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Top iPhone Apps I Couldn’t Live Without

iPhone-4s-appsConfession: I am one of those compulsive people who will routinely closes out apps on my iPhone so that only the most used apps are there. Yes, it can take time to double-tap the home button, long press one of the most recent apps, and then hit that little red circle with the line. But I do so that the apps I use the most are easily accessible and not cluttered among other ones.


So below are some of the most used apps on my phone with a brief snippet as to why. Please note that they are not listed in particular order. Also, basic apps like Phone, Music, and Messages have been excluded from consideration.


Facebook: self-explanatory.


Twitter: Also self-explanatory, but I use the default app because it provides the ability to add more than one account so everything can still be done in one place.


Mailbox: Been using this in place of the default Mail app. Mailbox takes an innovative approach to email and turns your inbox into a to-do list with the goal of reaching “Zero Inbox” or no current messages. You can easily push things back to later and mark items complete so you can focus on what’s important right now.


Tempo Smart Calendar: I’ve also been using this in place of the default Calendar app. I don’t have any qualms with the latter but Tempo provides more info and context for each event along with the current weather. Tempo allows me to easily see a map of the location and message/email the other participants if I’m late. Very useful.


iTunes U: I have a commute to work each day and I take public transit. I enjoy listening to podcasts from colleges and universities on very diverse topics that are of interest to me. Currently listening to a course on evaluating information from the University of Michigan.


Data Usage Pro: I have a limited data plan at 300mb in order to save money. This handy little app helps keep me from going over that limit and provides alerts and projections on use along the way. This is the only paid app on the list and it was worth it all the way.


Wunderlist: My to-do app that syncs to the online site and app on my computer. I can easily share lists with others and set reminders and due dates. Very smooth and intuitive.wunderlist-2-iphone-ios-570x580


IMDb: Often my wife and I are watching a show and recognize one of the characters but don’t know where we’ve seen them before. IMDb always comes to the rescue.


Into the Dead: I don’t play a lot of games on my phone but this is my current favorite. Very simple premise in that you run as long as you can without being eaten by zombies. There are weapons along the way to help you along.


LDS Gospel Library: This is the official app from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). I’m able to use this app to study my scriptures on the go along with other church materials. It lets me plan lessons and syncs the data to my online account at so all my notes and highlights are up-to-date.


Dropbox: I love Dropbox and its service is invaluable. This is my go-to source for cloud storage.


Circa: I love their approach to news and breaking the story down into quick, easy snippets.


Zite: I like Zite and how it “learns” what kind of news I like and put into my feed. Convenient sharing options are a plus.


Honorable Mentions: WordPress, Hootsuite, Soundcloud, Lemon Wallet, Yahoo Weather



Workplace Firewall

The firewall at my work is so weird. It does something funky with how it accepts cookies that leads to unpredictable behavior across different sites. I know its the firewall and not the browser because I experience the same issue with Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. I know enough to configure the settings on each browser but nothing does the trick.

Here are some of the problems I’ve come across with some hoops I have to jump:

  • will log me in but will tell me that I’m not logged in. I can’t access my reader or dashboard. Occasionally it will give me setting before realizing what it did and then lock me out. If I go to someone else’s page though, it have my header bar at the top and it will allow to follow someone.

  • Blogger: will not let me log in if I go straight to the blogger website. If I log into my gmail first though, and then click on Blogger from the menu at the top, then I get in no problem.

  • Tumblr: completely blocked.

  • LinkedIn: cannot log in or access anything.

  • Facebook: will tell me it was unable to log me in, but then I can access limited uses if I jump directly to a page.*

  • Twitter: no issue unless I need to allow a third party permission and then that’s 50/50.**

  • Hootsuite: cannot log in.

  • will let me log in, but have to input password often because it forgets that I’m logged in.

  • Pinterest: will technically log me in (I can see my avatar) and I can see pins, but I cannot like or pin anything.

  • New York Times: I cannot read a single article from them.

*I rarely, if ever use Facebook at work.

**I always use twitter at work. I like to justify it by saying I follow business/psychology related accounts.

“It’s not you, it’s…my cellphone?”

I was perusing my twitter feed the other day when I came across this little gem:

Do you ever wonder how many couples have never met on public transport since they were both too busy looking at their phones?

I laughed and then almost carried on my merry way, but the deepness of the tweet (which I’m sure was unintended) hit me: this new age of social media and digital connectedness is really harming our face-to-face interactions. This is something that has been slowly building over the years with the greater adoption of cell phones and particularly smartphones.

I remember my days as a Manager at Chick-fil-a. Great company, great job, and wonderful co-workers…but horrid customers. I cannot express to you the utter disdain we had for customers who would come through the drive-thru or walk-in that were talking on their cell phone. We just wanted to slap the thing right out of their hands! If we struck them in the process then all the better. Seriously though, it was a major annoyance and a lack of respect for people trying to serve them. Whenever I got one of these customers I would do one of two things depending on my mood: I would either not say a single word to them the entire time or I would say everything really loud to disrupt their conversation. Sure some people got mad, but what were they going to do? Complain to the manager? That’s me, dufus.

Now that I’m more removed from the customer service business, this has become less of an issue for me personally. But despite all the many conveniences and benefits that accompany the advent of the smartphone, it also has its ugly underbelly that is reaching pandemic levels in our society. Take a look at any break room in the workplace, any theater before the performance starts, a parent at the park, or people riding public transit*. The majority of the people have their eyes glued to their phone. Myself included many times.

One of the Joys of the Digital Age

One of the Joys of the Digital Age

Smartphones give us constant access to the world and what is going on. Want to know the score to the basketball game? Not a problem. Within 30 seconds you can find out how bad Lebron James is whooping up on the other team. Right at our fingertips we can access a near infinite amount of information and news. It also helps us stay connected with distant family and friends via Facebook, twitter, and other social media sites. But while this constant connection helps us keep in touch with those at a distance, what is it doing to our relationships with the person right next to us?

So going back to the tweet at the beginning. This growing concern is not just negatively affecting our current relationships, but it can also be preventing us from establishing new and worthwhile ones.** What opportunities are we missing right there around us because we’re too preoccupied in reading that latest status update or tweet? That post isn’t going anywhere, so why do we feel the almost compulsive need to see it right away? Why don’t we just check it later?

Now I’m not a neuroscientist by any means, but I know enough about how the brain develops and operates to know that this new digital age has to be directly affecting the physical structure and processes of that precious grey matter up there. And not for the better. Something I often say to clients is that our brain is a wonderful thing that is very good at what it does. One of its main underlying purposes to to continually be more effective and efficient. But that doesn’t mean what it does well is something good. An assassin is very effective and efficient at what it does, but that doesn’t mean killing people is a good thing.

The same goes for our brains and this constant connection to the digital world. Just because we can be connected doesn’t mean we should. We need to take time to cultivate the interpersonal relationships we have with those near and dear to us because there is nothing sadder than to see a couple during a romantic dinner out looking at their phones instead of each other. It  makes me want to slap the phones out of their hands.

What grievous infractions have you witnessed with smartphones and our interactions with others?


*Personally, unless I know someone on the train/bus with me, I have my headphones in and head down towards my phone screen so any of the crazy people who might be nearby are less likely to talk to me. But that’s just part of living in Atlanta.

**Those crazy people on public transit are not worthwhile new relationships we should seek out.


My Top Internet Sites

So I looked through the different browsers I use between home and work to make a list of the top sites I visit the most. I’ve listed them below along with a quick note to why it is one of the top places I visit on the Internet. Please note that the sites are not listed in any particular order.

Google 貼牌冰箱(Google Refrigerator)

Photo credit: Aray Chen

Google: Google is my main hub as I make use of the majority of their services: gmail, News, Drive, Blogger, Maps, Voice, Calendar, Reader (previously), etc. The one thing I don’t use it for a lot though is Search (see Bing below).

Twitter: I maintain three different twitter accounts and prefer the main site for interacting (especially since my work’s firewall prevents most of other ones but not the main site for whatever reason). I usually have two of the acocunts open at any given time so I also have two browsers open too.

Facebook: I don’t think this one needs explaining.

Amazon: Great site that I couldn’t live without. I come here to price check items, read reviews, add things to wish lists, and when there’s some extra dough laying about I’ll order a thing or two.

Tweetdeck: Sometime you want to send a tweet out but in 2 hours from now or even 2 days or weeks from now. Tweetdeck lets you do that. (Hootsuite is blocked at work but I also use them).

Bitly: In the twitter world of short messages and character limits, you have to make every character count. Bitly lets you take long links and shorten them up to give you more room to work with. It has an added benefit of letting you see how many people are clicking on the link so you can see what works and what doesn’t.

English: logo.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bing: I use Bing instead of Google for one main reason: they give me points to search which I can redeem for items like Amazon gift cards. I have found very little difference in the two services so if I’m going to be searching anyway, might as well get rewarded for doing so. This is the main site for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.* I have been a Mormon since I was born and served two years as a Missionary for the church in Mexico. I come here to read inspirational messages and search the scriptures online.

IFTTT: This acronym stands for “if this, then that.” The site allows you to create “recipes” that do something for you when a certain action is triggered. For example, I have a recipe that says when a new blog post goes up on WordPress, send that same post to my tumblr/blogger/whatever. Its a very useful tool for automating your online activity. I plan to write more about this later.

Wunderlist iPad

Wunderlist iPad (Photo credit: Gustavo da Cunha Pimenta)

Wunderlist: This is a to-do list service that has web and mobile versions. it allows for sharing lists with others and syncs seamlessly. Speed and overall performance has been significantly increased with a recent update. Wunderlist is an amazing service. Did I mention it was free?**

Honorable Mentions: WordPress, IMDb, Pinterest, Hulu, tumblr

*If interested in learning more about Mormons and their beliefs, please see This site contains a basic overview of main beliefs with personal stories from actual members. There is also an option to ask questions from those members and others.

**As a matter of fact, all the services and sites listed above are free.

Why Can’t I ‘Dislike’ Something on Facebook?


We’ve all seen one those posts on Facebook before. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones where someone is complaining about how bad their day is or they’re sharing some other tragic news. There’s an inherent dilemma we face as the reader of those posts: how do we let the person know that we read the post and sympathize without leaving a comment?*

It feels counterintuitive to Like a comment that says, “Today was the worst! Both kids threw up all over the place and then I was in a car accident!” Why would anyone Like a post like that? Wouldn’t it be the same as saying, “Yeah, your day sucks and I think that’s a good thing.” That sounds kind of sadistic, doesn’t it?. Yet we see Likes on those posts all the time (albeit fewer ones than other posts).

The Like button has morphed in meaning to include more than just agreeing or thinking something is good. In the case of these downer posts from the “woe is me” and “alas” people, Liking a post like this is almost a sign of sympathy or understanding. So it’s more like “yeah, your day sucks and I’m sorry…but I’m too lazy to say that in a comment.” Not everyone gets that though or they feel that the Like will be misunderstood so they don’t end up doing anything.

So it begs the question: why doesn’t Facebook have a Dislike button?

Its the same reason that Google+ (for all 5 of you who use it) has a +1 button and not a -1 button. It’s not positive or happy. It would be acknowledging and focusing on the bad in life. That’s too much negativity and they don’t want that on their sites.

This is actually smart on their part. Positive psychology would have us focus on all the great things in life so we can be more motivated to overcome any bad things that may come our way. Its the whole glass half full idea. Now before you go and think that Facebook is out there trying to boost everyone’s mood, they’re not. They are acting out of purely selfish motives. Any positive boost to your mood is a secondary effect to their main objective.

By reducing that negativity on their sites, Facebook and other companies are subtly encouraging you to come back and use their sites more. Your increased frequency and use allows them to extract more advertising dollars and get them to a bigger bottom line. So in the end it comes down to a sound business decision that uses psychological concepts as its basis.

Why else do you think there’s not a Dislike button on Facebook?

*Let’s face it, we prefer not to leave a comment unless we have something important, interesting, witty, or pertinent to say. It’s much easier to hit the Like button and move on which is why we Like more posts than comment on them.**

**Which is way I personally disagree with those posts that say “Like if you agree or leave a comment if you don’t.” There were a lot of these that popped up during the 2012 election where support for that’s person candidate of choice was Liked and the opponent was commented on so as to give the illusion of more popular support.