I’m a complete gadget fanatic. Growing up in the heart of Silicon Valley made it easier as it is a very common affliction. Walking down University Avenue in Palo Alto, you’ll marvel at the latest, greatest phones, e-readers, and other electronic gizmos on display, in use by patrons of the numerous coffee shops and sidewalk cafes. The iPhone seems to have become ubiquitous just about everywhere now and I’m one of those folks that have 4+ screens of icons, filled with little time-savers (which, of course, require so much MORE time to play with and maintain).
Some apps are kind of useful or fun, but not critical to my day-to-day life (FML, Yelp, and Fandango fall into this category). Others actually make life easier or more pleasant. I tend to use these core apps daily or as part of my regular routine as I try to maintain some semblance of regularity despite living 3,000 miles from home. Here’s a quick summary:
USAA: Other banks have iPhone apps and some are just starting to implement the same technology, but USAA was I believe the first bank to offer a “deposit by iPhone” feature. I didn’t believe it when I first read about it, but it’s been fantastic. One you log in, you can deposit a check (up to $5,000/day) directly through the iPhone. After entering the amount of the check, the app prompts you to take a photo of the front and (endorsed for deposit only) back of the check. A few seconds of processing and, voila, the deposit is made. Void the check and keep it for a record. For those of us banking long-distance (or abroad), this is a revolutionary tool. For those in, or about to join, the foreign service, definitely check out USAA. It is a bank dedicated to serving U.S. military and a few select federal agencies, as well as their families. The service has been unbelievably good.
Words Free: Really great Scrabble game that allows you to play with other iPhone users even if you are not both in the app at the same time. It prompts you when the other person makes a move so that a game can go on for a week or more with turns going back and forth whenever time allows. It also has a nifty built-in chat feature. E and I always have a game going — just one more way to stay in touch.
Path Tracker: I hate going to gym, but I love to walk. Pathfinder is essentially a fancy pedometer, but it maps your wanderings on a live GPS map, tracking your distance and speed. You can save each walk to an online site for free.
NPR News: Great free app that keeps me up to date and allows me to select which stories to hear when I can’t catch All Things Considered or Morning Edition in their entirety. It also has links to most public radio stations around the country, include my beloved KQED in San Francisco so I can listen to a live stream, as well as on demand streams of a huge list of NPR shows.
NYTimes: I dearly miss my paper NYT every morning, but this app is the next best thing. It allows me to save stories to read later, even if on the metro cut off from any signal. I use it, in particular, for long features from the Sunday Times.
Lose It!: Amazing free app that helps record what I eat everyday and how much I burn from exercise. It’s the only method I’ve found that works for me to lose weight consistently. Once you’ve done a week, it really isn’t that hard to keep up with because you can quickly duplicate entries from prior meals. It also has a pretty large database and a very easy method of providing the caloric, fat, carb, etc. data that’s on every label.
ESPN ScoreCenter: Best sports info app (although a tad slow to load). It allows me to configure it so I get updates tailored to my favorite teams (Giants, 49ers, and Sharks).
Metro Map: It’s been a long time since I’ve lived in Washington, and having an easy-to-find metro map is a necessity.
GroceryIQ: Much easier than having scraps of paper grocery lists, this app keeps track of what I need to buy, with separate lists for different stores. When something is running low, I just add it to the list so on the weekend, when I’m out and about, I can always detour on the way home and pick up what I need without having to make a special trip or having to try to reconstruct on the fly what I need for the upcoming week.
Let me know if you have your own daily-use treasures.