Posts Tagged AutoMobile

My favorite iPhone apps

I’ve had my iPhone for a couple of months now (really 2 1/2) and over that time I’ve found several iPhone apps that I really like and regularly use. I’m going to first discuss the replacements for the Palm apps I was worried about losing and then others I was either less concerned about or hadn’t even considered.

Just before I ordered my iPhone, I described how must of my areas of concern were basically handled. Here’s the current status:

Pocket Quicken
No change here and this is probably what I miss the most. There are lots of financial apps for the iPhone, but I’m still married to Quicken for Windows (under VMware Fusion). I don’t expect this situation to change any time soon, so I have resigned myself to entering receipts at home and not being able to look up historic items on-the-go.
TeeShot (version 1.6) is serving me pretty well for this, though it does tend to crash quite a few times during a round of golf. Luckily, it is very good about saving state such that when I re-launch it, it is pretty much right where I left off. Usually the crash completes very quickly and the re-launch is also quick, so it isn’t that big an inconvenience, though occasionally, that isn’t the case and it takes a while to recover. The usability has improved with each new version and the next version (1.7) should be coming out soon.
I went ahead and purchased SplashShopper (version 2.5), but I find that I am only using it for checklists. For shopping, I am using ShoppingList (version 1.2). It has a nice feature to dynamically order the items based on the order that they have previously been bought. Unfortunately, this doesn’t quite work well enough for me as it only applies if the items are filtered to only show the items previously purchased at the current store or not at any store. Just because I purchased an item at a different store in the past and not at this store doesn’t mean I don’t want to get it here. I emailed the author about this and his response was positive, but the app hasn’t been updated in nearly two months. The other thing I used to use HandyShopper for was to track when I last watched each of my DVDs. I use this as a guideline for things like which DVDs to take on trips without having to think about what I might want to watch — if I own it and haven’t watched it in a while, I’ll probably enjoy watching it again. SplashShopper does not have a built-in date field for items, and using one of the custom fields for that doesn’t appeal to me. I’ve ended up using iProcrastinate Mobile (see below) and it is working quite well for this.
In addition to the fundamental functionality of tracking fuel efficiency, I also wanted maintenance reminders and a graph of fuel price. Car Care (version 1.15) provides everything I wanted and the interface is pretty nice. I do wish startup were a bit quicker and that I could configure it to startup on the fill-up entry page.
iCal on the iPhone isn’t anywhere near as functional as DateBk6, but I’m surviving OK. For ToDo items I’ve settled on iProcrastinate Mobile (version 1.1, icon name “Tasks”). It does not support repeating items, which is mainly what I have, but I’ve found that rather than marking an item as done I can simply reset the date to the new due date (I store the repeat pattern as text in the Note field to remind me of what to do). As I mentioned above, I am also using this app to track when I last watched each of the DVDs that I own. This app would be greatly improved if Apple would add the ability for an app to update it’s badge (number shown on the icon in the app launcher) at some regular interval without the user having to launch the app, along with allowing for alarms from 3rd party apps.

Other iPhone apps I am using as replacements for Palm apps:

Separate Checks
This is by far the best iPhone app I have found for dividing up a check as it lets you actually assign the items to individual people rather than simply splitting the total evenly. Other than a couple of usability issues, and the fact that it doesn’t save any data between invocations (so if you leave the app for some reason before you’re finished, you have to start over — ugh), the main design of the app is, I think, superior to the Palm app I was using, Tipsy.
Expense Sharer (web site under constructon)
I’ve been waiting for an app like this since I got my iPhone (in fact, I seriously considered writing it myself, but the learning curve seems fairly steep if you haven’t done any Mac/Cocoa programming before) and it finally came out last week. Yeah! Based on at least one review in iTunes, some people simply do not understand the point of this app. The ideal use is for sharing expenses when going on a group vacation (as the name of Palm app I used, Holiday Debts, indicates). While I do use the app for this purpose, I also use it to track daily lunch debts between my regular lunch group — whomever is behind pays for that day’s lunch and the expense is divided appropriately (possibly with the help of Separate Checks) and entered. The app then shows how much is owed to and from each person which tells us whose turn to pay it is next. I like this app a lot, particularly the nicely formatted email summary that can be sent.
Simple body weight tracking app, but the first one I found that is both free (as this is not really something I care enough about to pay for) and shows a graph. In truth, this isn’t really a replacement for the Palm app I was using, CK Diet Diary, as that app did much more (tracked meals and exercise, including a database for both), but for the last few years I had only used the weight tracking aspect of that app.

And, of course, there are a number of iPhone apps I use that fill an entirely new niche for me:

Nice iPhone interface to Wikipedia — better than accessing via Safari as it is formatted better for the iPhone and includes a table of contents view that can be handy.
I like this for finding nearby restaurants. There are lots of apps for this, but this is the one I have liked best so far. I also like that it lets me post a Twitter update with a link to the restaurant’s Urban Spoon page.
This app is for finding all sorts of nearby stuff, but the only thing I use it for is for looking at nearby gas prices. There may be a better app for this.
This is a very cool app that interfaces with either Netflix or Blockbuster Online and lets you manage your queue. I’m only using the free version at this point, which doesn’t let you add DVDs to your queue, but still lets you reorder and delete items.

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Update on “Palm Apps I’d Miss”

I previously described some Palm Apps I’d Miss if I were to switch to an iPhone. Now that the App Store is open and I’ve had a chance to look through the iPhone Apps that are available, here is an update on the status of each item I mentioned:

Pocket Quicken
I haven’t used it in about a month and though I miss it some, it’s not as bad as I had expected.
This is still a must-have, but since it is not something I need with me at all times, I can simply bring a Palm with me when golfing.
SplashShopper is now available for the iPhone, so that should take care of this for the most part. I think it is missing the ability to assign dates to items, which I use for my DVD watching list, but there’s probably a work-around I can come up with.
I saw a few iPhone apps that should be able to fill this function — one in particular that looked like a particularly good replacement (though without the graphs that AutoMobile has). I don’t have access to iTunes right now so I cannot check the name of that app.
I’ve got my calendar syncing between Apple’s iCal, my Palm/DateBk6 and Google’s calendar. It’s working pretty well so I am hopeful that the syncing between iCal and the iPhone will be sufficient enough that I will not find the lack of control provided by DateBk6 too painful. Repeating ToDo items may be the most significant loss but there seem to be a plethora of ToDo apps available for the iPhone, so perhaps one of those will be sufficient.

Also, it looks like eReader, at least, is already available for the iPhone, which will cover most of the eBooks that I have purchased.

Certainly the situation with 3rd party apps for the iPhone is much better than I had anticipated — more specifically, it is well-varied much sooner than I had expected.

In the end, it really just comes down to money. $300 for the iPhone (16GB version) + $150 for early termination of Sprint contract (unless I wait until next May) + an extra $20/month for the AT&T plan (at least, depending on the realities of taxes, fees and the corporate discount that is apparently valid for the 3G iPhone plan). That’s a total of $1030 for two years — ouch!

I think I’ll just bide my time for now and try to hold out until May. It may only save me $150, but it could end up saving a lot more depending on what else happens between now and then.

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Palm Apps I’d Miss

Now that the iPhone will finally support a decent data speed it is at least tempting, even if it would cost an additional $20/month when compared to my current unlimited data plan on Sprint. The primary temptation is the decent web browser and better resolution.

However, there are several Palm apps that I use regularly that I would need to replace (or learn to live without) before I could really abandon a Palm device — and I’m not inclined to go back to carrying an extra device.

Pocket Quicken
I use this as much for data review as for data entry, perhaps even more so. In fact, it is the ability to review data whenever and wherever I want that I would miss the most.
I don’t use this for much more than scoring these days, so I could probably give it up more easily than I had previously thought.
Ostensibly a shopping list, I use this more often as a packing list and a DVD management list. In the past I’ve used it for all sorts of check lists, with or without priorities and categories. It’s very powerful.
Losing this wouldn’t really be a big deal, but it is nice to see a graph of fuel prices I’ve paid. I also use it for odometer-based maintenance reminders.
This is a very powerful calendar and task management app that I know I would miss. It seems like the iPhone calendar is very limited.

Additionally, I have a number of eBooks that I think may be locked into specific formats for eReader or Mobipocket Reader.

My current contract doesn’t expire until next May so perhaps some of these needs will be filled by then, assuming the iPhone SDK catches on with developers.

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