There are three things you should know about me when you look at this post: one is that I delayed getting a cell phone until age 20 (2004). I then delayed getting a smartphone (iPhone) until 2008 because I was worried it would kill my productivity. What it ended up doing was making me even MORE productive.
Even though smartphones "can" be huge time wasters, and can very easily distract you due to various apps, pop-ups, and games... but if you are holding off on a Droid or iPhone, you would be amazed at the health and productivity benefits you get when you use the "right" apps.
Here are my top nine iPhone apps for this year...
2011 "Health" Apps
#9: AmbiScience Power Sleep & Nap: If you haven't heard of binaural beats, they're special sounds you listen to using headphones. They emit one tone from the left earphone and another from the right, and when they combine in your head, they create special pulses that (depending on what kind they are) can get you more focused, make you more alert, or even put you to sleep. I use these to fall asleep on airplane flights.
#8: MyNetDiary: I don't watch what I eat or how much I exercise religiously or anything, but every now and then I like to see how much water I drank today, along with how much sodium, calories, fiber, and protein I've ingested, plus how much weight I've gained or lost this week. You input everything you eat into this app and it charts all your levels for you.
#7: 100 Push Ups: Three times a week this app tells you how many sets of push-ups (and how many in each set) to do in order to get you to 100 push-ups in 6 weeks. I started out only being able to do 25 push-ups at a time and by week 3 I was up to 80.
#6: Nike+ GPS: Track your runs and walks, what routes you took, how many calories burned, your speed, distance, and all that good stuff. I used this while walking the Zappos.com Las Vegas Rock n Roll Marathon last year.
2011 "Travel" Apps
#5: Kayak: This finds way better deals on flights and hotels than Expedia. Lance and I were recently able to score flights to Thailand for $4K each (first class) when Expedia told us they would be $10K each.
#4: Hulu Plus: For 7 bucks a month, you can stream many TV shows and several documentaries over 3G or Wifi. What's even cooler is this app also runs on the iPad, and the Roku (a box that connects to your TV).
2011 "Communication" Apps
#3: Skype: If someone sends you a text message on Skype, or calls you on Skype (even if it's a video call) it rings onto your phone. And yes, when you answer the Skype call on your phone, you can make it a video call with the user-facing camera, even if you're not on Wifi -- the official "FaceTime" app requires Wifi, but not Skype. You can also send Skype texts and make Skype calls right from the phone.
#2: Find My iPhone: Locate, lock, and wipe your phone if you lose it anywhere.
#1: Amazon.com: Buy things even when you're not at home. I know I mentioned this one last year but it's still cool to be able to send someone a gift while you're waiting for a plane or buy something you forgot at the store. I've ordered some weird stuff lately from Amazon including supplements, Metamucil and grass-fed beef.
Those were my favorite apps for this year... what were your favorites?
Previous Winners from 2010:
I made sure to keep last year's winners in this blog post. All these apps are still great, and I'd still love to know if any of these are your favorite.
9. Tweetie (now "Twitter")
Twitter is usually a huge time waster for me. It tells me about trending topics I don't need to know about, people replying to me who should have emailed, and other peoples' conversations I probably shouldn't even be reading.
So how do I satisfy my curiosity while also staying productive? I usually check Twitter on my phone, while exercising.
8. Amazon.com, Shoot It, and 1800Flowers
The coolest thing about smartphones is that you can buy stuff on them. I'm not talking about those goofy credit card readers, I mean just purchasing something on the phone and getting it shipped to you.
If someone recommends a movie for me at a seminar, I can dial it up on Amazon.com and it'll be there when I get home. I can take a picture of me and the person and use the Shoot It app to send a postcard of that picture for 99 cents that will also be there by the time they get home. And just to keep my girlfriend happy, I can send same-day flowers back home with a couple of taps.
The biggest mistake you can make with a smartphone is to enable email, especially popups when new emails arrive. You'll never get anything done.
For that reason, I sometimes check email on my phone's browser (again, when I'm exercising) but I definitely do not use the built-in mail app. I was having trouble getting it to sync properly in Gmail anyway.
Here's what I do instead: I sync my phone with my Gmail account, but ONLY for the calendar portion. When setting up an email account, I don't choose the "Gmail" option. Instead I use the Microsoft Exchange option.
For the server address, I use m.google.com and for the username, firstname.lastname@example.org. Enable SSL just in case you are on an unsecured Wifi network.
Then (this is important) turn off Mail and Contacts, but turn on Calendars. This way if I add something to my Google Calendar, it will show up on my phone (in iPhone's built in calendar), and vice versa. If I need to check Gmail, I just use the Google App.
Finally, open your browser on the iPhone and go to: http://m.google.com/sync to authorize that particular device to view your shared calendars. A weird step, I know.
By the way, when I do check email on my phone, I almost never open any messages. I just delete emails I'm never going to open like notifications of payments received, some "new subscriber" notifications for the autoresponder sublists of mine I'm monitoring, obvious spam, newsletters I'm going to read, and so on. That way when it comes time to check email "for real" there's a lot less clutter.
6. Sleep Cycle
This is a very strange (but effective) app that I use a couple of times a month to fix my sleep schedule. As a self employed entrepreneur it's really easy to stay up too late or oversleep, and after a couple of weeks waking up at 10 AM, when I want to get back to waking up at 7 AM, this app will do the jobâ€¦ in one night.
Just before you go to bed, you run this app and place the phone face down underneath your pillow. Every time you toss and turn in your bed, the phone makes a note of it. Somehow based on your "tossing and turning" patterns, it can tell if you're awake, dreaming, or in a deep sleep.
What's the point of this, you ask? Do you ever notice how some days you'll get "just the right amount of sleep" while on other days you wake up groggy? When you wake up groggy, you've interrupted your REM cycle, your dream time.
Thirty minutes before the time set on your alarm clock, Sleep Cycle tries to find the best place to wake you up, when you're not dreaming. Sometimes it can't find a good place and interrupts a dream, but more often than not, it wakes me up at just the right time and gets my sleep schedule back in order.
When you're traveling, especially when flying, doesn't it suck to have to carry around a sheet of paper with your flight info, times, and gate information? What if your plane is delayed, early, cancelled, or the gate changes?
With the FlightTrack app, you store your flight number in the phone, and it pops up reminders 2 hours before the flight, an hour before, and when it's time to board. It notifies you of gate changes, delays, early departures, all that good stuff. I like it because when I'm making connections, I compare the gate of my arriving flight and connecting flight after the plane has landed but before it's docked to the jetway.
4. PayPal and CheckCB
Another great way to kill time while you're flying, waiting, or just trying to get motivated is to check your stats and see who's paid you. On some trips I like to be able to see that the trip has paid for itself in passive income before I've even returned home.
CheckCB is an app from Joel Comm that lets you check multiple Clickbank accounts and check your sales for an account in daily or weekly format, or even in what paychecks they're mailed you. PayPal has an "official" app to check your balance, check sales and even "bump" (knock your phone against someone else's) and then send or request money from that person.
Most people don't realize that you can manage and update your blog using a simple desktop application built into Windows starting with Vista. That program is called Windows Live Writer. There are blogging apps for the iPhone that use the same technology. So you can type out and publish posts without having to deal with the interface or a browser.
The only tricky part is enabling it in your WordPress settings -- good thing you have me to guide you. In your WordPress dashboard, go to Settings, Writing, and enable the XML-RPC publishing protocol. Now your blog is ready for the BlogPress app. Just install on your phone, add a blog, set it to the WordPress service providerâ€¦ and enter your username, password, and URL.
I've been using this late at night to post my four daily tasks onto my private accountability blog for the next day.
Many people bought the iPad as a Kindle replacement but what a lot of you don't know is that there is a Kindle app for the iPhone. Sure, it's a tiny screen on a phone but you can still purchase books for 5 to 10 dollars, download them in a few seconds and have a book that doesn't take up any space in the physical world. I can't stand bookshelves.
It's also impossible to lose your place with a digital book. And it's the perfect solution to a long plane ride or boring workout session.
Finally we're at my favorite iPhone app for this year, my new favorite productivity tool. I've always used my phone to jot down notes instead of writing things on pieces of paper I might lose later. Not that long ago in Las Vegas, a speaker at a seminar yelled at me because I was in the front row using my phone. He thought I was Twittering, I was actually writing down something he said onto the phone.
iPhone has a built in notes app, but there's one problem: the notes don't sync to your computer, they're stuck on the phone. Evernote, on the other hand, automatically synchronizes your notes onto their servers as soon as you have an internet connection.
I have Evernote installed on my phone, laptop, and desktop computer. I use it to store my (very small) swipe file, article ideas and email autoresponder ideas. That's it.
At any time I can whip out my phone, add an article titleâ€¦ and the next time I open up the Evernote app on my laptop or desktop, I'll be able to get to it.
Apparently Evernote can also store audio clips the same way it stores text notes, but I haven't tried those yet. I'll let you know how audio dictation works out for me.
Now I've shared my nine favorite iPhone apps with youâ€¦ what's your phone iPhone (or iPad, or Blackberry, or Droid) app and why?