Despite my needs never really changing, you can always bank on me flipping, upgrading, and changing my computer devices. One year, I’ll be convinced I no longer need a laptop and I’ll burn everything for an iMac. The next, I’ll be convinced the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the optimum size, or I’ll be willing to put up with the largest iPhone Pro Max because “science”.
It’d be embarrassing if I was embarrassed about it.
And despite the changes, I do think I’ve found the best devices, sizes, and workflows for me.
They’ll likely change again in the summer.
Here’s where we’re at in the middle of February 2021 — sure to change by the end of March and likely to be completely revamped by the end of the year.
MacBook Air M1 — Silver, 8-Core CPU/7-Core GPU, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD
This MacBook Air is probably my favourite Mac of all-time. It’s light, nimble, wonderfully powerful, and has the best keyboard of any Mac ever. Battery life is, of course, insane. And I simply can’t tell when an app is running via emulation or running natively on the M1 chip.
The screen could get brighter, the ports could be spread apart on both sides of the chassis, and despite everyone’s claims, it does run into RAM limitations when you really get going.
But for my household’s current needs, this computer is absolutely slick.
Especially considering it was $1,100 CAD.
Here’s my current home screen:
The wallpaper is from the Aqueux package everyone was talking about a few weeks ago — I’m absolutely in love with these wallpapers.
Apps I’m using pretty regularly include:
- iStatistica Pro — Thanks to some recommendations inside a Slack I’m part of, iStatistica is essentially a prettier version of Activity Monitor.
- Mail — I use Microsoft Outlook at the office, but I don’t really want a multi-gigabyte email client hogging lots of extra space on this smaller Mac.
- HEY — My appreciation for HEY was at a peak a few weeks after signing up, but my appreciation hasn’t waned too much since then. I’m finding some hiccups here and there, but I’m willing to put up with them considering the opinionated design.
- Microsoft Excel — I’ve been working more in Google Sheets recently…why do people put up with Sheets’ horrid spreadsheet environment?
- Microsoft Word — I’ve been working more in Google Docs recently…why do people put with Docs’ horrid word processor environment?
- Craft — Normally, I download the latest and prettiest writing app, use it for a few weeks, and then set it aside. Craft has been the exact opposite — I downloaded it, hardly used it, and find myself using the app for more and more as time goes on.
- Keep It — I keep lots of stuff in Keep It. Guess it makes sense. It’s a bit buggy on iOS devices, but runs nice and smooth on the Mac.
- Things 3 — This app is now a classic on my Macs — the only way this app comes off my Mac is if it stagnates and Cultured Code no longer develops it.
- Adobe Lightroom — Lightroom was updated for the M1 Mac faster than any other photo editing app out there, and I couldn’t be happier. This app runs smoother on the M1 MacBook Air than on my 2019 iMac with 24GB RAM.
- Tweetbot — Since forever, though I’m hoping the subscription fee on iOS can spill over to the Mac version of this app in the near future.
Special Mention: NotePlan 3 — I purchased this M1 MacBook Air to move my 2019 iMac to the accounting office and I’ve been using NotePlan 3 on the iMac more than any other app (other than Excel, of course). NotePlan 3 is basically a perfect bullet journaling app, especially now that it has back-linking capabilities. I’m super impressed with this app.
iPad Pro 11-inch 2020 — Silver, 256GB
I’ve used every iPad size since they debuted in 2010. More than once, if I may. I’ve settled on the 11-inch size and I don’t think I’ll ever change.
I was always afraid of the size of a physical keyboard for the 11-inch iPad Pro, but the 11-inch iPad Magic Keyboard feels fantastic. I noted earlier that the keyboard in the M1 MacBook Air is the best Mac keyboard ever made — the iPad Magic Keyboard is the best keyboard ever made, period.
It’ll be interesting to see what Apple debuts at the end of March — perhaps I’ll be upgrading again.
Here’s my current home screen:
The wallpaper is also Aqueux — “Aqua”, to be precise. I wish custom wallpapers could be auto-switched for Night Mode like on the Mac.
I use some of these apps a lot more than others, but I like having a full home screen:
- Moolah — This is a special launcher shortcut I’ve created that provides the option to choose one of five different financial apps. Quick, easy, and saves lots of home screen space.
- App Store
- Calcbot — There are loads of great calculator apps out there, but I like the simplicity and speed of Calcbot on the iPad. Split Screen and Slide Over support are killer for a calculator app.
- Music — I don’t listen to much music, but I’ve picked up the habit a bit more now that I have a set of AirPods Pro.
- CARROT Weather — The latest update to CARROT is fantastic. However, I prefer this app on the iPhone to the iPad.
- Stocks — There really aren’t too many good stock-tracking apps for iOS devices. (This app should be called “Shares”, not “Stocks”).
- Unread 2 — The latest Reeder update is really, really nice, but there’s something about Unread on the iPad. I converted to this RSS app a year ago and I am more in love with it today than I was back then.
- Goodlinks — My read-it-later, save-it-for-later app. It’s super simple. Not perfect, but it works.
- Disney+ — I’m not sure who uses Disney+ more — my 3-year-old daughter or myself.
- Edit — Kyle Dreger’s app is still my go-to choice for ultra-simple, ultra-utilitarian text input. If I need to draft an email, I’ll likely do it in Edit.
- PDF Expert — I’m living inside PDF Expert for my studies right now. This is the best PDF app on the iPad, for sure.
- Day One — As always. I find myself typing less and adding media more into my Day One these days. It’s especially perfect for capturing first steps and first quotes of our little ones.
- Adobe Lightroom — I use Lightroom on the iPad more than on the Mac. It’s faster on iPad, it’s easier to use on iPad, and has Apple Pencil support on iPad.
- iA Writer — Though I’ve been doing more writing in Craft these days, I use iA Writer to edit and work on Markdown files shared in Github with our editor at The Sweet Setup.
- Working Copy — For sharing and syncing Markdown files with our editor at The Sweet Setup. Working Copy is a phenomenal app — one of the most unheralded power-user apps on the iPad.
- Keep It — A bit buggy, but good for saving webpages as PDFs if I come across something I want to save forever.
- Craft — My favourite part about Craft on the iPad: The ability to insert a drawing with the Apple Pencil inline, as its own block, in the blink of an eye.
- Microsoft Word — Mostly for previewing school documents at this point. I’m not as fond about writing inside Word on the iPad as I probably should be.
- Microsoft Excel — Mostly for previewing school spreadsheets at this point. The lack of keyboard shortcuts is a bit of a dealbreaker.
- Slack — For communicating with friends and colleagues.
- Notion — The Sweet Setup has moved to Notion. I think I’m only starting to get a glimpse of the power of this app.
- Mail — For work email.
- 1Password — Our office moved to 1Password (finally!) and now every single password is saved, unguessable, and hidden behind the best password manager out there.
- Tweetbot — I subscribed for a year of the latest Tweetbot service. Let’s see where it goes.
- Shortcuts — I should go through and cull a bunch of my now-unused shortcuts. This app can store cruft if you don’t keep track of it.
- Messages — I prefer Signal these days.
- Things 3 — As above. But I also find myself often grabbing the Apple Pencil and just Scribbling in my to-do list. It’s kind of fun.
- HEY — The HEY iPad email app has come further than any other email app on iPad in the last year. The rate of development has been great and I can’t wait to see what the team brings next.
- Files — Finder on the iPad is the best.
iPhone 12 mini - Blue, 128GB
Straight up, I have a love/hate relationship with small iPhones at this point. This iPhone 12 mini is a dream come true in so many ways.
The mini is easily pocketable in any pocket, including any front jeans pocket (which is increasingly difficult as I upgrade my wardrobe). I love being able to use the iPhone with one hand again. And the biggest feature in my mind: It’s easier to shoot photos, be they selfies or photos with big winter mitts on your hands, with a small iPhone.
But then, when it comes time to actually use apps on the iPhone 12 mini, I quickly become frustrated. I hate typing on this iPhone — I hate typing on this iPhone more than any other iPhone I’ve ever had. I have completely stopped editing photos on this iPhone. And yes, the battery life is poor.
I’m likely to get a bigger iPhone next time around. Shucks.
Here’s my iPhone 12 mini home screen(s):
The wallpaper is — you guessed it — Aqueux.
Nearly all these apps are the same as on the iPad, but I use some in different ways.
- Calcbot — This may rank in my top 5 most-used apps list.
- Moolah — Exactly the same as my iPad — for launching financial and banking apps.
- CARROT Weather — This has instantly become one of my favourite iPhone apps period. I really, really want to subscribe just for that radar widget.
- 1Password — I find I save more new logins in 1Password on iPhone than any other device. Interesting behaviour.
- Unread 2 — This app is better on the iPad, but the one-handed sloppy swiping is alive and well, especially on this smaller iPhone.
- Things 3
- Day One — I probably create more audio posts these days than actual text posts. It’s so easy to whip out this small iPhone and capture our little ones saying silly things.
- Adobe Lightroom CC — At this point, I simply will not edit any photos on the iPhone. This app is here simply for exporting photos from my Lightroom library.
- Photos — I really, really like the Photos widget in the Stack at the top of my home screen.
- Instagram — Why did Facebook get rid of that awesome classic Instagram icon?
- Microsoft Outlook — I quite prefer the swiping features of Outlook on the iPhone. I should probably download it for the iPad.
- WhatsApp — The major group module I’m working in for school right now is corresponded through WhatsApp. I cringe at the privacy issues, but I am happily surprised with how easy it is to video conference with a group.
- Signal — If I could move all my messaging to Signal, I would. It’s simple, utilitarian, and awesomely privacy-focused. One of my favourite apps of 2021 so far.
And on the second home screen:
- HEY Widget — My personal email doesn’t live on my first home screen on the iPhone because I love this huge HEY Widget Stack I’ve created. I ripped this directly off Matt Birchler.
- Deliveries — In the age of COVID, this app has been invaluable.
- Keep It — I save iPhone screenshots inside Keep It more than any other kind of media.
- Unfold — When it’s not -40C outside (which has been more than 3 weeks at this point), it’s fun to create Instagram Stories after running around in the outdoors.
- Squaready Pro — For putting nice white borders around Instagram photos.
- Cardhop — This is the best contacts management app for iPhone, iPad, and the Mac, in my opinion. I add more contacts on the iPhone than any other device, so it’s actually visible here.
And that’s that — all my current apps and home screens for the February month of 2021. Every now and then, these change. But as a whole, I change these home screens less and less all the time. This is likely because I have other things to put my head into than the latest and greatest app, but also because there are less groundbreaking apps hitting the App Store.
I’m excited for March — I’m sure Apple will have me upgrading more than one device in a few weeks.