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More on a photographer’s ruminations as an iPhone junkie …

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Is it time to rename the iPhone?

BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

The iPhone 4 Photo Folder 7

The 7th folder with photo apps on iPhone 4.

The iPhone app junkie that I am, today proved to be quite an unusual day.

For the first time ever, the amount of space that is occupied by the apps on my 32 MB iPhone has now exceeded the amount of space that I have for storing songs, videos, photos, audiobooks and other contents. It all started innocently enough. Not too many months ago, I decided that I wanted to make sure most if not all of the apps I’ve downloaded from Apple’s excellent App Store, both free and paid, are conveniently accessible on my iPhone. Of course, with the new iPhone 4 that has 32 MB storage space and the latest iOS, that became very possible.

Lured by the gloss and vigorous promotions of new apps that has been coming out, and the many bright promises of vastly improving the quality of my life, I went on the irreversible path (which turned into a habit) of downloading more and more apps. At first, in order for me to accommodate the new apps on my iPhone, I needed to bump off only a single playlist with a bunch of music that occupied a small file size. It wasn’t really all that painful because the playlist I chucked off contained songs that I really don’t care listening to. But as days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, and as I downloaded more and more apps, I began unchecking and off-synching more and more music playlists.

I already had a very strong suspicion that one day, I might have to allot more space to all the apps than I did with my music collection. Nobody needed to tell me that “that” day was somehow going to come. I knew all along that it will happen. What with more than 350,000 apps in the App Store and counting, it was inevitable. After all, just a couple of weeks ago, Apple counted down with much fanfare its 100th thousand downloaded app. And so I dismissed the prospect as merely a little inconvenience. After all, it was comforting to know that I’m well-covered with the fact that I got quite a few music streaming apps that offer far more musical choices than I wanted to listen to anyway. Still, it’s quite a marvel to think that since the App Store came to being, and many apps turned out to be essential daily things, its use will overtake almost all of the iPhone’s other major functions.

At this point, spending a whole lot of time with Apple’s handset doing a myriad of things other than using its subscription-based cellular service (making phone calls and texting) or listening to music and watching video on the iPod, or even browsing the web via Safari, the name iPhone, while proper in describing this handset, seems to be no longer appropriate. In fact, calling it an Internet phone or smartphone doesn’t really make sense anymore since we’ve all come around to doing something more and more with it that doesn’t involve the actual use of the mechanism with which we know qualifies as making traditional phone calls.

Most of the time, we are fiddling with one of its apps, in multitasking sort of ways, for anything and everything other than. I understand why we have to call it a “phone” still, because there’s nothing else in place to appropriately describe it that will make it easily understandable and differentiable for what it is. But perhaps now, with its ubiquity, more than ever, is the perfect time to give it its new unique identity—and no longer just the kind of name that references a particular previous technology. The first motorized vehicles that rolled on the streets were called horseless carriages until it was eventually and properly called a car.

I don’t presume to know what it should be called, but, for all intents and purposes, it has now become its own class of “touch-based interactive information and communication mobile device.” Such a descriptive name wouldn’t fly off as a replacement for the name “iPhone,” specially considering that it has to be identified against the iPod Touch and the iPad, which performs majority of things in a very similar way (after all, it’s all rooted from the same iOS), but I sense there might be soon a need to call the iPhone by some other name.

In the past, Apple has changed its company name and the name of one of its operating systems to keep up with the times. But Apple is very secretive. We can’t really tell what they are up to unless they make an official announcement of it. Still, I will not be surprised if one of these days, the iPhone will be similarly renamed, perhaps when the next hardware update is introduced.

For now, I am personally marking this day when the apps on my iPhone now occupy more space than my music collection. I’m sure if things continue to be like this, one day soon, I’ll eventually have no more music stored on my iPhone’s iPod app, and all I’ll really have on it are the apps, some information, and my iPhone photos. Will the iPod turn into a cloud service by then? Will my photos even be on a cloud service? Will the next iPhone hardware have bigger internal flash storage capacity?

Well, those days are yet to come, and I’ll definitely cross the bridge when I get to each of those days, just as I did today, when there are now, for the first time, more apps than music in my iPhone.

Written by dominiquejames

February 4, 2011 at 2:08 PM

A photographer’s ruminations on being an iPhone junkie

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BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

An iPhone App Folders

A page view of the iPhone featuring folders of apps.

Just to get one very obvious thing out of the way: I am an iPhone junkie.

I am not ashamed to say that I totally love my iPhone. I’m not sure if it’s a badge of honor to admit as much, knowing that there are guys out there who absolutely hate the iPhone and everything Apple (for one reason or the other), but in my case, there’s no denying the fact that I don’t go almost anywhere without my iPhone.

Also, I follow with keen and consistent interest almost all things Apple, Mac, iPhone and iOS news. This week, for instance, tech news is being dominated by 2 things: the definitiveness of iPhone’s coming to Verizon, thus ending its exclusivity with AT&T (which is still my preferred network), and the launch of Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily (though I have yet to own an iPad, and I don’t necessarily agree with the politics of Murdoch’s media empire). Last week, the news basically revolved around the annual Macworld event held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and the million and one things in for the Mac, the iPhone, and the ipad that were being launched, all without the core which is Apple.

A little back story: Since I got one in 2007, the iPhone has become the one device that’s constantly with me. More importantly, and out of habit, it is the one device that I now always use (I’ve been through each of the 4 models) whenever I want to and wherever I happen to be—from checking the latest news and information to connecting with friends on the social networks, from taking pictures and sharing them online to doing countless little tasks that serves to “assist” me in more ways than one. In each and every step of my mobile way, the iPhone keeps me connected. In fact, it would be fair to say that, nowadays, my life revolves around the iPhone and its many apps. It is also just as fair to say that my life today is almost hard to imagine without the iPhone 4, the iOS 4.2.1 (which, if the recent speculations are to be believed, will soon become 4.2.6), and the thousands and thousands of apps that has been developed by amazing third-party developers.

If you don’t know me at all, you can be forgiven if you think that my main line of work has something to do with technology. Sure, in a way, it does. I use technology all the time. But, for all intents and purposes, my use of technology has something more to do with what it can do for me in order that I may be able to do my main line work, which is photography. I’ve been a professional photographer for more than 25 years, long before the digital age. And as technology progressed, I found myself increasingly drawn and seduced by what it can do to my photography. As a matter of fact, you can say that I’ve seen with my own two eyes how digital technology has single-handedly changed the photo industry. I’ve witnessed that period. I’ve been a part of that period.

In any case, as a professional photographer, I realize that what I should be admitting to is that the one thing I am never without is a camera, instead of the iPhone. But that is simply not at all true. It really is the iPhone that I’m never without anywhere. (So, ok, it helps that the iPhone has a camera, never mind if puny compared to the capabilities of pro-level DSLRs that I own and should be carrying instead, but there’s something more to the iPhone that makes me want to tote it all around. Still, I realize that it isn’t a very good excuse, and really, I have no excuse at all for it. If you can think up of one, let me know!)

Short of being the voguish equivalent of a psychological crutch, I have rationalize to myself that my almost amorous regard of the iPhone is because I threw good money on this neat little toy and I pay a not-too-shabby monthly subscription service to the now not-so-exclusive American carrier, so why not make the most out of it? Besides, I pride myself with the fact that I am extremely well aware and quite conscious of the proper etiquette when it comes to its constant use. While I am always whipping it out and weilding it about, I never ever let it get in the way of all my face-to-face, real life interaction with the real people around me, unless of course, I mean to use it in exactly that way—a shield, a weapon. But that aside, I think I’m decent enough to know that I have to refrain from carrying on loud private chatter in public cafes and trains, I have to turn off the ringer for the entire duration of Broadway performances, and I have to put it in a disaster-averting “Airplane Mode” when actually in an airplane, or whenever warranted.

Last I checked, my “seeming” obsession with the iPhone and its use have led me to download via the iTunes App Store a total of over 1,060 apps to date! (And this doesn’t include the iPad apps that I have also been downloading in preparation to that time in the very near future when I’d finally have my very own iPad. So, ok, a little voice in my head is telling me that “it’s not really about what you’ve got but how you use it.”)

I am making an assumption here, and I really have no way of knowing, but I think, individually, even the likes of Jason Snell (Macworld), Merlin Mann (43 Folders) or John Gruber (Daring Fireball) may not have downloaded that many iPhone apps as I did, or use as many as I actually do on a day to day basis. (I would certainly love to find out how many iPhone apps each of them harbors!)

About 90 percent of the apps I’ve downloaded are installed in my iPhone. The very small percentage that are no longer in my iPhone are either seasonal apps or time-limited apps whose functionality has already been served.

With a hefty collection of iPhone apps, I can sense that I am in the minority. Recently, in a very half-hearted and very unscientific investigation which I attempt over the holiday season, I “discovered” that my friends and members of my family have far less apps installed on their iPhones compared to mine. I think, they average to about less fifty to a hundred apps. It wasn’t really a surprise to have been able to confirm what I’ve always suspected, but, it kinda put things in a somewhat proper perspective.

As I flick through the rows and rows of folders filled with apps that I’ve hoarded, I almost feels embarassed whenever someone sees it. I am always asked, in a very surprised and perhaps somewhat mocking tone, why I have so many apps—challenging or accusing me as it were, if I actually use them all. I can’t help but be a bit defensive at times, and I somehow manage to come up with a lame excuse saying that I download and use the apps regularly because it has, in part, something into do with my work (not only as a professional photographer but more because I am an Apple Certified Pro and Apple Certified Trainer, even if only for Apple’s Aperture).

Not that I’ve kept accurate count, but on a day to day basis, I think I open and use an average of about 50 to 60 apps. On certain days, it can go up to as high as a hundred, and in rarer days still, even more. In all and on average, I probably regularly use about a good 35 to 45 percent of all the apps I’ve got installed on my iPhone.

What are these?

Well, for starters, since I’m very much into iPhone photography, shooting and posting one iPhone photo a day on various online galleries for the past two years, I manage to cycle through about 10 to 15 different iPhone apps that has something to do directly with taking pictures, analyzing the information on these pictures, selecting the best shots, refining and editing the selected shots, and posting them online—all from the iPhone. The whole process might seem too complicated and involved, specially on a daily basis, but the truth is, I’ve got the system down pat to where the entire process has become almost automatic and doesn’t not take more than 30 minutes a day. Still, 30 minutes a day might sound like an awful lot of time, specially when you add them in a year or two, but you have to consider that these are snatches of free time throughout the day—the times of day when I’m not quite as productive as should be. Or, if I do it all in one go, I deliberately multitask such as listening to jazz or classical music, or listening to a podcast.

Throughout the day, I actively go through a number of apps, all revolving around my day’s activities. To keep me on track, I am constantly looking at 3 or 4 calendar apps and 3 to 5 to-do, list, and checklist apps. And since I’m into David Allen’s very involved GTD process, I use another set of about 5 to 6 different apps for it. I also jot down and record info on 3 to 5 different “notes” and “voice” apps, some of which have sync-to-all-sort-of-devices services. Then, I’ve somehow managed to make a habit of checking the weather from 3 different apps—triangulating predictions as it were, in an attempt to gain a more accurate feel for the upcoming weather condition at locations where I am, where I’ll be, and where some of the people I love are in. Living in New York where the weather condition can change dramatically from one moment to the next, checking weather information, and the process of “triangulating,” has become a matter of necessity.

Next to the weather, I peruse current news and information from about 5 to 10 different media sources. I browse through the different headlines, and read quickly through many of the daily news items of note, urgency and interest. If I’m in front of my computer, I check the news from my browser, but whenever I’m away from my workstation, specially while out and about for long periods of time, I constantly use several news and information apps from several trusted media outlets. Also, I constantly refer to tools that helpfully aggregate and personalize reading materials so that I can catch up on many longer and more involved pieces that requires a more focused attention to read. Then there are the 10 ebook reading apps, the more than 6 Twitter apps, and the 2 apps that manages the RSS feeds I’m subscribed to.

On top of all that, there are those other apps that handles a few of my interests. For instance, as I go around the city, I check in to the places I go to with 4 different apps. I also enjoy checking the daily deals of merchants that’s being offered in my area, all from 4 different apps. I then tend to comparison-shop, using 2 different apps for this purpose. And there’s also these 4 apps that reads all sorts of codes to reveal additional location-based special offers.

At one of my favorite museums, my visit and art experience is augmented with a beautifully designed app. When ordering a drink at a coffee shop, I flash the screen of an app to the barista which displays the exact kind of drink I’d like to order (which totally eliminates miscommunication), and I pay for it with another app. I listen to music from more than 12 apps that offer streaming music service or provides connection to online radios broadcasting from stations all over the world. I also watch videos every now and then, using 2 different apps.

And oh, yes, before I forget, I use my iPhone to make calls and also to trade SMS and MMS messages all over the world which passes through the subscription to my cell carrier, if not through the 5 to 10 different VoIP and chat and messaging apps. More and more, I’m constantly dipping on the unlimited connection resources of my grandfathered “unlimited” data plan, and on occasion, connecting via the free WiFi alternatives in areas such as coffee shops and fastfood chains, and yes, also when in the general vicinity of Times Square. (Because a strong and smooth WiFi connection is actually a precious thing in Times Square, I get really excited whenever I’m able to make a Facetime call there!) I even connect via the WiFi setup of friends, family and associates in their homes and offices!

The fact that I use so many different apps in a day is a somewhat remarkable testament to the extreme versatility and usability of the iPhone. The iPhone and the apps are not perfect, and many things can be improved. For example, constantly peering at the small screen can be hard on the eyes, despite its so-called Retina display. The design of some of the apps aren’t as ergonomic or as user-friendly or as beautiful as I would have wanted them to be (as some other apps are). Still, I can go through the whole day with the satisfied feeling of being totally connected even without being anywhere near a full-featured computer. (I know I should get an iPad already, but at this point, I feel it is best to wait for the coming of the iPad 2, which, if recent “talks” are to be believed, is expected in a few months time. It’s not really going to be a long wait anymore.)

Because of my constant use of the iPhone, and the fact that I like to keep the many different sensors on (as opposed to the more reasonable and logical practice of turning it on or off on a per-need and on a case-to-case basis), the only downside to all this is how alarmingly quick the battery drains. Typical iPhone users will probably have little to no trouble going through a long day or even longer on a single full charge. But because of the constancy with which I use and rely on my iPhone, I’ve long ago resigned to the fact that I must bring with me my charger and a couple of cables so I can juice up whenever the opportunity presents itself or whenever absolutely necessary. If I don’t, and at the rate with which I’m using it, I would end up with an expensive brick quite early in the day.

As a “power user,” I’m therefore a prime candidate for an accessory (or accessories) that purports to extend its battery life while on the go. The past few weeks, I’ve been looking at several solutions such as external plug-in battery packs, cases that integrates an external battery, inductive chargers, car chargers, and all other battery charging options. (From looking around, I tend to favor one of the solutions offered by one of the noted third-party manufacturers, Mophie, though I have yet to come to a final decision. I’ll probably end up getting not just one but a couple or more of these products. It’s always good to have an alternative for those truly unexpected “just in case” moments. If you have any recommendations or suggestions, I’d be happy to hear about it.)

By all indication, I’ve turned into an iPhone junkie. I have no idea how exactly I turned into one, and I’m not even sure if it’s a good thing or bad. You see, I don’t necessarily spend an awful lot of time playing games on it (if this is to be the yardstick of a not-so-good-thing), though I have folders full of games which I occasionally play. But I’ve turned just that way. But really, I have no way of finding out if I’m more of a “typical” user or a “power user” as no comprehensive study seems to have been published on this.

I bet, through the years, Apple has accumulated tons of precious data about the behavior of its users that can tell me where I am in the spectrum. And yes, I’d be very curious to know where I stand, or fall.

Written by dominiquejames

February 3, 2011 at 11:42 PM

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