What are some of your favorite apps?
My favorite apps aren’t necessarily the ones on my home screen, which is interesting. In fact, my favorite apps are just the interface to an entire platform that solves some problem in an incredible way previously not possible. More and more I’m reminded that the iPhone is just the box we carry around to interface with platforms that could span hundreds or thousands of servers, and hundreds of thousands or millions of people worldwide.
As of the time of this writing, I really, really like Withings. I have two Withings scales and a bluetooth blood pressure cuff, and I use the scales daily, and the cuff every few days and no less than once per week. I just discovered and applied a fitness recovery protocol for myself and lost >15lbs in the prior month, and I’m on track for losing another 10 this month. Withings is an important tool that’s part of my plan. It’s groovy because it gives me data points I can look at, which is like reviewing financials if you’re a business type. A really critical 20% of my fitness regimen is a psyche game, and having those data points to look at constructively helps me analyze and stay focused. So if Withings helps me get back my sexy, I’m a fan. Shazam and SoundHound are two of my favorite apps for telling me what the song is that I’m hearing, wherever I’m at. I dig this, especially in yoga sculpt (I’m addicted to yoga), and it can even tells me specific mixes, which is more awesome. And Shazam lets me put listening on continuous mode so I don’t have to tap the big listen button. I used SoundHound at my 5 year old’s sports festival recently to figure out what the songs were they were dancing to. My son was super stoked when he found out that I had added them to his playlist on iTunes.
I love Periscope. Tech has so much potential to open up TV, like Podcasting has done for audio broadcast. I worked in West Hollywood for a few years, and during that time I met so much talent that had a snowball’s chance in hell of being discovered because media is largely controlled a few big companies. With a platform like Periscope, a student, screenwriter, actor - virtually anyone - can be heard, followed and discovered worldwide. It’s unbelievable. I’m planning on putting Periscope to good use by answering tech questions my readers and listeners ask on the Switcher Genius blog and in a Q&A format online, live, unscripted. How cool is it that this is possible?
I have to admit that I was blown away with the experience using Postmates. Seriously, if anyone hasn’t ordered delivery (usually food, but other things like groceries too, etc.) via Postmates, do it. When a business really thinks through the customer experience, and not just on-screen, but also off-screen, like how well the information flows between the person holding the phone and the company they want something from, they’re winning the game.
A related note for business/tech nerds like me, about why I think an apps like Postmates are cool: The future of products and services is really about who can deliver the most efficiency from an asset. And not necessarily their own assets. Think about Apple: When you think Apple, the first products that come to mind are Macs and iOS devices. Those are just the medium. Where Apple’s winning super hardcore is on making money on everyone else’s assets. What is it now that they make off of iTunes and Apps that are other people’s assets? Like $20 billion in profit? Uber and AirBnB are two other great examples of this. Any App that makes my experience with a company better by making it more efficient is cool.
Other than that, the apps most important to me are closest to my right-hand thumb. I actually organized my phone specifically so the apps that I use most each day are easily in reach. No folders. No stretching. They’re right there. I call this area my iPhone’s “golden triangle” (see picture).
Which app is your guilty pleasure?
It’s nutty and nerdy, but it would have to be the app called Japanese. I have a degree in Japanese Language and Literature, and during my undergrad studies I carried around a character lookup dictionary by Nelson that looks like a law school tome: Hardback, and it probably weighs 4 lbs and has some 1100 pages. To look up any Kanji (Kanji = the adopted Chinese characters that are a core part of the Japanese written language) I would have to dissect a character based on its core components mentally then look it up. It’s actually really similar in some ways to translating hieroglyphics. The whole process always struck me as crazy inefficient when we have English and can look up anything from A-Z, and most of the time phonetically instead of graphically.
Japanese is awesome because I can look up almost any word any number of ways. Like by the way it sounds, just typing roman letters. Or via the “alphabet” of Japanese. I can even draw the Kanji (which is useful if you’ve memorized 2000+ Kanji in college and still remember some, or can write what you see on a sign/book/newspaper, etc.) I recently started blogging about Japan and Japanese (on Japanophile.jp), and I’ve using this app probably 15–20 times per day as I find new things to translate and share with people interesting in cool Japanese stuff.
What app makes you most productive?
The clear winner would be Evernote. I wrote most of this in Evernote in my car using Siri. But Evernote goes so much further than I could possibly have imagined. It’s text recognition capability is amazing, and paired with all of the capability of the iPhone it makes for the perfect external brain, which is basically their tagline. I take photos and menus at restaurants. I log almost all my calls of any consequence, and can look them up on any device instantly and by content, tags, or even the notebooks that I organize my notes into. It’s so ridiculously easy to keep track of notes with tags, and organize them into notebooks or projects and endeavors. And Evernote’s hooks into web browsers make it’s superbly easy to capture clips of anything.
I signed up for Evernote for Business, and I keep discovering new ways to use it. It’s already replaced my company’s wiki and it’s replacing a large part of what Box.com used to do for me, and now I’m using it to collaborate on projects at work and at home, including planning vacations, school activities, etc. I estimate that actually utilizing Evernote gives me back at least 5 hours per week. I used to think that Box.com was hot and servers were ancient. I’m starting to realize that a platform like Evernote is much, much more than notes and can radically change the way a business - or even a household - runs.
What app do you know you’re underutilizing?
You know, when it comes to under-utilizing an app, I can’t really think of one off the top of my head. I think it’s because I’m so obsessive-compulsive about how I select apps, how I organize them, and more important, what I get rid of. I do an 80–20 analysis on everything. My iPhone is a great example. I use the stuff on the home screen 95%+ of the time. I used to have the calculator app on the home screen before Siri and before the Calculator was moved to the control center. If I had to pick one by features it would be OmniFocus. There’s just so much more I could do with it, but I don’t need to because the 20% I use it for gives me the 95% of what I want.
What is the app you are still missing?
A really, really, really good translation app. There are some cool ones out there, but there’s no real rosetta stone of apps yet. I will seriously geek out when the day comes that I can tap ’translate’ and have it do real-time translation of everything happening in my conversation and transfer it to my Moto Hint that’s usually embedded in my ear. Then again, I remember holding the original 5GB iPod in my hand and saying “wouldn’t it be cool if this thing had a camera and you could make calls on it.” Maybe Siri will become my personal translator not too far off.
How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?
I use my iPhone a lot. In order of use:
1. Phone. I’m only using one phone number nowadays.
3. Evernote. Using with #1 and #2 constantly.
4. Music and Apple Remote. Music is sooooo important to me. I’m playing music constantly, in the car, at the office, at home.
5. Twitter. I’m @jamescoleman on Twitter. Twitter is the ultimate ability to say “hello” to anyone out there, and I love responding to anyone that says hi to me.
On the other hand, I’m getting more and more used to leaving the ring volume on and cranked up somewhere in the house when I’m home so I don’t have the tendency of looking at it all the time. When it’s in my pocket or in my hand, I noticed I’m more likely to look at it when I don’t need to. Same for work production time. When I’m writing the phone is a massive distraction, so it good to my right on the bookshelf and waits there.
I own two iPads and use them all the time teaching people Photos and business and personal productivity, but I use my iPhone for everything. The only time I really use my iPad is as a parent-saving-device (PSD) on 12-hour flight to Japan, fully loaded with Ultraman and Youkai Watch videos for my kiddos.
What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?
The camera. Without a doubt. The ability to take a photo anywhere, anytime, geo-tagged, is just so wonderful. I’ve spent 10 years learning everything there is about digital photography, and I’ve helped everyone from moms and dads to some of the best photographers in the world get their photos and videos in order. I fill up my iPhone (I have the largest size and storage possible) at least once every 3 months. I just love it.
If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?
My wife’s phone was just stolen during a trip to San Francisco, and within minutes we pushed the destroy-all-data button. About an hour later we had confirmation that the iPhone was zeroed out. The problem is, the jerk who stole it still has some incentive, despite the IMEI being reported stolen. There are too many parts that get taken and make their way into the black market. I want an option to not only wipe data, but fry all the circuitry simultaneously so every single part of the device is worthless to the crook who took it. I would find a way to not just remote wipe the phone, but also to safely remote destroy it.
What’s your wallpaper and why?
My lock screen rotates a lot. Usually pictures of my two boys or my gorgeous wife. Right now it’s a good luck charm I saw in Kyoto, Japan when I was traveling in the Yunohana area with my brother last April. I had just started a new blog so the maneki neko - a good luck cat - is beckoning for new readers :-)