Home Screens – Fraser Speirs

Fraser Speirs (Website) (Twitter) is one of the foremost authorities
on using Apple technologies in education. Moreover, Fraser is really smart. (Fraser’s Future Shock Post is one of the best things I’ve ever read about technology.) Fraser was nice enough to share his home screen.

What are some of your favourite apps?

Evernote is rapidly becoming the hub of my workflow and information storage system. Early iterations of the iOS clients were quite weak compared to the Mac client but recent updates have dramatically improved it. Evernote is the destination for all my travel documents, my scanned receipts (Canon P-150 scanners rock!).
I’ve also recently started using Pocket as my “read later” service after being an Instapaper user for many years. Pocket can also send pages to Evernote for safekeeping.
I’m a huge fan of Flipboard, which has totally replaced traditional RSS readers for me. I just love its relaxed playfulness. It didn’t click for my workflow, though, until they released the iPhone version.

I’m also a fairly recent convert to Tweetbot; again since they released their iPad version. I was a Twitterrific die-hard for years because of its unified timeline design but Tweetbot won me over firstly by integrating push notifications and, more recently, various powerful options for muting people, clients and keywords.

For my truly ‘core’ apps, I want them on the iPhone and the iPad.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Kindle. It’s way too easy to spend money on ebooks! I was an early enthusiast for electronic books – I bought the international version of the Kindle 2 on the first day it was available (and I miss being able to buy ebooks in US Dollars!).

Recently, I have moved entirely to ebooks and will only buy paper if the title is not available electronically. Even then, I find myself dissatisfied with paper books because I can’t get my highlights into Evernote. I guess I could photograph the pages!

What is the app you are still missing?

A phone version of every app I care about that’s iPad-only. Apple has shown the way with their own apps. Think about it: iWork and iLife ON A PHONE! They’re not just toys either – they’re full working versions and I spend more time between Keynote on my iPhone and iPad than I do in Keynote for Mac these days.

I would also really like to see a version of iBooks Author for iOS. Two years ago, I was constantly wishing for a version of Apple Remote Desktop for iOS to administer my school Macs from my iPad. Today, two years into being a 1:1 iPad school, administering the Macs is such a small part of my life that I hardly think about it any more.

How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?

Both are constant companions and my primary computing devices for my teaching and consulting work. I would not be surprised if I unlock my phone a hundred times every day.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

The touch keyboard is taken for granted today but it is still a fantastic piece of technology. I think my favourite feature of the device itself is GPS. Having things (photos, Evernote notes) geotagged without any effort at all is fantastic

My favourite iPad accessory in school is AppleTV. I’ve been talking about the massive potential of AirPlay in the classroom for 18 months or so and people are starting to really get it. So exciting and important.

If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?

As I remarked recently on Twitter: “If you can’t imagine what Apple might add to iOS 6, you don’t spend enough time on iOS”. Most broadly speaking, I think there’s a serious need for a mechanism to round-trip a piece of data from one app to another and back. For example, if I have a PDF attachment in Evernote and I want to mark it up using PDF Expert I have to: copy it out of Evernote into PDF Expert, mark it up there, get it back into Evernote and then delete the duplicate copy in PDF Expert. I’m a massive fan of the abstracted filesystem in iOS but there needs to be much stronger generalised data interchange between apps. For an example of how this might work, look at the way Tweetbot and Camera+ integrate to capture photos and edit them.

A corollary to that first feature request is that Mobile Safari really needs to be able to download files from the web and, more importantly, upload files to the web. This is a real showstopper in some education settings. Often, I find that the only reason I’m cracking open my laptop is because I need to upload a file to the web.

There is a serious and ongoing problem with passwords on the web. The only thing that keeps me sane is 1Password but, on iOS, it’s not as easy to use as it is on the desktop. The AgileBits team have done a stellar job getting the app as useful as it is on iOS but I’d like to see Apple add limited support for extensions into Mobile Safari – just so I can get 1Password working in there.

iOS needs some kind of generalised “wrist protection” APIs so that all the handwriting and drawing apps can implement this in a consistent fashion that doesn’t interact badly with the multitasking gestures on iPad. I’m not a big fan of a stylus but I see kids in school trying to do a quick sketch of something and getting a bit flummoxed.

Some low-hanging fruit that’s annoyed me recently:

I would add support for video to iCloud Photo Stream
The ability to sync album structures in the Photos app between devices.

Add the ability to set a system-wide quiet time for notifications

FaceTime over cellular – we’re paying for every byte we transmit over these networks now, let me choose how to use them.

Stop the iPad home screen icons reflowing from a 4×5 grid into a 5×4 grid when you rotate.

Add a few high-level system control widgets to the Notification Center: Bluetooth, WiFi, Cellular Data Roaming, Personal Hotspot, AirPlay and A/V controls.

We have deep Twitter integration in the OS and the rumours are that we’re going to get similar for Facebook. I would really like Evernote to be the 3rd service but now I’m just asking for the moon on a stick!

Finally, I would use my leverage to negotiate lower international roaming rates for iPhone users. For heavy smartphone users, people who depend on their offline brain, being connected isn’t just a matter of fun or even productivity. It can be a matter of safety. When you’re abroad, you need fast and easy information in your own language more than ever.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I was a very early advocate of iOS and the iPad. When we decided to deploy it 1:1 in our school, we made a bet that the platform would succeed and grow. I’m writing this on the day that The Omni Group just shipped their final iOS port of their Mac apps – OmniPlan for iPad. It is remarkable and astonishing the extent to which the platform has grown in capability in that short time. I have never been more excited for the future.

Thanks Fraser.

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