iPad mini

Starter Pack

Even though I’m a proud iOS user for over four years now, I’ve never done a must-have list for iOS apps. I just picked up a new first generation iPad mini (for the daughter) and that created a perfect opportunity to start making my list. Even though the iPad is intended for my daughter, I’m pretty sure it will jump into my hands a few times a day so I might as well get some use out of it.


Without question Instapaper is the first non-standard app that I install on every iOS device I own. As soon as it came out for Android, I even installed it on my wife’s then-phone, the only Android device in our household. I come across a ton of stuff on the net that I want to read but rarely at the right time – Instapaper plays a crucial role in helping me punch through all of those articles. I love it, can’t live without it and I’m not sure why I haven’t gotten an iPad just for Instapaper. I’m starting to seriously question my priorities.


I don’t tweet a ton, but I check Twitter obsessively and I can’t imagine what it’s like to experience Twitter without Tweetbot. Sometimes friends will tell me something that annoys them about Twitter and I’ll look at them puzzlingly – forgetting that I interact with Twitter through the Tapbots lens. Once it hits me, I send that lost soul a link to Tweetbot and tell them they’ll thank me later.


This spot was previously occupied by Elements 2, but then development on that app slowed (for good reasons) and I decided to make Vesper my note-taking app of choice. Thankfully, this shift coincided with the release of Vesper Sync, a homemade solution to that ever-challenging sync problem. I don’t take copious amounts of notes on my iPhone, but when I do, I use Vesper.

Reeder 2

Okay, I confess. I’m one of the nerds that has and always will use RSS for news and blog site updates. Twitter has gone a long way to becoming the “what’s up” spot for the typical net junkie, but I find Twitter too ephemeral. I actually want to keep up with a handful of sites, not just find out what is hot off the press. RSS clients make keeping up with blogs just like keeping up with email – both the good and the bad. Reeder 2 not only helps make that task manageable, but also fun and efficient. Swipe, tap and hold, or just drag scroll to browse, save for later, mark as read, or skim. It’s all on the table and it looks clean, not cluttered. I love Reeder 2, it is definitely a must-have for me. (Reeder 2 for Mac is also now available.)

Day One

I don’t journal often, but when I do, I use Day One (iOS and Mac). Day One is a Markdown compatible journaling app that offers a beautiful, easy to use interface with lots of great journaling features. You can automatically add meta-data like the current weather and your location. Using the data from Forecast.io (my go-to weather source) Day One can even go back in time to fetch the weather if you are back-dating a post. Because I still can’t get in the habit of journaling, I resolved this year to write not only journal entries in Day One but also blog post drafts. I have only a so-so success rate so far (this post was written primarily in the WordPress iOS app) but I can’t deny that writing in Day One is an absolute pleasure and I always love using it when the mood strikes.


Oy, email. I’ve never really loved email on the iPhone. The closest thing to a great experience I’ve had came in the form of Sparrow, acquired and then sunset by Google in an obvious acqui-hire move. But even Sparrow had it’s drawbacks, primarily the lack of push notifications. Mailbox was and still is a great alternative to Sparrow (and of course, the default iOS Mail app) with only one drawback – reliance on its own servers for push management (and also probably some of the fancy stuff they do with to-do/email snoozing, more on that in a bit). Mailbox has the best interface of any other mail apps I’ve tried and aside from a few server delays every once in a while and that lingering 3rd party server worry, I love checking, reading and writing email in it. That said, I don’t use it for my primary email account1 because I’m apprehensive about relying on a 3rd party server for my main email account (privacy, reliability and longevity are my big concerns in that regard). I’m also really anxious for the Mac app.


Twitter and Instagram are my primary social media vices, with a little sprinkling of Facebook as a way of keeping up with far away friends. I love photos and all of the interesting things you can do with them, including the style-heavy filters that Instagram practically introduced to the mobile photography layperson. These days I try to keep my filtering to a minimum (the oft-used #nofilter), though I do make the occasional use of filters from …


I’m still kind of weening myself off of Camera+, but as I evolve into less frequent use of the Depth of Field filter, I’m finding myself turning to VSCO Cam. Like a host of other camera apps in the App Store, VSCO Cam features filters and tweaks to amplify or downplay your photos to give them a custom, professional touch. The difference with VSCO Cam is that it features the power of the Visual Supply Company, purveyors of highly regarded post-processing photo filters since 2011.

OmniFocus 2

I’m still finding my place in OmniFocus, but I know that I’d be twenty steps back if it weren’t for even my primitive use of it. Other popular list/todo apps are far simpler (Clear, Due), but the simplicity comes at the cost of fairly anemic customization options. For someone who relies on simple lists for task management, run away from OmniFocus and stick with any of the aforementioned apps, among others. But if you are a productivity nerd, you have to try OmniFocus. (The much-anticipated OmniFocus 2 was recently released for the Mac.)

Dark Sky

Oh the weather. Earlier I mentioned Day One’s use of forecast.io data to retrieve weather data for backdated posts – Dark Sky is the founding app from the group behind the forecast.io data. If I had written this article just a few months ago, Dark Sky would not have placed this high on the list. But back in January, the Dark Sky team revamped the app considerably. At launch, Dark Sky’s primary purpose was to tell if it is currently raining or how soon it’s going to rain if precipitation is close. Now, it is a full-fledged weather app. The visualizations are awesome and most of the info any amateur meteorologist will need is right at your finger tips.

Fantastical 2

To tell you the truth, I could probably get by with the new calendar in iOS 7 but by the time it reached my phone it was too late; Fantastical had a tight grip on my life scheduling sensibilities and it wasn’t letting go. In calendar applications, I like to jump back and forth between week and month views and Fantastical 2 handles this incredibly swiftly on iPhone. Though I typically prefer month views that show more event details (title & time at least), Fantastical has enough tap-slide-tap capabilities that I don’t really feel like the information I need is far beyond my reach. The horizontal week view they added with their major post-iOS 7 update only solidified their spot on my two-app home screen grid2 (besides the four I keep in the dock). I check my calendar constantly but Fantastical makes the experience efficient enough to remove some of the friction that makes that such a burdensome task.

  1. About a month ago, I finally gave up on Sparrow and started using Boxer.
  2. Fantastical, OmniFocus. I’m also in the four-apps dock camp: Launch Center Pro, Boxer Mail, Phone, Messages.