My First Screen iPhone Apps as of November 2012

Jason iPhone 5 Home Screen 2012

I recently got an iPhone 5 and have gone on a new tear in exploring apps, downloading new ones and re-evaluating their priorities.

I’m always curious to see what constitutes other people’s first screen apps – this is where many mobile entrepreneurs dream of living – so I thought it might be worth examining mine.

I’ll give a run down of my home screen apps as of November 26, 2012.

Notable & Unique

These are the interesting apps that give you a sense of my personality – they’re tools that make my life work more efficiently and enjoyably.

  • Pennies – a really barebones budget tool. I tell it my monthly spending goal, and it gives me a simulated “gas tank” of money. As I record purchases, the needle drops, showing me exactly how much I have left for the month.
  • Runkeeper – I’ve talked before about how much I like Runkeeper, the iPhone/web app I use to track my running, and it definitely makes the first screen
  • Evernote – if you don’t already have a note system, I recommend Evernote. Syncs notes from desktop, web and mobile. I use it to draft blog posts, record new ideas and manage a lot of the info for my startup
  • Songza – my new favorite music app. I pay for Spotify Premium to hear the songs I know about but Songza is free and gives me playlists of music I haven’t heard of (including great electronic dance and instrumental music)
  • Pocket – a new favorite, great for waiting in line, sitting on the bus or when you’re bored and without signal
  • Instacast – while walking to work, I listen to my podcasts: BacktoWork, The WSJ Morning News, Systematic, Planet Money and Here’s The Thing
  • Quora – the social q&a site always has new fascinating answers to thought-provoking questions. A place to learn and sometimes get taken down a rabbit hole
  • Chrome – my cofounder convinced me to install Chrome as my default browser – unlimited tabs, address bar knows your favorites if you sync with desktop chrome, and tabs open in the background


You probably have some of these on your home screen too – which just shows how ubiquitous some services are to our lives.

  • Facebook – for staying in touch with friends, though I really only check it when I have notifications
  • Twitter – for staying in touch with the world – specifically my world of technology, entrepreneurship and SF-flavored pop culture
  • Hacker News – interesting articles and discussions specifically geared towards entrepreneurs
  • Gmail/Mail – I like Mail because it’s faster for checking messages and composing. I use Gmail when I’m trying to search for a specific email or email someone who’s contact info isn’t on my phone, but in Gmail
  • Dropbox – I have most of my working files stored in Dropbox so it’s nice to be able to access them instantly via my phone
  • Google Authenticator – you use two-step authentication for Gmail and Facebook right? No? This is one of those security measure that is really worth taking.


When you’re on the go, one of the most valuable things your phone can help you with is getting where you need to go. These apps help me arrive at the right place and on time.

  • Apple Maps – despite the criticism, I think the standard iOS 6 Maps app is doing well enough. The worst thing is it’s lack of transit directions
  • Routesy Free – super handy for the real-time MUNI and BART schedules when I already know which bus/BART train I want to take
  • Google Maps (web bookmark) – when I need transit directions to get somewhere new
  • CityMaps2Go – offline maps, useful when traveling abroad or navigating SF without signal
  • QuickMaps – drag to get Google Maps directions from where you are to key locations (home, work, etc)
  • Caltrain – necessary when planning trips down to Palo Alto from SF

Standard Issue

Sometimes you don’t need a custom app when the standard-issue app does just fine.

  • Settings – turning on Airplane Mode, fiddling with Wi-Fi & Brightness
  • App Store – finding apps I read about online, seeing what’s new/featured, updating apps
  • Calendar – checking what day of the week some future event lands on; most of my event input goes in iCal on my MacBookPro
  • Clock – setting my morning alarm and countdowns for or a work session or laundry reminder
  • Camera – loving the Panorama feature of the built-in app
  • Photos – mostly used to email a photo or screenshot I just took
  • Phone/Text – they don’t call it an iPhone for nothing

What I noticed: my most accessible apps are either communication services (email/phone/text), useful tools (evernote/camera/navigation), or content (instacast/pocket/HN). Facebook and Twitter are like a combination of all three.

What about you? What are your favorite homescreen apps? Let me know in the comments!

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and advocate for Asian American men. He's written extensively and spoken all over the world about how individuals and organizations develop their competitive advantage. Follow him at @jasonshen.

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  1. I also love runkeeper. I used it to track my runs and it shows where I am on the map and tells me the distance I’ve travelled.

  2. Thanks for sharing! I’m pretty generic when it comes to my home screen, and I mainly stick to those apps for financial stuff and entertainment. With that some of my favorite apps include: Chase, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Scion Solutions, DISH Remote Access, and Pandora. DRA is my most used though, because with it and the Sling Adapter one of the girls I work with at DISH got me I’m able to watch all of my favorite shows from home, live or from off my DVR, anywhere I go in the world. I travel a lot for business, so it’s definitely nice to have when I’m half way across the country and I want to check up on my local news or my shows that aired. :)

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