The current state of my iPhone

So I already shared how I use my iPhone in such ways that it doesn’t distract me too much and steals less of my time.

Now I want to give you a quick insight in which apps I use, how I organize my homescreen and which workflows I built on my iPhone.

Organization

Obvious fact first: My most used apps have their spots in the dock. They are easier to reach when they are close to the bottom and they don’t move when I need to swipe to another homescreen page. (Even though I organize my homescreen in a way that only needs one page anyway.)

Other frequently used apps can be found in the first three rows followed by four folders — named by their rough categories or usecases — containing all the remaining applications. I usually put my calendar-, todo-, mail- and reading-apps there, as well as some of the pre-installed apps that I can’t go without. (Photos, Safari, App Store, Settings.) Some things change here from time to time but the base frame always stays the same. Grouped apps start from the second folder page, only the three most used of each category get a place on the first pages. That way I don’t always see all the apps — and therefore all the possibilities my iPhone offers — and I get distracted less often.

Also I’m sure you noticed, that my homescreen layout starts from the second row, which normally isn’t possible in iOS. I not only want it like that because of aesthetical reasons, but also because the apps move closer to my thumb and therefore are less difficult to reach then. It can be accomplished by using a website called makeovr.

Apps

I love testing new apps and I also like paying for them. For all the little things I do with my iPhone, I want to use apps that fit my needs the best. That’s why I’m constantly replacing some or I use different apps for the same purpose simultaneously in order to find out, which one I want to stick with.

Here’s an overview of my current setup:

Moleskine Timepage
Probably the prettiest app on my iPhone. If you are not a heavy calendar user like I am, this app will most certainly offer everything you’ll need and it looks amazing doing this. It’s highly customizable, it comes with different widgets and useful intelligent alarms and it even gained a countdown function, so you can have a quick glance at how many days are left until that event you’ve been waiting for for the past weeks already.
Fantastical 2 is my second recommendation here and it still is a great app, but I really fell in love with Timepage’s design. I still have Fantastical 2 installed though, since I like its calendar widget more than the one from Moleskine.
App Store link: Moleskine Timepage

2Do
My go-to app whenever I need to memorize stuff. Here goes stuff that needs to get done (recurringly) as well as books I want to read or purchases I want to make at some point. 2Do has loads of options while still retaining a UI that doesn’t overwhelm you.
App Store link: 2Do

Airmail
A very powerful app for your email inbox. It supports integration with many other apps and services, forwarding text to a to-do app or saving attachments to a cloud service are just examples of more that can be done. Overall very good-looking with options for customization and support for Siri, rich notifications and keyboard shortcuts.
App Store link: Airmail

Instapaper
One of the big players when it comes to „read-it-later“-services. I really like its simplicity, its reading views and just how reliably it works with share-extensions and how fast it syncs back. Since I don’t need a social community or recommended articles (which can be found in Pocket), I’m perfectly fine with Instapaper. All I need it for is to read stuff later and have a place for all the links I really enjoyed, so I can save and group them there.
App Store link: Instapape

Readder
My current Reddit client. I like to tinker around with these and try out new ones every now and then, but right now this is what I stick with. It lets me quickly switch between my multireddits and it has a night mode that’s easy to activate from most of the screens. Besides that I just like the UI in general and since I’m not a heavy-user, I’m comfortable with the features it has. I personally don’t feel like I’m missing anything big in that regard.
App Store link: Readder for Reddit

PocketCasts
A nicely designed apps for podcast-lovers. I use it on a daily basis, mostly listening to (Apple) hardware and software discussions and podcasts teaching me new stuff about the German language. PocketCasts offers good options to discover new podcasts, it has a time-saving feature that cuts all of these moments of silence between casters, and it recently gained support for rich notifications. That way you can immediately have a look at the show notes whenever a notification for a new episode comes in. I really never had any problems with this app.
App Store link: Pocket Casts

Bear
My new favourite app for everything text-related. Everything goes here, whether it’s a short note or a text I’m working on (this one for example) or even text passages I import from somewhere else via the app’s share extension. I love Bear for its reduced UI and the way it lets you create groups by assigning hashtags to notes. And I also appreciate how easy it is to write in Markdown here. The Markdown support also comes in handy for adding links or creating (to-do) lists in Bear. All of these functions are included when using this service for free. If you want to jump on its subscription model (15,99€ per year), you will also get support for iCloud sync, various themes and export options. I’m a Pro user myself right now and I’m not regretting my decision so far!
App Store link: Bear Notes

Tweetbot
Hands down the best Twitter client you’re gonna find on the App Store. Totally worth its price. It looks beautiful, gives you some options for customization and lets you jump between different tabs very quickly. It was thanks to Tweetbot that I started to use lists and mute keywords and hashtags quite regularly, so I can filter my feeds and don’t have to scroll through content that I’m just not interested in. (Football mostly since German newspaper-accounts are full of it.) The fact that all of these settings and preferences sync back to Tweetbot’s Mac counterpart, just makes it even more convenient and enjoyable to use.
App Store link: Tweetbot 4 for Twitter

From all the apps mentioned above, Instapaper is the only one that needs a user account. I try to use apps and services that don’t necessarily make me create another login, especially when I really don’t see the need for an online user profile. The apps I covered either use iCloud sync or even work with Dropbox to sync data, as it is in 2Do’s case.

I feel like there are many apps out there that confront you with a registration/login screen right after launching it for the first time ever. This, in my opinion, is very counter-productive. Whenever I face an app that acts like this before it lets me do anything else, I instantly delete it again. Many apps (with a required registration) get it right and let you try their functions before or at least explain to the user, why an account is needed.. but many more apps still need to improve.

Workflows

iOS automation is something I’ve been interested in for years now. Some time ago the best you could do was to use apps that support the „x-callback-url“ scheme (Drafts, Editorial, Fantastical, 2Do, Launch Center Pro, etc.). It was a nice workaround to let apps communicate with each other, but it needed some effort to get into it and understand how it works in my opinion. Since 2014 there’s a new big player in that field. Workflow gives users the capability to build workflows in order to automate certain tasks. There are hundreds of different actions that you can choose from and connect with each other. It can be understood by people like me — I have almost no coding experience — since actions don’t even show you what’s actually behind them, they only tell you what they do and describe what they can be used for. Workflow is getting new updates with new features on a regular basis, so if you want to get into it and learn more about, I recommend checking out their new documentation website.

Here’s some of the workflows I built for my personal needs, whether I use them for common tasks or just occasionally:

Upload Homescreen:
I like to see how the look and the content of my homescreen changes over time. Therefore I built a workflow that uploads my last screenshot to a dedicated Dropbox folder right from the app’s Today widget. As soon as it appears in the Dropbox, a Hazel rule triggers and renames the file to its upload time.

Playlists:
Simply lets me choose between a couple of playlists or artists I want to listen to and then starts the to play the according songs randomly.

Open Bear Note:
Directly jumps into Bear notes that I gave shortcuts to in the workflow.

Tweet Song:
Fetches the title and the artist of a currently played song and sends out a tweet that also contains the corresponding cover artwork.

cmd+c:
Lets me choose between a list of common text strings or a list of ASCII characters; what I chose gets copied to the clipboard so it can be inserted somewhere else.

Tour Dates:
Grabs tour dates of my favourite artists from bandsintown (if available) and brings them all together in a new Bear note. I built this because the tour dates are publicly accessible on the website, but the app asked me for a registration in order to use it and get notified. Now, all I have to do is trigger that workflow and scroll through my bear note to see if there’s an upcoming concert I want to watch out for.

Contacts:
Calls my favourite people via phone or FaceTime.

More points I want to have mentioned

  • I allow notifications to as few apps as possible.
  • Everything I do on my iPhone, I try to achieve with as few apps as possible.
  • I am currently trying to force myself to turn my phone off for some hours per day. The only two things I can’t do on my Mac are receiving WhatsApp messages and listening to podcasts, so turning the iPhone off isn’t a big deal actually. I still have to get used to it, since I really became more and more attached to my phone through the years, so much actually that it feels odd whenever it’s shut down and put away. There’s still that constant urge of reaching to it, even if there wasn’t any notification or a sound coming from it. It’s sad that I have let it come that far, but at least I realized now and well.. at some point you need to be honest with yourself and change habits again.
  • No social media other than Twitter and Reddit. I used many platforms the years before and thus I also learned a lot about social media. I recently became increasingly interested in the negative effects it can have on us, as a consequence I read plenty of articles and reflected on what I really need, what I actually benefit from, what I could potentially leave behind. It didn’t take too long to come the conclusion that I wanted to get rid of the majority of what I’ve been using. I said farewell to Facebook (this one was the hardest to leave behind), Instagram, Tumblr and Ello. Twitter and Reddit are what I want to concentrate on henceforth and what I really find a purpose for.

Thanks a lot for reading!

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