My most used iPhone and iPad Apps in 2013

Ok, it’s the end of another year (wow, 2013 went by fast!), so it’s time for another look at what apps I actually used during the year. There are a ton of apps available and new ones are coming out all the time. Honestly I think I have app exhaustion. I just upgraded my iPhone and during the upgrade I took advantage of it to not bring all the apps I had before over to the new phone. Simplify my life a little.

I won’t say these are the best apps or even the coolest apps out there, but they are the apps I use almost everyday. For the iPhone:

  • Evernote – Still my number one app. Evernote is a note taking app that sync’s notes between my laptop, iPhone and iPad. If you do not have it go get it now.
  • Google Search – love the voice search mode, much better than Siri
  • Googe Maps – was using the mobile browser version, but now they have a nice app
  • Google Authenticator – please tell me you have 2-factor security turned on for your gmail
  • Google Chrome – much better browser and it links up to my browser on my laptop
  • Waze – free navigation tool, but I can say on my last few trips during the holidays Waze had issues connecting to it’s routing server so I ended up just using Google Maps. I missed out on the police notifications, but at least Google Maps worked.
  • TripIt – can’t be beat when traveling
  • Kindle – don’t like reading on my phone, but works great on my iPad
  • Dropbox – online storage
  • Box – online storage
  • Skype – I have a remote team so Skype is essential for communication. With DC traffic I end up running late sometimes so I can just open up Skype and dial in (hands free of course) to the Skype call from my phone. I have learned it is better to have someone else start the call when I do this, just in case I drop the call.
  • Keynote, Pages, and Numbers – I hate working on my iPhone, but I can and have in a pinch. Keynote, Pages and Numbers work well and I love them on my iPad and MacBook Pro.
  • Twitter – cause sometimes you just have to share and Facebook keeps changing their privacy policies (I do not even have the Facebook app on my phone).
  • Reminders and Calendar – these are the applications that are native to iOS. I was using apps for this functionality, but Apple has caught up and the native apps they provide more than meet my needs now.
  • Rdio – I have all my music in the cloud (Amazon, Google and iTunes Match) but I still find Rdio handy for music I don’t own and I have been using it more than the iOS Music app lately.

And here are the apps I find I use the most on my iPad at work:

  • Keynote – Apple’s version of PowerPoint
  • Numbers – Apple’s version of Excel
  • Pages – Apple’s version of Word
  • Evernote – note taking app that sync’s notes between my laptop, iPhone and iPad. Again, go get it now if you don’t have it!
  • Skype – IM and web calls
  • Adobe Connect, joinme, and Fuze – online meetings for when we need to screen share
  • Google Search – love the voice search mode, much better than Siri
  • Google Chrome – much better browser and it links up to my browser on my laptop
  • Kindle – I love the feel of a real book, but this way I always have my ebooks with me
  • Dropbox – online storage
  • Box – online storage
  • Feedly – news reader
  • BBC News – for news of course

And on my Mac I find I use:

  • Evernote – sync’s note between all my laptops, my iPad, and iPhone (also works with droid)
  • Google Chrome – best browser out there still
  • Caffeine – let’s me turn off the auto sleep mode when I am giving a presentation
  • Window Tidy – allows me to have screens side by side in an easy quick way. Honestly I haven’t used it much this year…
  • Pocket – allows me to save articles I find to read later
  • Skype – with our distributed team at work we are on Skype all day every day for IM and calls
  • Box and Dropbox – again
  • ClamXav – antivirus for Mac
  • And I find I am actually using the native iOS Calendar and Reminder apps on my MacBook Pro now.
  • Oh, you are using Grab (in the utilities folder under applications)for capturing screen shots, right?

If the apps I use aren’t what you are looking for you can find the Apple Design Award winners from WWDC2013 at (and I agree Letterpress is addictive).  And Apple has their best of 2013 up on the iTunes store now.

Hope the list is helpful. Happy New Year!

iPad is one of the safest computing devices you can use

I haven’t addressed this since 2010 so it is worth repeating again.  The iPad is one of the safest computing devices you can use, probably more secure than your PC, but you have to set it up properly.

First, the biggest security risk probably is physically losing the device. iPads are a great size and easy to carry everywhere, which also makes them easy to leave behind or forget. Luckily for us Apple gave us “Find My iPad.”  Under Settings-> iCloud->turn on Find My iPad.  You also have to have location services turned on, so go to Settings->Privacy-> then turn on Find My iPad (while you are there check to see what other apps are using location services).  And of course you have to have an iCloud account.  You should also enable Remote Wiping, which allows you to delete the data on a lost iPad (as long as it can connect to the Internet). But again to do this you will need an iCloud account which is configured in Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars -> iCloud.  This service also allows you to remotely send a signal to the device to play a sound and/or to display your phone number and a message that the device is lost and ask the person that finds it to call you.  And if all that fails, to wipe the device. It’s a great service!  Find my iPad is actually misnamed, because the same service works on iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, iMacs, basically all your Apple devices.

Also, all iPads ship with hardware encryption built-in, but you need to enable it. The simplest way to do that is to set a passcode on your iPad. As soon as you do, your data will be automatically encrypted. To enable a passcode, go to Settings -> General -> Passcode Lock and then enter a four-digit code twice. If you’d like to be extra-safe, on that same page, you can turn the Simple Passcode option to off then you can then use longer codes. You should also set Require Passcode for no more than 5 minutes and turn Erase Data on.  And please turn on Auto-Lock!

Note: if you have small kids that play with your iPad, you may not want to turn on Erase Data.  Erase Data will erase all the data on your iPad if the wrong passcode is entered 10 times. Something a little one just might do.

You can find more information at:



And if you use wifi hotspots like those you find at Starbucks, McDonald’s, or at hotels / airports please use a personal VPN!

I personally like  and the price point is good.  But you can find other options at:

On my iPhone I have done all the above (again, please at least turn on a passcode and auto-lock) plus I have also turned OFF “Siri” and “Reply with Message” under “Allow Access When Locked” on my iPhone.








Are you a VIP or a Favorite?

Why does Apple make it so hard to quite my phone? I was getting tried of my iPhone chirping and beeping so I turned off sounds. Well the phone still vibrates. All the time. It vibrates for phone calls, ok it’s a phone so guess it should. Vibrates for text messages, again it’s a phone. Vibrates for each email. Vibrates for calendar alerts. Vibrates for weather. Vibrates for news. It doesn’t stop! I was in a meeting today and thought, oh, I’ll just turn it face down. And of course nothing happened, it still vibrated. I love my iPhone (and iOS). I love Apple in general. Apple normally just gets it right. How could they not have a “silence when turned upside down” option? Didn’t I have that with my Droid years ago? Well anyway, they don’t (there is a hack out there, but that is another post).

So, how can I limit the annoying buzzing and vibrating on my iPhone? Well first, under Settings Apple gives us a Do Not Disturb option. I had it set up to silence alerts late at night, but it was also a quick way to silence all those disrupting alerts during the meeting. Glad I found it after the “hey, I’ll just turn my phone face side down” didn’t work.

Tonight I started playing with the Notifications section under Settings. Apple gives you quite a bit of control. First I found that under the Do Not Disturb option under Notifications in Settings you can over write the Do Not Disturb silencing for your favorite contacts. How do you set up your favorites you ask? Well that is pretty easy. Just go to your contacts, select the contact you want to add to your favorites scroll down and click on Add to Favorites and add the phone number of the person you want to favorite. Not too bad. And now if my Mom calls in the middle of the night her call will still go through. One thing to note: the order you select your favorites is the order they will show up in your favorites list in the Phone app.

So, you would think since this is Apple once you have your favorites set up you could use that setting for email too right? No. Not that easy. To control notifications in the Mail app you can over ride the settings for each email account for VIPs. Not favorites, VIPs. Really? VIPs? Ok, fine, so how do you set VIPs? That’s not as simple; it’s not hard, but not obvious either. You would think you would set VIPs in your Contacts, right? That’s how you set up Favorites, so it would be similar, right? No, you would be wrong. Nothing like that. You actually have to go to your Mail app to set up your VIPs. Go to the Mail app, select an email from the person you want to make a VIP, click on the name, scroll down and select Add to VIP. Now you can set up your phone to alert when you get an email from a VIP, but silence for anyone else.

So by using Do Not Disturb and setting up my Favorites and VIPs I can turn off most alerts so I have less disruptions during meetings, but the important calls and messages still get through.

Cheapskates answer to internet access

So, in my last post, I wrote about looking at Boingo to see if subscribing to their mobile plan would save me some money.  And asked people to share their experience with Boingo (and I would still love to hear from people that have used Boingo’s service).  It still looks like it might be a good idea when I travel to Toronto, because from what I see online it looks like the University area is blanketed with wifi. So maybe I have a good solution for travel to Canada where Verizon gets real expensive.

But I have also been using the Boingo iPhone app locally in the DC area and I am seeing an obvious trend – just go to a Starbucks or a McDonald’s and get on their free wifi.  Who would have thought over-priced burnt coffee and greasy fast food would be the cheapskates answer to the information highway (at least in the DC area)?  Of course you have to have wifi or cellular coverage for the app to work (so I am seeing an obvious flaw when I travel), but after a couple of days of using the app even I can see the trend – just go to Starbucks or McDonald’s!  And throw in a Panera Bread here and there to mix things up and maybe get better food.  And yes, I do know that most airports I’ve been in the last few years have wifi you can access via Boingo.

I am thinking I just might have to look at Karma.  If I turn off my monthly iPad cellular service, I will still come out ahead financially and I think my waist line will appreciate not being around the fatten coffee drinks and pastries at Starbucks or the greasy, heart stopping, fast food at McDonald’s.  And maybe I just want to play with a new toy.  🙂


Traveling to Canada and getting real tired of the phone fees!

So, I love my job.  No really.  I LOVE MY JOB.  One of the perks of my job is I get to (ok, sometimes have to – it is a job after all) travel.  I like a little travel now and then.  I go to some cool places; Austin, Boston, Seattle, LA, and even Newport Beach was ok.  And I have been going to Toronto quite a bit lately now.  It’s a nice city. I always have a good time there, but I am scared to death to turn my phone on.  I hear the horror stories of people making a few calls and ending up with $200+ phone bills. Or forgetting to turn off cellular and getting a $4,000 bill for data.   So the last couple of times I’ve traveled to Toronto I call Verizon ahead of time and turn on the international plan so Canada is covered, but I am getting really tired of the fees Verizon Wireless charges for traveling outside of the US.  This last trip I didn’t even use my phone at all except when I was on wifi and the fee was still $25.

So, I am looking at my alternatives.  Even though we are trading partners and some people say Canada is the 51st State up north, I can not find a US cell provider that offers reasonable coverage and rates in the US and Canada.  So do I buy a cheap unlocked phone and buy a SIM card when I am up there next?  I did that years ago with an old iPhone 3. I just read about Truphone’s Tru SIM international cards, but it’s pretty easy and probably cheaper to just buy a cheap SIM card once I get to where I am going.

Some guys that use to work for me bought an unlocked mifi in Singapore and then got a local SIM card so they could not only get their phones on wifi, but it also worked for their laptops.  And my iPad doesn’t get cellular service while I am in Canada either, so maybe that would be nice. Seems easier than the phone, but I foresee technical issues.

Honestly, I am getting tired of paying my standard Verizon Wireless bill here in the US and then also paying $20 a month for my iPad.  So is there an alternative mifi I can use in the US and in Canada (even better if it works in Europe too)?  I have looked at Karma and FreedomPop.  I love Karma’s pay for what you use model.  And they both seem very reasonable (much much cheaper than Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-mobile) and both have pretty good coverage in the DC area.  But neither work very well in Maine (or any other less populated area) and neither has coverage at all anywhere in Canada (or Europe).  So I do not see that route fixing my entire problem, at least until they expand their coverage significantly.

It won’t help me in the States, but if I plan ahead I could rent a XCom Global International mifi Hotspot.  But at almost $18 a day (plus you pay for shipping) that will quickly turn out to be more than I have been paying Verizon Wireless.

So, I am looking at Boingo.  Boingo looks like a win win – 1) it solves my $20 per month iPad fee from Verizon and 2) I’d be able to get online while in Toronto (and they say most of Europe too).  And I’d save money!  For Boingo’s mobile only plan, it’s just $8 a month for two devices.   From looking at their map they seem to have decent coverage in the DC area.  And I checked Austin, Boston, LA, and Seattle seem to have good coverage too.  And it looks like they have saturated the area around the University of Toronto, so I’d get excellent coverage there too.  Anyone have any hands-on experience with Boingo?  Should I ditch my iPad’s Verizon wireless plan and go Boingo instead?  It looks like I’d still get coverage here in DC and everywhere else I travel (including Toronto) and save $12 a month to boot.   I’d love to hear from people subscribing (or that use to subscribe) to Boingo about their experience.

Help! My iPhone screen is zoomed in!

Yeah, I think I know technology.

And then I make the mistake of sticking my iPhone in my pocket without locking the screen first. I pull it out and go to enter in my pass code to unlock it and… I can’t. The screen is in this super zoom mode. I can’t see all the keypad to even enter my code. What happened to my phone? And how do I undo it so I can use my phone? Did I get a virus or break my phone?

Well two minutes of googling later and I learn my pocket somehow turned on “zoom” which magnifies the screen on my iPhone. Now that is a talented pocket, huh?

And how do you turn off magnification mode? Just tap with three fingers. Presto, no more zoom and everything returns to normal.

I have to confess I use zoom all the time now when I am reading tiny text on a web page on the iPhone. Have to get my daily dose of Dilbert, right? But say you don’t want to use zoom? Or if your iPhone gets stuck in zoom mode? Which from my Google search seems to happen to some people. How can you turn zoom off? Easy! Go to settings, general, scroll down to accessibility, click on zoom, and click it off. No more zoom!

Are subscription services making Amazon Cloud Player , iTunes Match, and Google Music obsolete?

I recently wrote a review comparing Amazon Cloud Player vs. iTunes Match vs. Google Music. And honestly both Google Music and Amazon Cloud Player have been working fine – the sound quality has been great and I have had no issues listening to my music with either service (I decided to go with Amazon Cloud Player instead of iTune Match so I can’t say much new about iTunes Match). I love music and it’s been great that I have my complete music library with me at all times. I also feel better knowing that my library is backed up to a service.

But I was talking to a friend recently and he thinks I am crazy that I am still buying CDs or even MP3s. He subscribes to a streaming service (Mog) and has all the music he wants, on any device, at anytime all for $10 a month. So for what I spend on an album (maybe an album and a half or even two) he gets unlimited streaming on his laptop and smart phone all month. He can even download music to his device so he can listen to music when he doesn’t have access to wifi or cell service. And using the service he has been able to find new artists he didn’t know about before.

In the US we have Rdio, Spotify, Mog and many other subscription services. They all have their pluses and minuses, but it seems they all could meet your needs. The price plans are also all about the same between the services – $5 a month for streaming just on your PC or Mac and $10 if you want to also stream on your smartphone. So $120 a year for all your music needs? Guess that would save me some money…

Maybe I am just old school, but I still like feeling CDs in my hands or at least “owning” MP3s. I like owning my music. I just don’t think I can give that up and trust a service to meet all my music needs. Am I just missing something?