The single most asked question of all time….since 2008 (Part 1)

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I’m sorry, that title is a lie; I’ve just thought of a question more suitable for this forum. So, the second most frequently asked question I’ve been getting since 2008 is, “Which apps do you use on your iPhone?”

First, let me talk about my setup. At this very moment I am typing on my late-2011 15-inch MacBook Pro, I’ve got an iPhone 5 sitting on my desk to my right (which just caught my attention because someone is messaging me), an iPad mini on my left and a third-generation iPad with Retina display somewhere in this room. To be honest, I lost track of its location shortly after the mini came out.

Those are my main machines. The tools I wield to smith daily tales of glory and woe.

The device that gets the most use is my iPhone, has been since the 3G came out in 2008. Coincidentally, Apple’s App Store first debuted in that very year, giving me access to literally tens of apps! (The actual number is closer to 500, but most of those were of little to no use.)

Once big-name third-party developers jumped on the bandwagon, however, there’s been no stopping the veritable deluge of titles, which now sits at over 775,000. From work, to play, to organization, to play, to communication, to play, there’s a bunch of great apps out there. Especially for play.

I normally keep a core set on my iPhone and rotate out others to spare my right thumb from swiping through pages and pages of apps.

In this installment, I will list just a few from that very vital group. More importantly, some notes on organization:

Layout: Order is key when selecting which apps go where on your phone or tablet. You don’t want them strewn about all willy-nilly; you want them nicely arranged, preferably with frequently used apps located within quick striking distance of your thumb. I call this area of the screen “The Ring of Fire” for obvious reasons. While Apple claims the iPhone 5’s size is great for one-handed operation, I disagree as my shakers are small and child-like. Therefore, I’ve dubbed the area that is outside of my right thumb’s reach “The Nether Regions.” See inset below.

iPhone screen

“The Ring of Fire” (left) and “The Nether Regions” (right, ironically represented as fire).

My iPhone’s pages, save for the homepage, contain rows of apps, three of which are set to the right of a custom folder arranged by category. For example, page two starts with the News row, which has a folder of news readers. To the right, outside of the folder, are three News apps I open on a near daily basis. The News row is followed by the Games row, which is above the Shopping row, and so on.

Homepage: What you’re looking for here is a clutch of apps that you use most frequently, because this is the only page, outside of the iOS universal search asset, that can be accessed quickly via the physical Home Button. Here I like to keep a number of apps outside of folders. Many are Apple’s first-party apps, but you can of course select whichever apps tickle your fancy.

Apple Screen

Other Pages: As described above, I keep subsequent pages tidy with a clever utilization of iOS folders. Notice how the poorly generated Photoshop arrow in the image below points to the left, toward my custom folders, representing the frequency with which I access these apps (most used on the far right).

Apple Usability

Springboard: Finally we have the Springboard, sometimes referred to as the Dock, which is the always-present four-icon row at the bottom of an iDevices screen. Here I store the truly crucial apps that are accessed many, MANY, times each day. I’ve created a little folder called “Daily Stuff” because I felt four spaces wasn’t enough. A common problem.

A dusting of apps:


There is a glut of RSS readers out there, but this is perhaps the best implemented I’ve come across to date. Great fonts, clean layout and good cross integration with other apps like FacebookEvernote, Readability, Pocket and a host of others. Navigation is excellent, with a largely gesture-based input system including swipes and pull-downs that come with smooth animations. Definite must-have for anyone using RSS to check website updates. Price: $2.99


If you’re tired of Google’s YouTube app dynamically down-sampling content without your control, Jasmine is a great alternative. Not only can you select from a variety of connection-agnostic video resolutions, but the app’s design is beautiful. If you have unlimited data, or love watching videos that you can actually see instead of blobs of pixels marching about the screen, this YouTube client is near perfect. If, however, you are partial to watching low-resolution and/or horribly aliased content when using cellular data, then stick with Google’s offering. Price: Free


If you have multiple or unique passwords for every site you visit or account you have, as you should, 1Password is the only app you’ll need to create, manage and access those alphanumeric codes. There’s a built-in password generator that features a fairly robust “password recipe” system, allowing users to select length, number of numerics and symbols, and even whether the string is pronounceable. In-app functions include syncing with Dropbox, iCloud or Wi-Fi (if you have the desktop client), as well as a built-in secure web browser. Price: $17.99


The best to-do list. Ever. Simple, clean, and with nifty sound effects, Clear delivers. As the name implies, your goal is to clear a list of to-do items. They can be arranged in any way you see fit, and the app supports multiple lists. Pull down to create a task, pinch to navigate between lists, swipe to clear a finished item. Now with iTunes syncing. Price: $1.99

Wrap-up…for now

The preceding was but a taste of the essential apps that should, in my opinion, be on every iPhone. Come back next month for the full list as well as some deep cuts.

And finally, as a treat for those who have read this far, an answer to the single most asked question since 2008: My hair is naturally this bodacious.


Mikey Campbell is the Editor at Apple Insider. Look for his Planet OtterBox post the first week of every month.
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About the author



Mikey Campbell is a self-professed tech geek. Perhaps it was the "100-in-one" electronic learning kit his father gave him as a child, or some genetic disposition to solder, but his need to break into a shiny new gadget cannot be stopped. After graduating from college with a degree in journalism and working a brief stint at a local daily print publication, he explored his roots in Japan for three years; making countless visits the electronics sanctuary that is Akihabara. When he's not tearing down perfectly good hardware, Mikey is out taking artsy photos or hitting the beach in his home town of Honolulu, Hawaii. Mikey is currently an editor for Apple news site AppleInsider.

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