Seven devices my iPhone and iPad have made redundant
“You’re never off that bloody iPhone,” is a common remark in our household. And it’s true. A survey this week claimed that we check our smartphones 150 times a day, and is it any wonder when they do so much for us?
Between them, my iPhone and iPad have made at least half a dozen other devices redundant, taking on all manner of tasks and often doing a better job. Maggie Thatcher would be proud of them.
Here, then, is a rundown of the things my iPad/iPhone combo has lain waste to. While this blog focuses on Apple devices and apps there’s no reason why a combination of Android/Windows phone and tablet couldn’t do likewise: most of the apps mentioned are cross-platform or have equally competent equivalents.
Dedicated satnav device
TomTom’s satnav app means the dedicated TomTom device I bought back in 2005 is now there purely to keep the box of Werther’s Originals company in the glove box. Initially, I flirted with the CoPilot app, largely because it was considerably cheaper than TomTom. Yet, while it was packed with features and the maps were perfectly clear, it proved too erratic. Its repeated pleadings to plunge through central reservations to make a right turn shook my confidence and my wallet into action.
The TomTom app is pricey, especially when you factor in the traffic updates — £31.99 for the UK and Ireland app, plus £23.99 per year for the traffic — but it’s probably the best app investment I’ve made. As any father of young children will tell you, the last thing you want on a car journey is an unexpected three-hour picnic in the fast-lane, because you inadvertently joined a 15-mile tailback on the M25. TomTom’s wonderfully responsive traffic updates have saved me from at least two such incidents in the past year. The maps are clearly presented and constantly updated without having to faff with plugging a satnav into a PC, and it works seamlessly with both the Music and Spotify apps, fading the music volume down gracefully when there are audio instructions to deliver. Which brings me neatly onto…
The car stereo
Whether I’m driving with TomTom or not, these days my in-car audio entertainment is delivered via the iPhone, not the car stereo. As with the TomTom app, a 3.5mm audio lead allows me to play the music through the car speakers, and with almost my entire CD collection stored on my iPhone, it saves me from juggling discs and cases when I’m belting down the motorway at… exactly 70mph, officer. If I need to change track or album, I can engage Siri at the press of a button and it normally understands me; there are few similar sounding phrases to “Spandau Ballet”, after all.
The iPhone also has a far greater breadth of audio entertainment than the car stereo. Spotify’s Radio knows my music tastes far better than any station on the FM dial, and there are no adverts or morons behind the microphone to tolerate. If I’m on a long journey, the Danny Baker or Guardian Football Weekly podcasts can keep me in good humour as I toil behind the wheel. And for sports fans, the sound quality of Radio 5 Live streamed via the BBC iPlayer Radio app is far superior to the fuzz and gurgles of the AM station – provided you can get a decent 3G connection.
The MP3 player
Apple needs no reminding that the iPhone has bludgeoned the dedicated MP3 player market: the iPod is one of the few blackspots on the company’s financial statements every quarter. Prior to owning an iPhone, I had a fourth-generation iPod mini – a beautifully slim stick of flash memory and screen that could last a week of tiresome commuting between battery charges. Before that it was a hard disk-based iPod classic. With the bulk of my iTunes collection now on my phone, and the Spotify app giving me access to practically any tune I can hum the tune to, I doubt I’ll ever buy an iPod again.
Portable games console
In the days before iPhone and iPad, a Sony PSP used to bring a little light relief to my commute from hell. Games such as Lumines and Little Big Planet just about took the edge off the eighth signal failure of the day. Now, the PSP’s on my other half’s list of things lying around the house that I’m definitely flogging on eBay the next time he goes on a press trip, and there’s more chance of me voluntarily replacing my toenails than replacing it with a PSP Vita.
Why? Because the concept of paying ten, twenty or thirty quid for a handheld console game now seems as frivolous as hiring Moira Stuart to read my newspaper aloud to me. Two or three quid games such as Orbital, World of Goo and Rayman Jungle Run are every bit as good as the old PSP titles, and probably the equal of some PSP Vita efforts too. And the idea of popping games in and out on little memory cards – even if it is a vast improvement on those ridiculous little discs Sony used before – is now only slightly less ludicrous than popping a VHS tape in to record Match of the Day.
Bedroom television and remote control
The TV in our bedroom is still the same CRT my parents bought me when I moved into my first flat, aged 21. Until recently, it was plugged into a Freeview box, but when that went pop, I decided there was no need to replace it. Now the TV’s plugged into an extension cable running from the Sky box downstairs, mirroring whatever’s showing on the downstairs television, and the iPad is used for the majority of TV watching.
Various apps — such as Sky Go, BBC iPlayer, TV Catchup Live and 4oD — mean I can both watch live transmissions (with a few seconds’ delay) and catch-up broadcasts from all of the TV channels I care about. YouTube and Netflix (£5.99 after the first month) deliver additional programmes, such as the excellent House of Cards remake — provided you can put up with enough Apple product placement to make Jonny Ive nauseous. And the iPad, propped up with the Smart Case, is slim enough to sit on my bedside table, unlike that bulky old CRT.
The iOS devices have also done for the remote control, to some degree. The superb Sky+ app includes a remote control that allows us to change the TV channel on the Sky box downstairs while we lay-in on a Sunday morning. That means I can switch to Match of the Day on that CRT without touching its remote control or, crucially, leaving a warm bed. Bliss.
Never, in thirtyish years of gadget fondling, has a device hurtled towards obsolescence as quickly as my poor Kindle. A Christmas present in 2010, it now spends most of its time moping on the sideboard, praying it escapes the clutches of my toddler’s yoghurt-sodden fingers. It’s been almost entirely superseded by the Kindle apps on the iPad and iPhone.
I much prefer reading on the Kindle’s E Ink screen than I do from the backlit display of the iDevices, but the Kindle was the only optional ballast in a work bag that contains laptop, tablet, chargers and all manner of other back-breaking gubbins. It simply wasn’t pulling its weight. And once you’ve dampened the iPad’s display with a sepia-coloured background and by reducing the screen brightness, it doesn’t feel as if your retinas are going dissolve by the end of the chapter.
The Kindle still justifies its place in the travel bag on the rare occasion I get to spend a week on the beach or on a long flight, when the iPad’s either too delicate or too battery-hungry to survive; but it’s a squad player, not the first name on my tech teamsheet any more.
Newspapers aren’t exactly a device, and the iPad and iPhone haven’t completely set fire to my newspaper habit — my subscription to The Times and The Sunday Times covers both print and digital editions, and I still pick up the newspaper most mornings. Yet, I suspect that won’t be the case for much longer.
At weekends, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to drum up the motivation for even the short walk to the newsagents, when I can thumb through the digital editions without even getting out of bed. (I put the iPad in my bedside drawer before I go to bed. Don’t judge me.) A promised revamp and merger of The Times and The Sunday Times apps this week will see the newspapers delivered automatically overnight in Newsstand, giving me even less incentive to toddle off to Tesco.
With the iPad now a permanent fixture in my work bag, The Times providing updated editions throughout the day, and the temptation to cut the cost of my subscription in half by going digital-only, I suspect the newspapers won’t survive the next round of Collins budget cuts.