Home Screens – Zac Hall

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This weeks home screen features Zac Hall (Twitter)(Website). Zac is the lead editor and one of the prolific gang of writers over at 9to5 Mac. Zac and I recently met for the first time and found ourselves in a mutual admiration society. So Zac, show us your home screen.

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What are some of your favorite apps?

Streaks by Quentin Zervaas at Crunchy Bagel. I use it to remind myself to track my weight with my smart scale, close my Activity rings with my Apple Watch, and use the Breathe app on my Apple Watch daily. The app talks to HealthKit, too, so marking an item as done and continuing the streak is automatic.

Tweetbot by Tapbots. I try all the Twitter clients and nothing else feels as fast to me. Given my job, I just don’t feel “at work” without my timeline streaming. Twitter is both my primary way to track breaking news and the “water cooler” where I talk with friends.

Fantastical from Flexibits. I tend to prefer Apple’s built-in apps over learning other apps, but Fantastical has always just been light years ahead of Apple’s calendar app for me. Natural language input makes scheduling events on the right calendar super easy, and the simple list view just clicks with how I process my calendar. Fantastical also has a really great month view widget that I keep turned on.

Nike+ Run Club. I track all my runs with NRC. The built-in Workout app on the Apple Watch is great and getting better all the time, but Nike+ Run Club does a great job of showing how many data points that Apple’s Activity app doesn’t highlight. Data like how many miles I’ve ran per month, how many miles I’ve ran in total, and my fastest mile, 5K, 10K, and half marathon. I’m pretty locked in for now.

Apollo, a Reddit client. I only follow a few subreddits, each Apple related, and it helps expose me to points-of-view I may not be seeing on Twitter based on who I follow. I really like how this app takes advantage of the ability to offer a variety of app icons too.

Reeder for RSS. I’ve used David Smith’s Feed Wrangler subscription RSS service since it launched a few years ago, and it works great with Reeder on iOS and the Mac.

Instagram. I love the stripped down view of the world with a photo and a caption. After reading all day, an image is just so refreshing to process. Instagram recently added the ability to follow search terms and hashtags too, and I use this for one group: #CloseYourRings. This puts people using their Apple Watch to workout in my feed which motivates me to do the same. I wish it wasn’t owned by Facebook and I really wish there was an Instagram for iPad, but I like the community on iPhone.

These aren’t necessarily on my Home screen at all times, but a few are. App launching for me is a combination of widgets in the Today View, Spotlight search, notifications, and apps categorized in folders alphabetically on my second Home screen. My primary Home screen is just one part of that approach.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Pokémon GO. So much that I’ve recently uninstalled it — for now at least. For a while, it motivated me to go new places and explore, but I started to get a little too obsessed with advancing in the game.

When I noticed I was less present in the real world (and spend real world money to keep playing), I knew I needed a break.

What app makes you most productive?

Things! I’m fortunate to be able to work remotely and have a lot of agency over what I work on day to day, but that means I need to be my own manager a lot of the time.

My approach to task management with Things is thinking of myself as my own employee. When I’m populating Things with tasks ahead of time, I think about the process as what I want my one employee to do.

Then I use it as a reference point for what an ambitious version of me from the past has assigned the current, slightly less focused version of myself to do. It’s a total brain hack but it works for me, and I feel a lot more accomplished at the end of the day.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

Workflow! I’m really looking forward to Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12 and I’m really into home automation through HomeKit, but I’ve never really unlocked the potential to Workflow and other forms of automation on iOS. I can’t wait to dive in again when the new Shortcuts app debuts in iOS 12.

What is the app you are still missing?

Audiobooks from iBooks (or Apple Books starting in the fall) on Apple Watch. The redesigned Apple Books app looks terrific on iPhone and I enjoy listening to audiobooks in the app, but I would love to be able to see my audiobook library and stream it from the watch.

Apple Music and Podcasts streaming on watchOS 5 is really great on my Apple Watch Series 3 — especially over LTE when I’m away from my iPhone — and audiobook streaming is the last streaming media source I’m missing.

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

Moment of truth… Prior to iOS 12, I could honestly give a low ball, double digit guess and believe it, but now we have Screen Time and the data doesn’t lie.

According to Screen Time in iOS 12, I’ve picked up my iPhone 340 times today, or 15 times per hour and once every three minutes. Tweetbot and Messages are my go to apps, and I’ve logged 3 hours 31 minutes of usage.

In reality, I could try to game those numbers down a lot on typical work days like today when I’m working primarily from my Mac and anything on the iPhone is mainly checking in.

If Screen Time comes to the Mac, my numbers will really rocket.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I love widgets that are so glanceable I rarely need to open the app. I keep Weather, Activity, and Streaks at the top for this reason. I count calories when dieting or trying to maintain a weight with MyFitnessPal. The widget is both a reference point for me and an app launcher.

Things and Fantastical give me an idea of what tasks are on my radar and what’s coming. Photos for recommending Memories, Music and Podcasts for starting audio, and Apple News for glancing at headlines.

Finally, I keep the Batteries widget at the bottom for seeing iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods battery status at a glance.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

iCloud Photo Library. It gets a bad wrap sometimes, but the experience has been rock solid for me since I started using it in beta.

I currently have 21,687 photos and 1,921 videos and counting that are all instantly accessible on my iPhone and iPad — regardless of how much local storage my device has. That’s every photo I’ve ever taken (and kept) from any camera viewable on all my devices.

And unlike Google Photos, iCloud Photo Library has a solid Mac app in Photos — I would pay for iCloud storage if the only thing it did was unlock iCloud Photo Library.

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

My first answer is sharing the full Mac roadmap with customers. I think previewing the iMac Pro months in advance and confirming the redesigned Mac Pro years in advance has served Apple well. I would like to see a similar openness with other Macs in Apple’s lineup, like every MacBook and the Mac mini. But that response is probably motivated for my desire to upgrade to a newer MacBook Pro as soon as something new is ready.

Separately, I would love to see Apple conti
nue to advance its focus on helping customers live a better day through health and fitness. I love capturing data in the Health app, but it’s not always clear what to make of the information. I think Apple could do more to make this information actionable through education.

The Apple Watch also does a great job of pushing you to be more active with Activity rings and the Workout app, but I think there is an opportunity for a more structured digital fitness trainer. That could be in the form of a first-party fitness coaching app or even workout videos from Apple’s fitness experts.

I always get really pumped up from the Apple Watch ads showing people being active in different ways, but my comfort zone is currently limited to the treadmill, elliptical, and outdoor running.

Do you have an Apple Watch? Show us your watch face tell us about it.

Absolutely! I adore the Apple Watch, and I love seeing it get more powerful and capable every year. Workout tracking and the Activity rings motivated me to diet and exercise to improve my health a few years ago, and the Activity Digital face was my top choice.

watchOS 4.3 added Activity rings as a data source on the Siri watch face, however, and I’ve been using it since then. I’m really looking forward to third-party data sources coming to the Siri watch face in watchOS 5 this fall.

The trick to the Siri watch face for me has been turning off data sources in the Watch app on iPhone that you don’t want to see on your watch face (like Apple News and Stocks in my case).

Once you tune the Siri watch face to your liking, it can be the most dynamic interface on the watch.

I always want to see the current temperature and date so I use those as complications, then other data sources appear on the timeline: Activity rings, personalized Apple Music playlists, HomeKit scenes based on time and location, and timers but only if they’re running.

I love how contextual it can be compared to the other watch faces.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

A photo of my son Rory! He was born August 2017 and he’s changing all the time — and so is my wallpaper but it’s always him.

I really like using Live Photos when I capture a good shot because it animates when I press the lock screen firmly, but the current photo is one captured on my Sony a6500. Every few weeks, I like to take out my good camera and just crawl around with him and take a ton of photos with him.

The iPhone is fantastic as a camera and captures almost all of my photos, but sometimes dedicated cameras just do a better job with indoor lighting.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Sure! For anyone with a free slot on their Home screen, check out the 9to5Mac iOS app. We don’t promote it a whole lot, but my 9to5Mac Happy Hour podcast co-host Benjamin Mayo develops it and recently shipped a big update to how notifications for breaking news works. Try it out!