Andrew Marvin's iPhone App Roundup: The Home Screen

App organization is a serious business.

Multiple factors need to be taken into consideration, including position, type, frequency of use, color coordination, and more.

I recently reconfigured my iPhone's app organization and thought you might like to hear about it.

The biggest change is that I've gone from two pages of apps to three. In the past, I put my most used apps on the home screen, and the rest of my apps in folders on the second screen. I always keep the bottom row icon-free to facilitate easy swiping and a less cluttered look. I also kept Newsstand — itself a folder that cannot be deleted — by itself on page three, since I never use it.

The problem with this arrangement is that I was digging into my folders quite often, and having an entire third screen just for Newsstand was getting on my nerves. As a result, I switched to the following configuration:

  1. Primary apps on the home screen. That is, apps I use daily.
  2. Secondary apps on the second screen. That is, apps I use frequently, but not enough to merit a spot on the home screen.
  3. Tertiary apps on the third screen. These apps are all kept in folders and are used intermittently.

My dock has always consisted of, from left to right, Phone, Messages, Mail, Safari. The reasons for this arrangement are extremely nerdy. Allow me to explain.

The iPhone is equal parts phone and computer — hence, the Phone and Safari apps on opposite sides of the dock. In the middle, you have Messages (phone-based communication) and Mail (computer-based communication). Thus, the left-to-right progression moves from phone to computer, with their respective communication methods in between. Additionally, I've become so used to the aesthetically pleasing symmetry of the apps' colors (green-green-blue-blue) that I don't think I'll ever be able to modify it.

The Home Screen: Primary Apps

My iPhone Home Screen, March 2012 I consider the four corners of the 3x4 grid to be priority positions because of the reduced odds of hitting another app accidentally. Only three apps border the corner positions, as opposed to the five or eight that surround apps elsewhere on the screen. Thus, my four priority apps:

Omnifocus, my to-do/task manager. I have a confession: I don't love Omnifocus. For sure, it's a powerhouse and the mother of all productivity apps, but I just don't find it fun to use. The app's design is very utilitarian, and while it's extremely reliable, it lacks charm and personality. I've thought about moving to Things, but I'll probably wait until its cloud sync is out of beta so I can get a better sense of whether or not its worth the investment.

Tweetbot, my go-to Twitter app. I almost went back to Twitterrific the other day (its new typography is gorgeous), but I still think Tweetbot is the best Twitter client for power users.

Path, my lovely, private social network. I wish a few more of my friends were on it, but even so, enough have joined to put it on my home screen. Plus, I love using it. I've already written extensively about Path, so I'll spare you here.

Reeder, my RSS reader of choice on all devices. I've tried a couple of others, but you can't beat Reeder's features, design, and beautiful simplicity. I'm eagerly anticipating version 3.0. Read more of my thoughts on Reeder here.

Calendar, Camera, Photos, and Music are all self-explanatory, but I'll briefly explain my other choices:

Instacast is, in my opinion, the only way to listen to podcasts. No downloading or syncing via iTunes; it's all done over the air. Just subscribe to the podcast of your choice, and listen at your leisure. I use it every day on my iPhone and iPad and love it. I've tried a similar app or two, but I don't think there's a better podcast manager than Instacast.

Articles is my Wikipedia app. I look up everything on Wikipedia, and Articles does this job very well. I'm using Wikipanion on my iPad because Articles for iPad has a skeuomorphic design, which I don't love. On the iPhone though, Articles is pretty and dependable.

Fahrenheit is my favorite out of all the weather apps I've tried, mixing just the right amount of features with a clean design. Surprisingly, I actually like the current-temperature-in-the-icon-badge feature. Having it there at a glance is very convenient, even more so than having to pull down Notification Center. I keep Notification Center's weather on the five-day forecast view, so I tend to look at Fahrenheit for the current temperature, and swipe down to see the forecast. Only if I need a ten-day outlook or more details do I actually open Fahrenheit. That being said, Fahrenheit is the home screen app I'm most conflicted about. With weather info being only a swipe away in Notification Center, do I really need to waste a spot on my home screen with a dedicated weather app? So far, the convenience of the temperature icon badge has persuaded me to say yes, but I still go back and forth over it.

Notesy is a beautiful note-taking app and text editor. I use it for running lists, ideas, and to take notes. It's backed by the power of Dropbox, which played a role in my switching from Simplenote. It's also highly customizable. It was just announced that Notesy is under new management, so we'll see where things go. Fortunately, there's no shortage of good note-taking/text editor apps.

My wallpaper is "Dust" by the exceptional John Carey.

For digestion purposes, I'll be splitting this post up. In the next installment, I'll look at my secondary apps and explain why they're great, but not quite great enough for my home screen. Be on the lookout for part two next week!

Also, if you're personally offended that your favorite app isn't on my home screen, be sure to let me know!

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