Tuesday, March 22

There's an App for That: The 5 Apps That Run My Life

I'm not an early adopter of technology, but once it creeps into my life it takes over. Enter the iPhone.

When Michael's incredibly thoughtful parents gave me an iPhone as a replacement for my archaic, smashed-to-pieces Nokia, I was dazzled. At first I was just mesmerized by the slick interface and novelty of the touch screen. But inevitably I made my way to the app store and discovered there was way more to this gadget than I had imagined. I'm not a big fan of games except for the occasional crossword puzzle. (If I'm going to waste time I'll do it on facebook, thankyouverymuch!) But a few apps have redefined the way I take care of business - and fun!

Here's a list of my top five apps:

1. Mealboard. This app alone is enough to make me a long-term iPhone devotee, at least as long as it's not offered by another system. It stores countless recipes organized by customizable categories, from which you can create weekly meal plans and menu templates. You can even make customizable grocery lists from these meal plans. It takes a serious time investment to get started, but I entered a lot of my favorite recipes in a short time by doing it whenever I was watching TV or waiting for dinner to cook. Now, whenever I see a recipe I'd like to try I enter the ingredients (I don't bother with the instructions) into my phone for later use. I love that I can plan my meals over my lunch break and go straight to the store after work. It's also great for someone like me, who's always trying new recipes - I no longer lose and forget about recipes we like.

2. Week Cal. It's not hugely different from the built-in calendar, but it includes a handy week view. It copies info and settings from the original calendar for an easy transition. For some reason I just really prefer the way the appointments look on this app, which means that I actually use it. I've even started scheduling things like my weekly TV night and doing laundry.

3. Mint. I love using www.mint.com for our online budget. It's free and links with multiple bank accounts for a complete and up-to-date look at our finances. The mobile app allows me to see how much money I have left in a certain budget, like groceries, before I make a purchase. It also allows me to assign budget categories to purchases (although most are automatically assigned) while on-the-go so everything's organized the next time I log on.

4. iBooks. I've recently started reading books on my iPhone. Anything that's available through Project Gutenberg is free to download on iBooks and other online readers. Since most of these books are old classics, I've embraced it as an opportunity to fill in some of the cracks in my literary education. So far I've read A Christmas Carol, Mansfield Park, and The Mysterious Affair at Styles. I'm reading Jane Eyre now. I tried Moby Dick and decided I just wasn't enjoying it. Sometimes it's good to just be honest with yourself and move on! I'll always be attached to the feel, look, and smell of real books, but I love the convenience of reading at times that I wouldn't normally be carrying a book. My favorite thing about it is reading in the dark, especially since Michael goes to sleep before I do. It's also great for dark car rides.

5. LiveStrong Calorie Tracker. This mobile companion to the Livestrong website allows me to look up the nutrition content of most foods, including lots of restaurant items, and tally them against my goal calories for the day. It's so quick and complete that I sometimes use it at work when estimating patients' calorie and protein intakes. It also allows me to estimate calories burned through exercise and count them toward my calorie balance. The exercise numbers aren't accurate since they don't take into account factors like gender and body weight, but it is nice to see a reward for all that hard work. Also, you can make a line graph of your weight and BMI to plot your progress. Unless you're trying to lose weight I don't recommend tracking calories every day, but it can be enlightening to count them every once in a while and see what the numbers tell you.

Are there any apps that you just couldn't give up? Or do you still proudly tote a not-smart phone?


  1. My five are all web apps, that also have seamlessly synchronizing Android clients.

    Taking the place of my old Franklin/Covey planner are:
    Remember the Milk for Task Management
    Google Calendar
    Evernote for not only taking notes about things I need to remember that don't fit on my to-do list or calendar, recording receipts, saving business cards, and so much more.

    Gmail, nuf said.

    My Android's Contact Manager, that allows me to "link" phone, Google and Facebook contacts so I end up with one entry for Angelyn rather than three. It's also neat that it pulls profile pics from Facebook, so when I'm looking through my contacts, I see faces for most of them.

    Although I love my Android phone, the only feature of iPhone that I envy is the ability to do screenshots. I love yours.

  2. I think whatever you start out with will probably be your favorite. Michael tried a Droid when his first iPhone broke and ended up returning it. It actually had some mechanical problems (don't buy a Samsung Captivate!), but he also wasn't pleased with the content and interface. I was underwhelmed with the Droid app store, mostly because they don't carry the apps I'm used to. I'm sure if I'd started out with a Droid I'd feel the same way about iPhones. But something about the iPhone interface seems so, so much better to me - probably because it's super user-friendly and I'm a bit tech-challenged.

    I have to admit these aren't my screenshots, Mike! It was after midnight so instead of learning how to take them, which apparently is really simple, I used photos online. I figured Apple wouldn't mind the free advertising. :)