How a business professional uses the iPad and iPhone

I’ve owned each iPhone and iPad on release day and been a heavy user of both. I’ve suffered the multiple dropped calls per day while commuting from appointment to appointment in and around New York City, especially exiting the midtown tunnel, let alone actually in a tunnel or over a bridge. I’ve blessed Verizon once they offered the iPhone and had drop free calls day after day – but I fully realize it is on an older, slower, but more ubiquitous network.

But on to usage. In both my devices I only have two screens of apps. This is a new organizational principle for me as I am making heavy use of grouping apps into folders. Instead of my apps living on 5 screens and having to constantly swipe to find something, now it either on screen one or screen two. Makes me feel super organized.

Another point before we start. Many of the these apps cost money. Most are $2-$5/each, some are much more like Tom Tom which is $50 + $20/year for real time traffic. As this post is for business professionals, I assume that saving time is worth money. On to the apps.

Most Often Used Apps

Let’s start with the bottom bar, that’s where all the often used, super important items are supposed to be. And you only have four slots on the iPhone. So here’s what I have:


Phone, Google, Safari, RememberTheMilk. Notice what is not there. No Mail. No iPod. Lets get into it.
Phone - the standard phone app. It is a phone, after all.
Google - this app services for one click google search, but more importantly, once I set it up for my google apps account, it has a badge with the number of unread email messages I have. Once I open the app, I have two click access to all my google app services including mail, calendar, docs, and reader – which are my most frequent uses without having to re-log in. Super useful. And with voice activated search and one swipe search filters for places, images, or everything it has earned a place in the dock.
Safari - the browser. Can’t live without it. Biggest peeve? That you can’t use it together with last pass more easily. More on this later.
RememberTheMilk - this app costs $1/month for a pro license at This is my ultimate GTD tool and with one click I can see my next steps, smart lists and projects. If I have a thought that needs to be captured, a quick click and type it in. I can even tag it on the fly with their amazing drop down menus for due date, tags, and priorities. If I’m on a car ride and have time to call some people, just pull up all the items I have in the call tag and start dialing. Pet peeve – it doesn’t integrate with the phone – no one click calling!

Ok, so what’s on my first page?
The standalone apps are:
messages, calendar, settings, clock and calculator
The groups are:
Read, write, travel, photo, social and money.

Name Your Groups

I have to point out that naming the groups is absolutely critical. Wrong names will lead to countless lost swipes and interruptions when you are trying to get something done and that is just not how it should work! We are all about ebing efficient, right? My favorites are “read” and “write” because generally that is most of my activities. Either I need to read something, or I need to write something. So let’s look at those.

Reading Group

iphone_readUnder reading I have: Wall Street Journal, NY Times, NPR News, Kindle, Dropbox, LastPass and InstaPaper.

Now notice that not every app here is strictly reading, but honestly why am I going to Dropbox? I’m going to look at a document, which is reading. And if I can do other things with it later, great. Dropbox is the best way to keep files that you have on your desktop, laptop, iPad and iPhone all in sync. I pay $50/yr for 50gb of storage. Easy to use and also easy to share individual files or folders with others.

Kindle is amazon’s ereader. Allows me to read up on the latest wherever I am. Never caught without a book to read.

Instapaper is a great service when you encounter an article you want to read but don’t have time to right then. Send it to instapaper and it will download it for easier formatting and offline reading when you are reading for it.

Last pass is a real favorite of mine. I’ve written about it before, and it is also $1/month service. It allows me to have very secure passwords, but not have to remember them. And if I need them on the go, just log into last pass and it will open the site for you. Pet peeve – log me into them while I’m in the browser like it does on the desktop. Loading another app and another browser seems inefficient. And it doesn’t have an iPad version.

On my iPad, I also have GoodReader. This is an amazing application. It integrates with both google docs and Dropbox. So if I have documents or PDF files that I need to read, I can download them on the fly or in advance into good reader and then have an excellent reading experience with good reader – almost as good as the kindle, but with more control for zooming.

Writing Group

iphone_writeIn the writing group I have: SimpleNote, AudioNote, HT Recorder, Basecamp, Clevertech Mgmt, WordPress, Highrise, Pastie, Adobe Ideas, and Dragon Diction

I spend a lot of time writing in a variety of situations. Often simple note is the answer. The beauty of simple note is in it’s simplicity. List of documents on the left, large expandable writing area on the right and away we go. There is a desktop version called Resoph Notes available that automatically syncs your notes. So, once you are done typing – it is also available on your desktop with no additional work. This is a major feeling of freedom.

Writing is one thing, but if you are in a meeting that is meaningful to record the conversation, well, the iPhone or iPad works great for that. Personally, I am still on the hunt for a great Bluetooth microphone that I can slide in the middle of a conference room table that can pickup all the participants in a meeting. But even without it, it is decent quality. (Mikey is not quite there, but I’m waiting).

Notes are magical in that you can search them later. Audio recordings don’t quite allow for that. Livescribe, the smart pen, solved the problem. The pen records the audio, and you write notes with the pen. If you click the pen on a note you wrote, the audio would start playing from the same time you wrote the note. Searching audio by creating bookmarks with your notes. Brilliant!

But I really don’t want to carry a special pen and special paper. Enter iphone app audio note that does the same thing. Use the iphone/ipad to record while you take notes.  When you click on the text, the audio will skip to the time you made that note. Brilliant and efficient!

Now if you don’t need to actually take notes, and only record with the ability to click to bookmarks with no text, HTrecorder does a good job and it’s microphone technology is a bit better. Getting the files off the iPhone does take a little work, but they have some Dropbox capabilities and some web server capabilities which is not quite worry free sync, but its close.

If you find that you must draw a picture, Adobe Ideas gets that right. I use it on the iPad mostly, sketches up things nicely. I’d recommend getting a stylus if you use that alot. My finger can’t seem to master it’s finer usage. Think lines are great though.

Base camp and Highrise are 37signal products that I use to help run my business and Clevertech management is the custom website that we built to augment those tools. I would say that i mostly manage via email, but these tools make sure i can get in deeper if i need to.

WordPress is great for writing short blog post, or blog post ideas in a format so they upload right into the right software with no delay.

Pastie is for those repeated SMS messages you find yourself typing over and over, especially to the same person or group.

Finally, dragon diction, I thought I’d use a lot more and I still have not totally given up on it. Taking to the phone and having it write what I said seemed very romantic, but I have not gotten the hang of using it a lot yet.

On the iPad I also have Quick Office. sometimes you just need to edit that Microsoft Word document. And if you do, this is a great way to do it.

Travel Group

iphone_travelWeather, Maps, The Weather Channel, TripTracker, HopStop, BestParking, Boingo, ExitStrategy, TomTom, Yelp, Starbucks, TripAdvisor and Waze.

So there are two types of travel I have optimized this for – driving and flying, more driving than flying. The basic weather app is great for a quick look and the weather channel is a nice upgrade when desired.

Driving directions are handled by TomTom which is just “ok”. Best feature is the $20/year for real time traffic altered that will ask you to reroute if it finds a faster route. Feels like magic. The shortfalls are how hard it is to get the address in there. Should be much easier.

Now I drive to manhattan a lot and that means finding parking. BestParking is awesome to snag a cheap parking spot. It’s interface and speed could use a tune up, but if it regularly saves me from $10-$30 in parking, I’m not complaining.

Once I’m in manhattan and parked my car for the day, I still may have to use the subway and bus to get around and HopStop tells me exactly where to go, and this is super important downtown where the streets seem to get all turned around instead of being laid out in a proper grid. Exit Strategy is a great subway app with maps and also tells you exactly with subway car to get on in order to ensure you are perfectly aligned with the proper staircase so you are uber-efficient. Seems like overkill, but those few saved minutes feel so good!

TripIt is great for keeping all your travel plans in one spot, particularly flying trips and Boingo for finding and paying for those hotspots across the world. Waze is driving directions based on the wisdom of the crowds and trip advisor and yelp gives a great scoop on where to go right now with user reviews. Trip advisor is more on what to do, yelp is more where to eat. And Starbucks if you just need that extra caffeine, although in manhattan you may be able to get a better cup if you look a little harder.

UPDATE: 6/12/2011
I added two more apps: Award Wallet to organize all my frequent flyer and credit card awards and Expensify in a valiant attempt to keep all my receipts organized better.

Social Group

iphone_socialFacebook, HootSuite, Ember, Toggl, Foursquare, Trillian, Google Voice, Skype, Presently, IM+ Pro

Facebook on iPhone or friendly on the iPad. HootSuite is a great application for writing once and posting on Facebook, twitter, linked in and others – even scheduled. I used to have linked in app as well, but it had an annoying badge that I couldn’t turn off and who wants a blaring red number starting at you all the time?

Ember is the 37signals campfire chat project. Toggl is a time tracking software (wow). Foursquare is great if you like checking in and getting tips, and collecting badges – and who doesn’t like that from time to time?

Google voice may eventually replace the phone, but not quite yet. I keep waiting for the Google voice attendant.

Skype is great for those overseas calls and IMs. IM+ is the winner for plain old instant messaging across multiple services (sorry Trillian).

Presently is our corporate twitter – a wonderful way to share with a whole group.




Music Group

iphone_musicpandora, iPod, shazam, vudu, Netflix, pocket flicks

Notice how music group is really music and movies? Pandora is my choice for streaming music. Less time invested in managing all that music and just listen to something. I suppose that says something about my appreciation of music.

Their new search capability so you don’t have to plug in a song, you can search for a theme and play other people’s playlist makes it a true meta-service.

IPod for my collection, which is a mess (see above), Shazam for tagging the song on the radio in the car for later download and purchase.

And then the video – vudu is the best HD content streaming, pay per video.

Netflix and its search assistant pocket flicks have wonderful, growth content, but fewer HD which frankly annoys me. If you have that beautiful flat screen with 1080p, then you should also have a service that provides that gorgeous picture. That’s why I have vudu. But Netflix is nice. Especially if you are viewing from your ipad.


Money Group

iphone_moneyStarbucks Mobile Card, paypal, eBay, chase, square, mint, red laser, Etrade, loancalc, and stocks.

It’s funny that this group is not #1 on the list. It’s about money! Turns out that reading and writing are activities that happen more often than spending money. So its down here.

I am sure the day will come where my wallet will be much thinner than it is and all my plastic cards will sit on my phone. Starbucks Mobile Card is the wave of the future. I love the ability to pay for Starbucks with my phone. And perhaps this app will become a major revenue producer for Starbucks when I can link credit cards to it.

Paypal and eBay on my phone are great convenience when required, chase, my bank is also an occasional life saver. Square, the credit card processor is what I use for taking donations for my nonprofit and mint keeps me within my budgets.

RedLaser is wonderful for comparison shopping in the store. Etrade, loancalc and stocks allow me to keep up with the market and even make some advanced real estate calculations.



Photo Group

iphone_photocamera, photos, ipacasso, and cam card

Camera and photos are obvious, ipicasso is a great way to get google’s picassa on the iPhone. If you struggle with managing photos, then this is your solution. First get Eyefi or a wifi camera that automatically uploads your photos to Google photo sharing service picassa. What you’ve just done is turn all your cameras into posting machines. And you are posting all the photos to a source that is easy to retrieve whenever and wherever. Of course, you’ll need internet.

camCard allows me to take a picture of a business card and it scans it properly (most times) into my contacts – awesomeness!

And with integration into Google Contacts, with this one click it will end up in all the places I need it. My phone contact list and my google contacts so it is available from my web browser as well.





Second Screen

App Store, ConvertUnits, RunKeeper, Flixster, QRCode, BeerCloud, Take me to my Car, PadMapper

App Store – keeps me current on my updates
ConvertUnits - ever needs to convert from lbs to kilos? Or ML to OZ?
RunKeeper - great running companion and I have proof that I actually did run…
Flixster - great for catching the latest movie times, reviews and short clips. I barely use this. But it looks cool.
BeerCloud - best beer to pair with what
Take me to my Car – click to set a GPS coordinate so you never ask, where did I park my car again?
PadMapper - uses craiglist apartment listing to show you rental prices in the location you are at. Great when you want to know how expensive would it be to live here, no matter if you are in Hong Kong, Jerusalem or Soho (all recent usages)




Game Group



Have a look yourself, this is a business professional review :)










Jewish Group

iphone_jewishSiddur, Kosher, Tanach

Never without your prayer book, bible, sundown times or the list of kosher restaurants nearby.









infrequent: Notes, ITunes, Compass, YouTube, Contacts, Voice Memos, and Mail
All the apps I can’t delete, but never or almost never use.


One comment on “How a business professional uses the iPad and iPhone

  1. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

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