I tend to use few things frequently and an enormous number of things occasionally. I also tend not to have favorites but to prefer wondrous diversity. That's both my personality and a consequence of my job. So, when I sat down to list out what I used most last year, nothing really stuck out as a surprise.
While I still use Google services, I've continued to move almost completely off Google's apps. (The only exception is Google Drive for iOS, which I need to access work docs.) The lack of native interface, the lack of feature support, Maps going wonky in my region, and excessive battery drain are the primary reasons. Conversely, thanks to the updated Notes and iMovie, the advent of News, and solidification of Maps, I'm using Apple apps slightly more than before. Go figure.
The biggest—and smallest—change this year was the addition of two new products and App Stores with the Watch and the new Apple TV. Biggest because two new things. Smallest because I think an entirely different paradigm will prove necessary for Watch apps, and TV apps have just begun to arrive. If anything, it makes me even more curious about how 2016 will play out.
The 4.7-incher might be the better phone but, when I'm out and about, the 5.5-incher is the better mobile computer. Big display and long battery life are hard to beat.
- iPhone 6s Plus: I started the year with a 6 Plus and ended it with a 6s Plus.
I use a ton of iPhone apps but most of them I use sporadically. The ones I use all the time tend to be the ones that help me stay connected and run iMore on the go. A complete list would be too long to include, so here's a top 20ish.
- Safari: Call me old-fashioned, call me someone who earns a living on the web, but Mobile Safari remains one of my most-used apps.
- Mail: I don't want to treat email as to-dos, so unified inbox beats out alternatives for me.
- Camera: Of course.
- Photos: To find and transfer what comes out of the camera.
- Notes: Always my go-to text sync, thanks to iOS 9 it's now my go-to everything sync.
- Messages: Every one of family members and friends has an iPhone, so everyone uses Messages.
- Wallet: Thanks to boarding passes, movie tickets, Starbucks card, and Apple Pay, I now use Wallet all the time.
- Music: Yes, I'm using Music more then ever. "Hey Siri, play Smooth Criminal by Alien Ant Farm" changed my world.
- Maps: To get where I'm going, though still only most of the time. (Google Maps has gotten worse where I live, alas.)
- Tweetbot: The official Twitter apps confuses the hell out of me. Tweetbot fits how my brain works on iPhone.
- Facebook: It's the only social network some of my family and friends use, so I use it. (Please fix the background drain, thanks!)
- Instagram: Anything I share that's an image or video starts in Instagram. Benefits of focus.
- Slack: Mobile Nations and iMore run on Slack. (I've heard rumors other rooms are out there too!)
- Overcast: Even though Podcasts has Siri integration, Overcast's interface suits me better.
- 1Password: The second app I install on any device I own. I couldn't use the internet without it.
- Dropbox: The first app I install, because it has my 1Password database.
- Home: Because Apple didn't ship it, and it's the best way I've found to manage HomeKit.
- Pedometer++: The extremely simple way I force myself to move away from the internet.
- TripIt: Because, unlike my airline app, it alerts me to changes ahead of time.
- Fantastical: The fastest way to enter and find appointments and events.
- Authy: For all my second factor authentications.
- Uber: If I'm traveling in a city that has Uber, I'm using the Uber app.
I have a lot of accessories but I don't use a lot. I'm a pocket-and-go kind of person. What I do use is to automate my home and charge my travels.
- Mophie Power Station XL: So big, so powerful, I keep it in my bag to charge all the USB things.
- [Philips Hue for HomeKit](http://www.amazon.com/Philips-456210-Ambiance-Starter-Generation/dp/B014H2P4KW/?tag=hawk-future-20&ascsubtag=UUimUdUnU35545 "Hey Siri, turn my kitchen lights on!" "Hey Siri, turn them purple!" "Hey Siri, this. is. the. best."
- [iHome Smart Control Plug for HomeKit](http://www.amazon.com/iHome-Control-featuring-Compatibility-ISP5WW4TC/dp/B010ACFEI0?tag=hawk-future-20&ascsubtag=UUimUdUnU35545 "Hey Siri, turn the studio plug off!" because I forget the LED panels. Every time.
- Sphero BB-8. The droid toy we've all been waiting for.
- Bose QuietComfort 20: These remove most of the noise—and stress—of air travel. Bliss.
Before iPhones went Plus my iPad of choice was mini. Following the Plus I went back to the Air and stayed there most of the year. Since the iPad Pro, even bigger is where it's at. And yes, it's mostly for the Pencil.
- iPad Pro: Go big or go iPod.
Some of the apps I use on the iPad are the same as the iPhone, though with an almost inverse frequency: writing first, communicating only when I can bear the distraction. Others are unique to iPad. To avoid repetition, here are the unique ones:
- iBooks: The comics are especially great on iPad Pro.
- Videos: Everything I subscribe to in iTunes comes out here.
- Kindle: Because Apple and Amazon have different comics in different regions.
- Marvel Unlimited: Yes, more comics.
- Procreate: The best way I've found to draw on the iPad.
- Pixelmator: For mobile pixel editing.
- iMovie: For mobile video editing.
- Netflix: I cut cable years ago so this is how I get my fix of catalog programming.
- Coda: So great I almost wish I still had to manually maintain web sites. Almost.
I also use the local TV network apps, but they're so terrible I don't even want to list them.
Many of the accessories I use with iPhone, including the charger and droid, I also use with iPad. So, again, here's what's unique to the latter.
- Apple Pencil: The best digital drawing tool I've ever used. And I've used a lot.
- Smart Keyboard: Ultra weird at first, but ultra-portable and after a few minutes I don't even realize what I'm typing on any more.
- Lightning to SD Card reader: For pulling DSLR pictures into the iPad Pro on the go.
I started the year living on a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, which is probably still the best Mac I've ever owned. I finished it, however, on a 12-inch MacBook. Compared to the Pro, the MacBook is way underpowered, but it's also more portable. And since I have a 5K iMac at home, portability wins out.
- 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display: My primary podcast and video editing machine. Lives in my studio connected to mics, cameras, and that sort of gear.
- 12-inch MacBook: My primary writing and travel machine. Weighs almost nothing and can be used almost anywhere.
Safari, Mail, Notes, Photos, Messages... I use all of these on OS X just like iOS. Here's what I use differently.
- Photoshop: I've been using it for decades and it's muscle memory for me at this point. Creative Cloud subscription keeps costs down and upgrades frequent.
- 1Password: How I manage logins across platforms.
- Dropbox: Where all my documents and databases live.
- Napkin: Nothing is faster for making diagrams. Nothing.
- Audio Hijack: How I record podcasts.
- Pro Audio Converter: For converting Call Recorder and Logic Pro X output.
- iZotope RX 5: For fixing any defects in the audio prior to editing.
- Logic Pro X: How I edit podcasts.
- Final Cut Pro X: How I edit videos and video podcasts.
- Fantastical: Fastest way to add and find appointments and events.
- Tweetbot: Simple, clean, fast, and efficient.
- Coda: Because, occasionally, I still have to edit web sites manually.
- Feeder: This is how I add podcasts to the various feeds.
- TextExpander: Turboboost for writing!
- Slack: Our virtual office.
- Skype: Our virtual phone system.
- SuperDuper!: In addition to Time Machine and Dropbox, because everybody needs a clone.
When it comes to accessories for the Mac, they're naturally divided into two types: travel gear for the MacBook and production gear for the iMac. I'll tackle them in that order.
- Tumi Alpha Bravo Knox backpack: Super small but can carry a surprising amount of gear. Like a bag of holding, hold the magic.
- USB-C to USB adapter: USB-C may be a standard, but most accessories aren't on the new standard yet.
- Logitech 920 webcam: I'm technically still using the 910, but I have both and have used both, and the 920 is what's most readily available now.
- Heil PR-40 XLR microphone: TWiT standard.
- Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2x2 USB Recording Interface: Turns the XLR mic into USB for the Mac.
- Ultimate Ears 600vi: They have a clip so they don't fall out while I'm doing video shows.
- AirPort Extreme Time Capsule: Handles my ethernet and Wi-Fi routing, and my Time Machine backups.
- Magic Keyboard: I like typing on the MacBook and this gives me the same experience on the iMac.
- Magic Trackpad 2: I'm not a big fan of the mouse, so this trackpad, like the keyboard, gives me a consistent experience between desktop and laptop.
I started the year with an Apple Watch steel, switched to a Sport for a month or so, then switched back to Steel. For most people, I'd recommend Sport because it costs less and the Taptic engine feels stronger. I just love the durability and look of steel.
- Apple Watch: The Apple Watch is to my iPhone what my iPhone is to my Mac: less functionality but far greater convenience.
Apple Watch apps
Like I said at the beginning, I don't use Watch apps the way I use iOS or OS X apps. I use them almost entirely through notifications, including Wallet. Almost every message I receive is checked first on my Watch. Everything I can possibly pay for or check into on my Watch is done on my Watch. Gone are the days of pulling binaries. Now we're in the age of pushing features.
In addition to all the iPhone apps listed above, most of which get triaged through my Watch, here are a few I only use on the Watch.
- Wallet: So good on Watch I barely use it on iPhone any more.
- Activity: Reminds me to get up and get moving.
- Workouts: For my walks. Hopefully more in the future as well.
- Maps: Taps for walking directions are brilliant.
- World Clock: Great as complications when traveling.
- Alarm, Timer: Set via Siri, they're invaluable for cooking and exercising. So's Siri on the Watch in General.
- Remote: For when I can't find the hardware Apple TV remote. Which is more often than I'd like.
- Just Press Record: Since Apple doesn't provide Voice Memo, this serves that purpose.
- CARROT Weather: For when I'm out being outdoorsy and want more detailed weather in the big complication.
- Sleep++: I'm trying to make sure I get some and this helps.
Apple Watch accessories
I have a ridiculous number of Apple Watch bands. So many of them were so cleverly design I couldn't help myself. To help you resist temptation, I'll restrict myself to my absolute favorites.
- Hermès cuff: Not available separately, alas, but it's the one piece of "jewelry" I've bought myself in... decades. And I adore it. (You can find similar cuffs from third party vendors
- Steel link bracelet: So ingenious that, by itself, it shows the value of Apple entering new product categories.
- Milanese loop: A classic, and a rare one until Apple brought it back into fashion.
- Leather loop: For when you want to be just a little more formal than the sport band.
- Sport Band: Light and resilient, you want it for workouts and anything involving water.
- Twelve South Forté: Elegant and holds you Watch safely regardless of which band is on it.
I went with the 64 GB Apple TV because, due to both the intelligent caching and on-demand resources, it keeps more recently-downloaded content locally available. Ultimately, that's both faster and easier on bandwidth.
- Apple TV: Since I cut cable years ago, Apple TV is the primary way I watch video at home.
Apple TV apps
Our local networks have barely been bothered to make second-rate iOS apps, so it should come as no surprise they've done nothing at all for Apple TV. Shameful. I have several workout apps and games I've been trying, but nothing that's become regular yet. We'll see how 2016 changes that.
Note: There's still no way to link Apple TV apps. Apple needs to fix that.
- iTunes Movies: Anything I want to own is bought and ready to watch in Movies.
- iTunes TV: I have seasons passes to all shows I want to keep or watch just as soon as possible after their air date.
- Netflix: For catalog content that's interesting to watch but I don't need to keep.
- Plex: A full-on media center in an app.
Apple TV accessories
- Sonos Home Theater System: After HDCP errors made my warranty-expired Pioneer system stop working, I went all-in on Sonos. Attaches via optical audio cable to my TV, so Hollywood can't cheat me again.
- SteelSeries Nimbus controller: While I don't play any specific game a lot, I try out a lot of games, and that makes this controller necessary.
To 2016 and beyond!
That's what I used most in 2015. Now, as 2016 begins, I can't wait to see what will change. iPhone 7 is coming, and I'll absolutely switch to that. Likewise Apple Watch 2. iPad Air 3 I might sit out, since iPad Pro is doing so well for me. If Intel gets their chips together, I'd love a MacBook with more power. Other than that, here's hoping for ample surprise and delight in the new year!
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.