How the TMO Staff Members Use Their iPhones, Part I of II

| Analysis

Recently, on a conference call, some of the TMO staff members started chatting about the different ways we use our iPhones and the different apps we all use. When we looked into it, the differences were amazing, so we thought we'd share what we found out with our readers.

Here are the questions we asked ourselves:

  1. What kind of iPhone and case do you have?
  2. Is the iPhone a separate but equal computer for you?
  3. If you use the iPhone in a fundamentally different way, how so?
  4. Do you try to use the same apps on the iPhone as your Mac -- or do you find some iPhone apps better suited to the mobile life?
  5. What are some of your favorite iPhone apps and what do you use them for?

Jeff Gamet

Jeff Gamet, Managing Editor

My iPhone is a black 16 GB iPhone 3G with an iFrogz Luxe case. I switch to a Mophie Juice Pack when I'm at events where I need extra power to get through the day.

My iPhone is, in fact, a separate but equal computer for me. There are certain tasks that I perform only on my Mac, like editing images in Photoshop, but I see my iPhone as a pocket-sized computer that by chance also makes phone calls. My iPhone is nothing less than my office in my pocket.

When it comes to interfacing with my iPhone, sure, I use it in different ways than my MacBook Pro, but many of the tasks I do at my desk happen on my iPhone, too. I check all of my email accounts on my iPhone when I'm away from my desk, I look up the same types of information on the go, and I see it as a central communication hub -- sometimes even more so than my Mac.

Some tasks, however, just need device specific versions. For example, I do most of my writing in BBEdit, and there isn't an iPhone version of that. Tracking flights when I travel is far easier on my iPhone than on my MacBook Pro, and I can thank Flight Update for that.

To a degree I use the same apps on my iPhone and Mac. I use Mail and iCal, OmniFocus for tracking tasks, and Tweetie for managing my Twitter accounts on both. Here are my favorite apps:

  • OmniFocus - Task management. Auto-syncing with the Mac version through MobileMe makes this an indispensable app for me.
  • TextExpander - I use TextExpander on my Mac, and believe it or not, it's handy on my iPhone, too. It's compatible with Tweetie and WriteRoom, so I don't need to jump into TextExpander to use auto-expanding snippets in those apps.
  • WriteRoom - I use WriteRoom to write notes instead of Apple's Notes application. It supports TextExpander, so that's kind of a no-brainer for me.
  • Tweetie - I like to keep up with Twitter on the go, and I really like the Tweetie 2 interface. I can keep track of multiple Twitter accounts, and the flick to load more tweets gesture is just brilliant.
  • Flight Update - I use Flight Update to track my flights when I travel. Actually, I use it to track all of the TMO staff's flights when we're heading to big events like Macworld Expo, too. It's always a good thing to know in advance if someone is stuck in the wrong city.
  • NetNewsWire - I use NetNewsWire on my Mac and iPhone to keep up on my RSS feeds. Auto-syncing with Google Reader means I'm always up to date.
  • Instapaper - I tag articles and Web pages to check later with Instapaper. I use the service on my Mac and iPhone, and the Instapaper app makes it easy for me to reference articles I've already tagged.
  • Dropbox - The iPhone Dropbox app lets me check what's in my Dropbox account, and I can preview many document formats, too. I often toss PDFs in my Dropbox so I can reference the content on the go. Actually, I use iDisk for document viewing, too. Both are handy apps.

Nancy Gravley

Nancy Gravley, TMO Contributor

My iPhone is a black, 16 GB, iPhone 3GS.  The case is a UNIEA U-Suite Intercciato Premium leather hard case, a product I recently reviewed and liked so much I adopted it for my own use.

I don't try to use my iPhone as another Mac.  I use it as a portable extension of my Mac.  I have five email accounts on my phone because it is extremely important to me that I be able to read and answer messages from my family, members of our Mac users group, and business messages.  I don't send or receive any texted messages.  I usually keep a pogo stylus handy for typing messages on my iPhone.

I use MobileMe for syncing although I don't always recharge my iPhone through my Mac.  Many times I plug it into my Kensington charging dock, but there are not that many changes in the information that needs to be updated.

I don't keep any movies on my iPhone and I keep very little music.  I don't want to watch movies on that little screen and I have a great 3rd generation iPod Nano that holds all the music and audio books I want and it has a longer battery life than my iPhone.  I have lots of music on my Mac, but I listen to it at home through really great speakers.  I do keep a few dozen photos.

The two most valuable things on my iPhone are my address book and the NAVIGON GPS app.  I love having all my address book information with me at all times.  NAVIGON is the most valuable app I have.  It keeps me from getting lost, which is a major issue for me.  I use Dialer to quickly access phone numbers, Notes for reminders, Eye Glasses to read small print, and the App Store when someone says "check this one out".  I only have 45 apps on my iPhone and have 11.3GB free.

The app I wish would work better is Remote which lets you use your phone to operate Keynote  It's too unstable.  The app I want next is WolframAlpha, but it is $49.99.  Talk about being a walking encyclopedia!

Dave Hamilton

Dave Hamilton, President and CEO

I use a black 32 GB iPhone 3GS with the the iFrogz Luxe case (in green!) on it 99 percent of the time.

The iPhone is a different computer for me. I use IMAP to manage my e-mail, and the iPhone gets all the stuff that comes in to my main account (but not the account I use for lists and other, more bulk, addresses). It's somewhat of a web browser, though I don't find the experience of browsing the web on my iPhone to be all that great. It's better than the Treo 650 I had before it, for sure, but... not like a computer at all.

I would say the iPhone is an extension of my computer. Sort of a stripped-down, on-the-go alternative that's good enough but certainly not a full replacement.  If I'm traveling for a short trip (1-3 days) I can usually live with just the iPhone. If I'm gone longer than that or anticipate having a lot of hotel-room downtime, then I bring my 15-inch MacBook Pro with me.

Some of my apps are duplicated: Safari, Mail, Calendar, 1Password and NetNewsWire. Even for those five, though, the iPhone versions are very much stripped-down in terms of the features I need. But they suffice.

My favorite apps:

  • NetNewsWire - Keeping up on RSS
  • Guitar Tuner - Couldn't live without it. Works fantastically for tuning my acoustic guitar (and obviously works for electric, too)
  • Notepad -- I store a LOT of stuff here and enjoy syncing it back with my Mac
  • Twittelator Pro -- Absolutely fantastic Twitter app. Supports Lists, multiple accounts, draft tweet storage, and even keeps a list of my most frequently-used hashtags so I don't have to type 'em a lot.
  • Geocaching -- This app turns the iPhone into a full-featured, one-stop-shop, paperless geocaching solution. My wife and I both have GPS-capable iPhones, and with this app we can be anywhere and decide we want to hit a cache. Lots of fun for the whole family, and the iPhone app fundamentally changed this from a cumbersome hobby into a frivolous delight while hiking!
  • Madden NFL 10 -- I know some people complain about this app, but both my son and I love it. Can't wait until multiplayer functionality comes around!
  • WeatherBug -- Just what you think I'd use it for, but it's definitely one I launch daily (and moreso if we're expecting "weather" in these here parts!)

In Part II, we'll continue with iPhone reports from Ted Landau, Bob LeVitus and John Martellaro.

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Thank you for an excellent article. This says how real people use their iPhones in the real world. Very useful information.

I keep going back and fourth about getting an iPhone. Part of me thinks it would be cool and some of the apps would be useful. This part has the upper hand when I fiddle with one. Part of me hates my cell phone and can’t justify spending anything but the absolute minimum for something I hate. This part has the upper hand when I’m not fiddling with an iPhone. I keep swinging back and fourth. This has nudged me back toward the yes side a bit.

Now if Telus and Bell would start selling iPhones here in Canada we might start getting some competition and reasonable pricing.


I also have a 16 gb 3gs. I started out with a 16 gb iPod touch which I happened to crunch. I had so many things on it I found I could not do without I thought I might as well jump in and get the phone. I already have a phone from work but what the heck. I bought 2, one for my wife. I never used text before and now we do it all the time, we both love it.
If you have a boat I and the coverage I would say this phone is invaluable. Boat weather, maps, Navionics just frikkin awesome. We just got out of the harbor and bam we are in a fog bank. I look at the depth finder 15 feet whoa, I see the course we are on and it doesn’t look right. With my brother at the tiller I pull out the maps app and do the flashlight thing to show you which way your going and tell him Hard Starboard!! Were almost on the beach.
Save your bacon, theres an app for that!
By the way I have given the company phone back as I only want to be carrying one. Also to let you know I took my iPod to the Apple Store to see if it could be fixed, I had it in my front pocket an dented it. I told them I did I blame no one but myself but can it be fixed? The Genius said a replacement was $ 149.00. Hell yeah half price, I picked that up and filled it with music just for the boat. All said and done this phone rocks!!! I can’t imagine any other brand. Having all Macs and the apps I have already purchased there is no way I would throw that away. One thing cracks me up about all the iPhone killers, they all resemble the iPhone. No imitator will ever live up to the original and I think most people know that, even the Apple haters.
I know this is a long comment but I don’t think I can say enough about this product, thank you Apple.


We issued iPhones to two pathologists for a variety of uses. The best is a combination of MobileMe (push email) with the PhoneValet answering system to provide after hours alerts for emergencies. PhoneValet issues pager alerts, SMS text messages AND sends voice files embedded in email for every emergent call. Reliability of the iPhone is excellent so we fired the answering service. Plus, a pager is no longer needed to alert an on-call physician of a STAT requirement.


podman said it well already, and it’s true: my iPhone is so much more than a smartphone. I went from, “I really just want a phone that works well with my Mac,” to, “My God, I can’t live without this thing,” in no time. In every way that matters it is very much my mobile computing device of choice, and Mr. Jobs was absolutely correct when he dubbed it Apple’s best iPod ever as well. I wouldn’t even consider anything else.

Jeff Gamet

After reading part I and part II of John’s article I was surprised to see that three of us (Dave, Ted and me) all use the same iPhone case. Dave’s is green and mine is red, so at least we won’t have to worry about mixing them up at expos.

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