Gadgets Road Test: iPhone/iPodTouch Productivity Apps

Like any college student, I am overloaded with numerous tech gadgets; iPods, cellphones, laptops, and a number of totally useless tech toys that I bought on a whim.

In the last decade, I think it is fair to say that there has been an explosion in the use of these magical things in the general population. In the early decade, we were blessed with the Palm Treo, and the ever popular/clichéd Blackberries. But I don’t think they really hit mainstream until the introduction of iPod, Motorola Razor, and of course the quintessential gadget – the iPhone. With the recent rise of smart phone penetration and laptop computers in the general public, gadgets are probably the most frequently covered technology product. Because of this, we saw an explosion in the media coverage on tech gadgets; blogs such as Engadet, and Gizmodo gained tremendous popularity. Of course here at we also cover tech gadgets religiously.

I decided it will be interesting to take on a different type of media coverage. Instead of only covering future/recent releases of new tech toys, I will be writing occasionally on a new column dedicated to how I “use” tech gadgets and my experience from regular usage. Think of it as being a long “road-test” of tech gadgets instead of short term reviews.

With the recent purchase of a third generation iPod touch, this weekI am going to share some of productivity apps that I have been using (It is easy to forget, these things can help with  productivity).

1. Apple Calendar/Contacts – Sync with your Mac/PC + Google Apps

Walking into a lecture hall on campus (NCB 101, or NS), you can see that the majority of students are using some sort of laptop (yes netbook counts). However, I feel like most people are using their laptops as overpriced type writers. Other than using Firefox to go on Facebook, and Word/Powerpoint to take notes, no one is using technology effectively to enhance productivity (and maybe get better grades). One of the most useful features of your iPhone/iPod touch is to be able to sync your contact and calendar with your other devices (Laptops, Desktop, Google Calendar). This may not sound earth breaking, but believe me it is extremely convenient to have one set of to-do list/calendar/contact that can be accessed on all your devices. Personally, I have been using the default Calendar and Contacts app on the iPod touch. I set up it to sync wirelessly to my Google Account (Google Calendar, Mail, Contacts, etc) which is sync-ed with Apple Calendar/Contact on my Macbook, and Thunderbird on my desktop PC. This way no matter where I am, I can access the same (most current) calendar, mail, and contact info. In addition I don’t have to physically plug my iPod Touch into all these computers to sync (since everything is in the cloud already).

2. Evernote

This app is by far, the best note taking app on the iPhone/iPod Touch. Extremely useful for organizing large amount of short notes. It has desktop clients, so all of your notes are synced. Regardless of the device you use, you can quickly look up your notes. I use this mainly as a to-do list app on my iPod Touch. I have it as a widget on both my macbook, and my desktop, so I know what need to get done regardless where I am. Personally, having this greatly reduce the amount of time wasted procrastinating.

3. Dropbox

Data sync-ing. This apps, at least for me, eliminates the need to use usb-flash drives. On computers (either mac/pc) it integrates directly with the folder system (i guess the correct word is shell access? It just means that you can access the dropbox folder like a regular folder from Finder or My Computer). I save all my class notes (from the macbook) on Dropbox folders, thus doesn’t matter where I go, I always have access to them. This really comes in handy when you are waiting and have time to spare, simply pull this out and catch up on school work. For me at least, I mainly use it during my 45 minutes daily commute to school.

4. New York Times App (actually this could have been any reputable publication, but you know, screw Murdoch)

5. Hippo Chinese Dictionary

Notice how Chinese is a symbol based language, this means if you don’t know a word, you can’t just spell it and look it up in a dictionary. This dictionary allow you to write chinese character by sketching out the word on the touch screen. When you see a character that you don’t recognize, you can just draw the character, and look it up in this app. I use this app a lot when going to chinese restaurants, since for some reason, people prefer to use overly complicated/obscure words on the menu. With this app, the humiliation with mispronouncing Chinese characters have finally came to a stop.

Annoyances so far:

– Copy and paste so far on the iPhone 3.0 OS is horrible. Either because I have bad dexterity or just fat fingers, I can never select the text I actually want.

– With over 65,000 apps in the iTunes store, it is really difficult to find good, quality apps.

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  1. Good article~
    Same happened to me when new fancy apps came out which caught my eyes immediately. Oh~~

  2. I am probably going to write a new one, and include some more useful applications once I get an iPhone 4 (there are many cool ones which just came out that utilizes the 720p video camera, and the higher mega-pixel camera). I think ultimately having constant cellular/3G data plan is extremely handy, so that you don’t have to relay on wifi.

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