…is the third in my ongoing series of “What’s on my Brand-X device?” posts.
- What’s on my Blackberry?
- What’s on my Android?
- You’re reading the post now on iPhones.
- Still to come… What’s on my Windows Phone?
I have to admit that I was pretty put off by the iPhone initially. The biggest drawbacks I have seen are the first, the locked down app system and device architecture, second is all the hype, and the third is the price, both on and off contract. Despite these hefty shortcomings, I’ve tried to remain open-minded about what kind of device to buy or recommend, as I try to be a device-agnostic user.
Recently, I’ve replaced two Blackberry Bolds as my work cell. After my explanation of the problems, the boss said I could have anything I wanted to replace the BB’s, and I’ve already had extensive experience with Android phones, so I opted for the iPhone 4S 16GB in black. I can’t say that I’m sorry I chose it. I really have to admit that it is a nice phone. Now being a work phone, I won’t get to jailbreak it (but you can by visiting certain sites like iPadjailbreak) so I can sideload apps that don’t have Apple’s seal of approval, so, please understand that I am limited to only a couple hundred thousand apps to choose from, and being a work phone, the government, somewhat understandably, doesn’t want to fund my app experimentation, so all the apps I use are free.
Never having spent serious time with an iOS device before, besides an original gen iPod, I found the iOS device completely undifficult (is that even a word?) to use. It seemed relatively intuitive to learn the gestures. I only wish they’d get on the long-press button bandwagon. I did need to read a few user guides to do neat things like create my own ringtones from my .mp3 tones I use on other phones, and to make the whole iTunes sync thing work, but overall, I learned it without any other help. Now I finally see what it is everyone who owns an iPhone has been raving about (author’s note: I’m not raving, nor am I an iOS fanboy convert, but I like the device). I still don’t see why they insist on running out to wait in line for hours on end to get the next version release, but if you go to YouTube.com and perform a search for “Hitler iPhone”, you might come up with a video like this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lxn6Ag0mmhs (viewer discretion is advised), and you too can understand why they do it. I prefer to wait for a few little software updates first.
Is it the end-all be-all phone of the decade? No, but it is a pretty nice phone. I don’t even have to restart it as often as I do my personal Android phone. But enough rambling…
Here’s what I have been keeping on the phone:
- ICE Standard: Keeps all your ICE information available for EMS and fire in the event you cannot speak for yourself. The app has a feature to make a screenshot of selected information, then coaches you into how to make it the lockscreen for your phone, so anyone who picks up the phone can hit the power button and see all the intimate details of your life you don’t want publically shared. My screen shows only emergency contact numbers, my allergies, and I also threw in the comments area to let finders know the phone is government property and how to return it.
- Gmail: I didn’t feel like plugging in my gmail account into the built-in Mail app, so I use Google’s app. Now if only Microsoft would release a half-decent Hotmail app, I’d be extraordinarily happy. The Gmail app is suitable.
- Google Voice: Since you can send and receive text messages and check voicemail right through the app, I figured, why not.
- Skype: Now owned by Microsoft. Since I’ve been traveling around the state and country since I landed this job, I thought I’d put my computer’s webcam to use at home and keep in touch with the wife and kids. More often than not, the 3G speed internet on the phone doesn’t even come close to making a reliable video connection so I wind up defaulting to the laptop and Wifi to use Skype and putting the iPhone away. :-S Even on WiFi with the phone, I’m not impressed. I never used Skype before the Microsoft acquisition, so I can’t say if it has been better in the past or not.
- Key Ring: Now here is a useful app. I have dropped about 20 of those keychain loyalty cards off my keychain and out of my wallet, and never have to worry about it if I manage to stay at a hotel that I would normally have to plan to load the wallet card in for. You can keep your grocery store cards, Build-A-Bear (don’t laugh, I have a 10 y/o daughter and I love her!), gas station cards, hotel and airline points cards, rent-a-car cards, and more in the app, and when you update one device, like your Android, your other devices will soon reflect the updates too. They also like to offer you loyalty coupons and ads for the companies you already have subscriptions with so you may be able to save a few bucks for visiting your regular store, or get a free upgrade suite or car.
- Flashlight: I’m a little disappointed in the iPhone 4S flashlight. My Android and Windows Phones have retina-searing LED flashlights, and it only hurts a little when I look at the iPhone 4S LED flash. Still, in the still of the night, it can be a bit overwhelming to have a white LED illuminate the darkness to which you are accustomed, and the app does the job admirably. You can also swipe to rotate the digital dial and cause your flashlight to blink at a few different rates, none of them too fast to induce seizures.
- Appoday: Offers you a free app daily that would otherwise cost you somewhere between 0.99 and 4.99. Some apps are ok, some are awesome, some leave you scratching your head as to why anyone would be interested in that app, some are diamonds in the rough. Appoday has a great little service, not unlike Amazon Appstore for Android, only this is for iOS. You can also follow Appoday on Twitter to get daily updates versus checking the app on the phone. Occasionally, the app is free for multiple days.
- iTunes U: Podcasts from many universities and colleges. Is there no subject you can’t find on this app? Well, probably, but let’s just agree the list of schools and topics you can stream is extensive. This is a fantastic learning tool.
- Evernote: Takes notes on anything and everything. Synchronizes across multiple devices and computers. It’s a student’s or a busy person’s dream-come-true. There is an open API so you can create an app that integrates right into Evernote too. I have recipes, ICS & EOC command logs, training logs, and all kinds of stuff stored on mine. You can use it to keep track of ALS encounters on a Paramedic internship, or log all the EMS experience you gain as a volunteer (paid companies will usually give experience offsets to volunteers based on the calls they’ve run and it’s hard to quantify that, so log it with Evernote). Anything you need to scribble down or remember, you can do it with Evernote.
- ePocrates: I really dig this app. Step in to the Wayback Machine and read about it here.
- ePocrates CME: All complaints about free CME feel at liberty to voice your dissent now… no one? OK. Come one, no one complains about free CME, especially when it goes wherever they go, whenever they go. If you have iOS, it goes with you via ePocrates CME (ePocrates first wife was Palm, then it left and married Windows Mobile. Now iPhone is the 3rd wife. Android users must be the future ex-wife, because there’s presently no CME love for you).
- Microsoft OneNote: I’ve long been a fan of OneNote, since I bought my first Tablet PC in 2004 and it came with OneNote 2002 and a free upgrade to OneNote 2003. I’m less enamored with OneNote 2010, but I think it is still one of the best note-taking tools out there. You can drop in images or screenshots, web links, import documents and mark all over them, the handwriting recognition has been pretty good in the PC app, and now you can sync it through the free 25GB SkyDrive cloud. What’s not to love? It’s biggest competitor is Evernote, which I also really like.
- Microsoft Tag Reader: QR codes are junior to the first generation popular custom barcodes from Tag. There’s even a way to build your Tag into custom artwork like company or event logos. www.gettag.mobi has the software to read Tags for all phone platforms, but I have the link directly to the iTunes app. Even if you don’t come across these often, it’s a great app to have lying around the phone, ‘just in case’.
- Microsoft SkyDrive: 25GB online storage for free? Share your photos, documents, music, videos, and whatever else you can dream up. You need only to get a free Live.com ID or have a Hotmail account. You don’t even need to ever access the e-mail account.
- Microsoft Photosynth: This one’s on my to-try list. I’ve had it for over two months now and haven’t run it yet because I’ve been enamored with Instagram for some reason. Photosynth is supposed to allow you to capture panorama photos, which I do a lot of with my DSLR and Photoshop’s Photomerge process. I’ll have to get on this app pretty soon and give it a shot (pun intended). Make sure to read the full app description. It isn’t just panoramas.
- Amazon Kindle Reader: I now have over 400 e-books, and I didn’t pay for a single one. I have cookbooks, self-improvement books, computer books, novels, kids books, religious literature, home improvement books, motivationals, sci-fi, mysteries, and more. If you want to see how to get a ton of free books for yourself, check out http://konthecheap.wordpress.com/ and I recommend subscribing to the RSS feed so you know as soon as the article is released describing what you’ll get. I found that if I wait for the daily summary, some of the freebies are expired and you’ll have to buy them outright or use the Kindle Prime service to check them out. I’d say I “buy” at least 5 free books a week, and the books are available on my iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, my Kindle Fire, and my tablet PC and home PC, taking me right to the place I left off from the previous device.
- SugarSync: This is my favorite file sharing and cloud storage app. You can learn more about it and compare the benefits of SugarSync to other file sharing and cloud storage services by visiting this webpage: https://www.sugarsync.com/sync_comparison.html – First, you start with 5GB free storage, then you can complete an introduction course on SugarSync, which nets you an additional 750MB of free storage, then you get 500MB more for each referral you bring (free or paid subscriptions). You can sign up for yourself at the SugarSync website without a referrer, but if you are so inclined, you may also use my referral link: https://www.sugarsync.com/referral?rf=bjsqzaxg3wkcq&utm_source=website&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=referral&shareEvent=582578 and I will be grateful for the additional free storage I earn as a result.
- RedLaser: It’s a barcode and QR scanner app. It stores the history of scans too, so you can return to them later.
- B&N Nook Reader: Just like the Kindle Reader app, you can have your books on every type of device, and they will sync to give you the last read page. You can categorize your books too, which I really like. I have about 200 books on this account. As with the Kindle, the same folks that bring you the free and discount books feed have a page for the Nook. Visit http://the-cheap.net and sign up for the RSS feed to get updated on freebies, cheapies, and Nook-device-specific apps. I get these posts later in the day, and not as many as there are for the Kindle, but it is well worth it.
- Pedometer Free: It doesn’t appear to run all the time, but maybe I don’t have the hang of using it yet. What it does have is a GPS tracker to help you figure out how far you walk/bike/run/etc., and your average and current speeds. It’s a decent app to track your physical activity. It did not do very well for me on the treadmill though. You have to remember to turn off the GPS feature if you are going to be on a treadmill. I was even indoors at the time, so I figured it wouldn’t matter!
- iBooks: Another book reading library, but you can essentially “sideload” your own e-books and .pdf’s by uploading them to iTunes and sync’ing with your phone.
- OliveTree Bible Reader: A few weeks ago, my family and I travelled to another town to visit the wife’s grandmother and we went to her little small town church. She was having a hard time reading the small-print bibles, so in a couple minutes, I found and installed this app. I opened up the bible version to the book and chapter we were learning from and did a little pinch-to-zoom and voila!, she could easily read the text, and it repaginated so I didn’t have to keep scrolling. The grandmother was pleasantly surprised (she leads a rather simple life and gets on the computer at home maybe monthly to check messages and look at photos). I found it to be a very nice app that was easy-to-use.
- Skyscape: After signing up for a free account, there is a boatload of free information you can get from the Skyscape app, including the Archimedes calculator, journals, and lots of health and medical tools. Of course, Skyscape also has a smorgasboard of paid utilities and add-ins, but even if you only stick to the free stuf, you won’t be disappointed in the depth of content available.
- WISER: I just wrote about the updates to the Emergency Response Guidebook 2012 Edition and this app, WISER, incorporates the contents of the ERG. I’m presently waiting to hear back from the NLM NIH about whether or not the currently issued edition of WISER includes the ERG2008 or the ERG2012. I’ll add an addendum to this line item when I know for sure, but regardless, this is a great first response app for all public safety entities. It incorporates far more than just the ERG. Learn more about it on the WISER webpage, or access the web-based WebWISER here: http://wiser.nlm.nih.gov/ [ADDENDUM 06/12/12: WISER admins contacted me. It is only ERG2008 for now, but they are planning to update to ERG2012, but do not have an expected date to publish for now.]
- CDC Field Triage: This app revolves around the CDC’s FieldTriage site and the 2011 CDC Guidelines for Field Triage of Injured Persons
- Littman SoundBuilder: When you bought a stethoscope from Littmann, if you were (or were inschool to become) a nurse, doctor, or mid-level practitioner (sorry EMS guys), you could get a free copy of the Littman CD that contained heart and lung sounds. Well, now they’ve opened the tools up for everyone, with some nice updates too. This is a free app on iTunes, and you should definitely check it out!
- Gray’s Anatomy – Student Edition: Because you never know when you might need to name off some obscure tendons.
- iTriage: What a versatile reference app! Look up symptoms (great for you or your favorite hypochondriac), find the right care (and guess what?! The answer isn’t necessarily “Call 911!”), learn about procedures (great for increasing your pre-op anxiety – which you’ll need an ambulance for), explore medications, search for a provider, log info into your Microsoft HealthVault PHR or Google Health accounts, and keep up on medical news. I honestly haven’t spent a lot of time with this app yet, but it consistently gets excellent ratings whenever I do see it reviewed. It’s an app I plan to write a much more thorough review on this year.
- Em.RadioFree: Just a cool, simple free scanner radio app that aggregates public safety radio that is rebroadcast on the web (usually by someone who has a scanner plugged into an audio feed on their PC and streams the content for anyone to listen). There are literally thousands of channels available to snoop.
- QRG: You just rolled up on a fantastic wreck, and it’s one of the newest hybrid or electric cars on the market, and guess what? You haven’t been inserviced yet. QRG to the rescue! Get the scoop on where the critical wiring and airbags are with some vehicle images too. Want to know more? I wrote about this app here: First Responder Quick Reference Guide
- ESRI ArcGIS: Are you a mapping pro? Do you want to map on the go? ESRI’s ArcGIS is the biggest and baddest of the GIS mapping solutions, used by the military, as well as thousands of public safety and emergency management agencies. If you want to learn more about the use of GIS in public safety, look up my friend Dale Loberger on Google, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and then check out his blog at http://highperformanceems.com/
- GSA PerDiem: If you travel and have to pay attention to federal PerDiem rates this is a handy little app that shows you the going rates for the city or region you select. Know what that going government rate is for hotels and food expenses before you book.
- Cisco AnyConnect: This is a VPN tool for any network using Cisco VPN software.
- LinkedIn CardMunch: A cool little app that allows you to snap a photo of a business card, then have it sent in for digitizing, and it’s returned to you as file that you can import into your contacts. I assume they’re running an OCR and then they personally review the results, then send them back to you, along with a link to a person’s LinkedIn profile, if they have one. I started using this at a conference I attended recently, as I had a handful of cards, and they were starting to get damaged in my pocket. I thought, “I’m a geek. Why am I carrying these cards around instead of putting them into my phone automatically!?” So I searched many apps and almost all of them would allow you up to 5 cards PER WEEK!!! I was collecting that much every few minutes, so that was a no go. I found two apps to do the job. The LinkedIn CardMunch app, and the next one on the list…
- Shoeboxed: Sign up for a free account and upload unlimited business cards for scanning and digitizing. These guys are the same ones you ‘ve probably seen on the TV commercials for the desktop receipt scanner. You also get a couple credits to try that service out. Definitely worth a try.
- WordPress: The official app. Use it to update your blog or check stats and respond to comments.
- SlimKicker: To be honest, I tried this because I wanted to track a few things for a few days, but it was very helpful for that. If you are on a specific diet, you can use this detailed food tracking app to help journal your foods. Hey, even if you want to test for food allergies, it would be helpful.
- Minus: Here is another cloud-based file sharing service called Minus. These folks aren’t stingey with the rewards for referring others to join. You start off your free account with 10GB of free space (more than double the nearest average competitor except for Microsoft SkyDrive, which starts you at 25GB). There is a referral bonus of 1GB for everyone using your referral, and they also get an extra 1GB, so they start their account with 11GB. I’m at around 22GB on mine right now. My referral link: http://min.us/r8IdfPu gets you the 11GB free starting, or just sign up on their site for the free 10GB account with no bonus until you upgrade or start getting your own referrals. Minus is pretty comparable to SugarSync… they just don’t seem to be as well known (read: less advertising). If you have an iPad, here’s the app link.
- Voxer: Instant messaging with your voice. A free account lets you send voice messages to other users that are stored so they can be replayed, if necessary. It works almost as quick as PTT from Boost or Nextel. The folks at Alcatel-Lucent demo’ed this service to me at CES2012 this year in January, and it was pretty neat. I can see a lot of public safety use for an app like this. It’s faster than text messaging, and gets some of the traffic that doesn’t belong on the radio off the radio.
Social Media Apps (so many of them they deserved their own area):
- Foursquare: The nifty app that lets the world know where you are every time you check in to another building. Occasionally, businesses have been know to use the app to offer you a discount to say thanks for sharing your opinion and location to the world, like maybe offering a free small fry with your paid $150 order. Klout seems to think Foursquare was worth integrating, so I use it.
- Twitter: Hi, I’m Chris, and I’m a Twitter addict.
- Facebook: Hi, I’m Chris, and I’m a Facebook addict. Also, check out The Social Medic’s article about the new Facebook Pages app, which I also have.
- Instagram: Hi, I’m Chris, and I’m an Instagram addict. This is the app that takes your photos, apply a Photoshop-esque filter (a la 1970’s photo look), and then allows you to upload them to a social media site and share them on Twitter and Facebook. Also see my article on Instagram here.
- Google+: Hi, I’m Chris, and I have a Google+ account, and I check it about once every couple weeks.
- LinkedIn: Hi, I’m Chris, and I almost never use LinkedIn, unless I’m job hunting, or connecting with one of those people who believes that sharing their entire work history and personal info on LinkedIn is somehow more benign than using Facebook. But, I have the app, and it does ok.
- Pinterest: See above.
- Klout: Only good for checking your notifications and viewing your current Klout score, and NOTHING else. Use the web browser and you’ll be just as happy and get a better score breakdown and be able to actually use and acquire the daily max of 5 +K and max accumulated 10 +K, since you cannot do this from the app. I like having the app icon on the desktop to let me know how digitally lame or awesome I am that day.
Games, games, games:
Well, all work and no play, makes The Unwired Medic a dull boy, so here is what I have been playing. Some games courtesy of Appoday, so although they were free when I got them, they may not be free when you check them out – prices are noted where I know they aren’t free. (Emergency disclaimer: some of these games, denoted by the *, were put on here to appease the toddler, not the device’s main user and article author):
- Star Wars Pit Droids (now $1.99)
- Find Animals HD* (presently free, but will eventually be $1.99)
- Tower Solitare
- Annoying Orange Lite (I’d actually get the full version if I was allowed to buy apps through work – though I may see if I can do it through an iTunes gift card if the account isn’t restricted that far)
- UNO Free
- Card Shark
- FruitNinja Free
- PBS Kids: absolutely love this one!!!*
- Bejewled Blitz
- Stupid Ninjas: Title says it all, but it is fun. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised to be playing this game while sitting at a post and watching the real-life version unfold right in front of my unit! 😉
- Wordsearch Deluxe
- Miss Spider’s Tea Party* – Note: will play music even if your phone is on vibrate!
- Pocket Ninjas
- Bravo Force: Last Stand ($1.99) but there is a free version too: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bravo-force-last-stand-free/id527151543?mt=8
Oh kay! That was exhausting! Please leave a comment telling us what your favorite iPhone app is/apps are. I’m always on the lookout for something new to check out and maybe even write a full review on.