March 15, 2010
by Alastair Halliday
Being familiar with Apple’s history of version 1.0 rollouts across their product line, I resisted the first iPhone for as long as I could. Now I can say without hesitation, however, that the iPhone is a life-changing device. It’s primary significance is its ability to perform so many diverse tasks in such a clean package through both native and third party apps, and to do so in a device that can easily slide into your pocket. A number of these apps help us run a design and technology firm. Here are the most useful.
Skype on your iPhone is really handy for international calls when your clients or contractors/team members are overseas. Sure, there are some occasional connection issues, so we'll always let a client know when we're calling via Skype, but more often than not the connection is good and the price and ease of use for an office that is cell phone-based is unmatched.
Between Amazon.com and Newegg.com there are few office necessities that you can't buy, and few reasons to look anywhere else. The Amazon Mobile app has a very nice user flow, integrates with your wish list pretty well, and does a good job of utilizing online reviews for products. Most things I purchase around the office have come from Amazon including internal drives, my document scanner, microphones, DSLRs, and design books. Even if I'm not making the actual purchases there, the accessibility of the user reviews when I'm checking out products in a brick and mortar proves extremely valuable. I'm never making store purchases blind but have dozens, sometimes hundreds, of user reviews to consider when making that spontaneous product purchase.
Deliveries is the iPhone app version of the mac widget Delivery Status. This app tracks product purchases you have made that get delivered via FedEx, UPS and dozens of other package carriers centralized in a single place. If you're anything like me, once you make a purchase all you want to do is know exactly where the package is and how soon it will be coming to your back door or office. The app also syncs nicely with the widget on your mac. Typically I copy and paste the package carrier's tracking code into the mac widget and then just do all my tracking through the iPhone app. This is a very high use app for me.
Like Deliveries, iStat has the same functionality as its Mac widget. iStat uses Bonjour and your wireless network to monitor your computer activity including disk space, upload/download speeds, battery life (for laptops), CPU heat and productivity and MUCH more. Through a hack I haven't tried yet you can even monitor your AppleTV which is notorious for running hot. Outside of using your WiFi to monitor the different computers on your network, you can easily set it up to work off site when you are away from the office or home. I'll often use iStat to check remotely if my computer has completed a large download or why another computer might be running slowly. Check out the site and you might be surprised how much computer data you can monitor from your iPhone.
Use: Testing upload/download speeds
App in iTunes Store
This no-frills app helps you quickly check what's going on with your network speeds. A great way to see why your internet access might be sluggish, but also to get a more realistic picture of what type of service your local network provider is ACTUALLY giving you.
Call me slightly nuts, but I think that Growl is one of the single greatest apps for my mac, and Prowl extends Growl's functionality to the iPhone. Growl is an action alert tool for your mac that is extremely customizable. Anytime you get an email or a song changes in iTunes or a large file downloads or a thousand other mac or app-based actions occur, you can set Growl to pop up a small message on your screen above all of your applications so that you don't need to stop working or switch apps to see who that email came from or what song and artist the track just switched to. Prowl uses push notifications so that when an action occurs on your computer you can set Growl to notify your iPhone and a message pops up alerting you. And like Growl, it's completely customizable so that you can select a very specific number of actions that get passed to your iPhone. I find this particularly helpful for uploading large files on a server for clients or downloading really large files that may take ten minutes to an hour. It's nice to be away from the computer and be told when those files have completed upload/download.
Use: Site analytics
Mint is easily my most used "app." in fact, I'm using it right now to see that you are reading this blog post. While Mint isn't a traditional iPhone app which you can find in the iTunes store, the iPhone layout is so user-friendly that I see no reason why I shouldn't include it. When you bookmark your site's Mint dashboard and keep the icon on your iPhone's home screen you can easily look at your site traffic, referral links and other critical data that help you better shape your site content for SEO and audience targeting.
Analytics integrates with Google Analytics, which we've deploy on our site as well as client sites. This app helps us track detailed information about users and their behavior and as a result helps us target our client needs better and better helps us understand their target audience. Where Mint gives us a good, real-time view of general daily traffic, Analytics covers a greater amount of detail in a nice tidy iPhone package.