I know it’s bad to depend so much on a smartphone and one day it just might be the downfall of society blah blah - but honestly I can’t imagine life without one. My iPhone makes things so much easier, leaving me time to enjoy the finer things in life. I don’t pull over at the roadside to check a map; I don’t forget things anymore; and waiting in a queue means I have 5 minutes to learn about great things that interest me.
Here are 5 of the most essential iPhones bits and pieces I couldn’t do without – not just apps, but accessories too.
Assistive Touch (Built-in, Free)
Designed for those with motor disabilities, assistive touch is also fantastic for those of us with a less than perfectly responsive home button. Enable it from General -> Accessibility. Basically, it gives you a special movable button on the touchscreen which can be used instead of the physical home button, and even the other device buttons too.
The argument over Apple creating a software home button instead of a physical one has been raging for years; but after trying this I’m convinced it’s the way to go, with less parts to break in the long run (skeptics might even say this is precisely the reason they won’t ditch the physical button – because it sells more phones!)
Pro-HDR app (iTunes $1.99)
I probably fall into a camp of user that knows absolutely nothing about photography and therefore I believe anything is more awesome when it’s in HDR. For those of you even more clueless than me – High Dynamic Range photos combine two or more images taken at different exposure – in layman’s terms, a dark and a light photo. This enables them to capture a greater range of vision. To understand this, try pointing your cameraphone out the window on a bright day: you’ll be able to see the detail of the sky, but the window frame and anything else indoors will black out. Conversely, try pointing it back inside, to the curtains or something. You’ll get the darker detail back, but the window will white out, obliterating the lovely sky. HDR means you take both photos, and have the best bits of both combined into one image.
Pictures speak louder than words though; here’s the same shot of my desk and window with the regular camera app, and Pro-HDR – no other adjustments were made.
One thing to bear in mind when using the app is that it’s going to take 2 shots; any movement betweent the two will severely reduce the sharpness of the final image. Which bring me onto my next essential.
Glif Tripod Adapter ($20) and Generic Bendy Tripod (<$50)
The bendy tripod – the most famous of which is the GorillaPod (though I don’t think that’s what I have) is incredibly useful, but they’re not designed for smartphones. That’s where the Glif comes in; after a successful Kickstarter project, the Glif is a simple and versatile way to fix your iPhone to a standard tripod; essential for capturing decent images on a smartphone camera. The Glif also doubles as a mini stand for watching movies and such, though I can’t say I use it like that very much.
Turn by Turn Navigation
I recently bought my first car, but having spent the majority of my adult life motorbiking about Japan, I have a hard time knowing the roads of where I now live in London; it takes all my effort just to not die in roundabouts (seriously, who invented such a ridiculous death trap)! The navigation software I use is called Don’t Panic by Mireo, which I was given for review but haven’t had any others to compare with – it’s functional enough for me though. If you would like a full round up of turn by turn software, it’s definately something we can look into some more.
Don’t forget that iOS6 will come with built-in turn by turn navigation if you have an iPhone 4S or iPad 3. I’ve yet to get a car mount to test this on the iPad, but from initial impressions and other reviews it seems quite capable.
Due (iTunes – $4.99)
I did a full review of Due a while ago, and it’s one of those app that has really stuck with me. I love the way it allows really quick entry of events with natural language (meet in town next saturday at 11am) and seamlessly melds a to-do list and calendar-like experience. Postponing tasks is easy with the handy “hour later”, “day later” quick icons, and crossing items off the list too is quite satisfying. I can honestly say I’ve stopped using Calendar and switched appointments and reminders entirely over to Due. Best of all, I can add items on my desktop, and they sync automatically across iCloud to my phone.
My other daily apps? Byline and BBC News (both featured on our Best Of Apps page). Byline is a superb RSS reader to interface with Google Reader. I use Reeder on the iPad, but prefer Byline for my iPhone for some reason; speed, maybe. With hundreds of tech stories to glide through daily, a speedy interface with gestures is crucial. BBC News gives me live news video streaming anytime of the day, a great distraction for when I notice the washing is piling up.
I don’t have an iPhone 4S, so you’ll notice Siri is decidedly absent from this list. If I did, Siri would probably be here too. I am however in the process of researching Siri on the iPad, so hopefully I’ll have a complete guide ready for you when iOS6 is released to the public. Until then, do you have any essential bits of iPhone kit that you couldn’t live without?