Phillip Smith

If I ever write another post about iPhone apps that you should be using, please shoot me.

Writing a post about iPhone apps is about as far from what I thought I would be writing about today (or ever) as you can get. But, what the fuck, it’s Friday and it’s rainy in Vancouver.

So, short of anything else super-compelling to blab on about, I’ll answer that possibly life-changing question “What apps do you use?”

I’m not much of a smart phone nerd: I use them to listen to music, make phone calls, e-mail, and so on. That said, these are the apps that make life a bit easier, or more enjoyable:

ScanBizCards Without a doubt, the one that impresses most of my geek and non-geek friends alike is ScanBizCards. Having decided to live a life as paper-free as possible, the first trick was to stop to collecting business cards. This app makes that a snap, literally. I photograph a business card, the text is run through OCR, and the contact data is presented for review. With a tap, it’s in my address book, then I hand the card back!

Podcast app Probably overlooked by many, I recently found this indispensable gem. The official Apple Podcast app lets me search for podcasts, subscribe to podcasts right on the phone (the way you would in iTunes), and quickly see what podcasts I’m already subscribed to.

TuneIn Radio I’m an avid radio listener. If you’ve ever hung out with me in the morning, you’ve probably asked about my obsession with KEXP, the Seattle non-profit, listener-supported, radio station that’s always playing great music. TuneIn Radio makes it possible for me to take KEXP, CBC, and NPR with me wherever I go, and also enables me to find some great local stations along the way. Highly recommended.

Skype Wifi Listening to radio and downloading podcasts, not to mention checking e-mail, is a lot more fun when you’re not paying extortionary data roaming rates – thus, it’s nice to be able to hop on a wifi network when possible. One of the conveniences I’ve gotten used to on my laptop is logging into a variety of commercial wifi networks (Boingo, etc.) with Skype. Skype Wifi brings that convenience to you iPhone or iPad: fire it up, search for partner networks, sign-on with a click, pay with your Skype credit. Simple.

Freshbooks App Of course, none of the above would be possible without getting paid. As a consultant there are a couple of tricks to bringing home the soy-bacon: tracking your time, and sending out invoices. These is all pretty easy via my laptop thanks to Freshbooks and Chronomate, but – until recently – I didn’t have that capability on my phone. Enter Freshbooks App. Time tracking, expense tracking, invoicing, and much more, all in the palm of you hand. Handy.

Audio Note If you come to this weeks’ Freelance Survival Series hosted by The Tyee, you’ll hear me wax poetic about some mobile tools for reporters, including Audio Note and Note Taker. Audio Note enables me to record an interview (albeit with limited sound quality) and mark points in the audio for later review, e.g., When you say “bribe,” I write “gotcha,” and can quickly return to that spot in the audio later.

Note Taker Along the same lines, Note Taker on the iPhone and Note Taker HD on the iPad are indispensable interview tools for the modern-day digital reporter. Both, especially when used with a Bamboo Stylus, make it possible to take hand-written notes on your phone or iPad – again, dispensing with your dead-tree addiction (and replacing it with mercury or something like that, no doubt).

Facebook Camera As much as I hate to admit it, posting photos to Facebook where friends can see them is super handy and beats the pants of of Flickr if you ask me. However, there was always one big draw back: posting a BUNCH of photos was a real pain-in-the-ass (otherwise known in geek nomenclature as a PITA). Thankfully, Facebook released Facebook Camera, which – among other features – lets you bulk upload photos into an album. ‘Nuff said.

Ghostery Okay, now that I’ve listed all of these possibly privacy-infringing apps that my crypto friends are going to get on my ass about (not to mention using an iPhone in the first place), I guess I should offset them a bit with a privacy-enhancing app. Ghostery is a neat little browser app for visiting Websites without leaking a metric shit tonne of your personal data – no jailbreak required. Before Chrome for Mobile and it’s “incognito mode,” this was about the only show in town.

Prey Last but not least, now that you’ve invested almost $1000 into a device with a form factor that is almost purpose-built for being lost, it’s sensible to take some steps to keep it in your possession in the case of the inevitable event. Prey’s iOS app brings the thief-catching technology previously available for laptops to your mobile devices. The app runs silently in the background and tracks your lost phone’s location, while sneakily taking photos of the person who’s possession it is in. You could probably write a best-selling novel about people’s adventures in recovering their lost iPhones.

Two bonus apps are: Amazon (only available in the US store, but worth getting a US account so you can snap photos of real-world products and send them to Amazon for later purchase) and Pzizz Energizer (a big download, but worth it you’re into power naps).

Got your own list of “you’ve probably never heard of this app” apps? Drop me a note or leave a comment.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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