Comment – Do I Use Phone Apps

I was surprised how few iPhone App’s I actually use.

The Apple iPhone has been warming my pocket for the last six months. Yes, I find some of its features (or lack of them) frustrating, but in general it is good to have a smartphone rather than my old Nokia E71 with its outdated operating system.

And right there, in the last part of that sentence, is an interesting fact: one of my main reasons for changing phones was that I kept seeing web sites offer app’s for every handset OS except the Symbian (the one the Nokia E71 used).

I am a tidy person; some would say, an overly tidy one. Desks I work at are empty of paperwork unless it is unavoidable. I have a structured filing system for all the documents on my computer. My email in-boxes are bare, with new mail being filtered into various folders. It is the same with my iPhone home screens. I have three of them and none are filled top to bottom with icons. They work like this:

  • Screen 1: Applications I use all the time.
  • Screen 2: Applications I use now and then.
  • Screen 3: Folders for dumping applications I have stopped using.

This arrangement makes it very easy to check what additional things I have loaded onto my handset to make up for the missing features. The answer is rather surprising, very few. In fact there are only five applications that I have added to the ones provided by Apple and only two of those actually give me extra features; the rest are for web based services I already use.

Here is a more detailed breakdown (in order of usage):

  • Hootsuite – I use this web site for Twitter, Facebook and Facebook Pages.
  • Downcast – allows me to subscribe to podcast without connecting to a computer.
  • Audible – so I can listen to audio books.
  • Facebook – for anything on the site beyond the basic newsfeed access Hootsuite gives me.
  • Expenses by Kimble – allows me to keep track of what I spend and email the data as a spreadsheet.

Even more telling is that only two of these are left running all the time: Hootsuite and Downcast.

At the other end of the scale are thirty two app’s that fill up the folders labelled Junk 1, Junk 2 and Junk 3. Most are free applications (I think I’ve only paid for three of them) I downloaded for a specific task and have had no use for since.

Does this mean I should not have got so annoyed about my old handset failing to offer the latest app’s? No. The likes of Hootsuite are worth the change alone. Does it mean that for all the suggestions that the iPhone does little straight out of the box (‘You’ll need an app’ for that.’) it is actually well kitted out? Partly. In my opinion it was only with the release of iOS5 that Apple finally provided a reasonable package. (Previously, for example, there was no to-do list application and no way to natively create folders within the photo album.)

While I suspect it is not as easy for everyone to spot the gap between the applications they download and those they actually use, I do not think I am the only one with such a disparity. My next task is to start questioning friends.