity. None of my cards are there. I had entered four. Apple Pay was disabled altogether, and I don’t know why.
Again, terrible? No. But also pretty damned annoying.
Regardless of whether Apple gives us nerds the oft-wished-for featureless upgrade that focuses on stability, here are a few things I’d like to see in the next major iteration of iOS:
- System-wide dark mode
- Dark mode for Reading List at the very least
- Additional formatting options for Reader mode (paragraph width, font families, etc.)
- More adaptations for the Plus screen size in stock Apple apps
- Rotation for the lock screen on the Plus
- Conditional read receipts
- Conditional notifications for Messages (A VIP list? Starred threads a la Mail?)
- Conditional do-not-disturb mode
- Network prioritization
Conditional read receipts, DND mode, and notifications seem like no-brainers.
I have read receipts switched off because I don’t necessarily want everyone to be aware of whether I’ve seen their messages. I don’t need folks second-guessing why I haven’t replied. However, I wish I could switch them on for just my wife.
Same goes for notifications and DND mode. Being able to override these settings for specific people would add a nice level of flexibility (and I’d stop missing texts from my wife, which would be great).