MagicGrips for Your Magic Mouse

Elevation Lab MagicGrips

A few weeks ago I happened across this new to me product from the folks at Elevation Labs, and it’s pretty awesome.

The MagicGrips are a pair of rubber grips that attach to the side of your Magic Mouse to make it more comfortable to hold.

They’re $13 (cheap) and work exactly as advertised.

As you can see from the super-bokeh’d image up at top, the MagicGrips fit perfectly, and don’t interfere whatsoever with the functionality of the mouse.

On the bottom side, the grips don’t interfere with two “skis” that the Magic Mouse rests on. And on the sides, the grips don’t touch the button’s edge, so there’s no hindrance with using the mouse.

Elevation Lab MagicGrips

Elevation Lab MagicGrips

They attach like stickers to both sides of the Magic Mouse, and took me about 30 seconds to put on. And I think they look great — it’s not a degradation of aesthetics.

After years of using the Magic Mouse, it took me a little while to get used to the new grip. But now, with the grips, the Magic Mouse is much more comfortable.

It’s a nice little upgrade to a tool that I use pretty much all day every day.

MagicGrips for Your Magic Mouse

iPhone X Home Screen (December 2017)

iPhone X Home screen Shawn Blanc

The background wallpaper is from Unsplash.

A few notes about some of the specific apps…

  • A very big thanks to James Thomson for hooking me up with with the pro version of his fantastic calculator app, PCalc. It was super thoughtful of him, and there’s a long and boring story about it.

    You see, way, way, way back in the day I had purchased the Lite version because it had an orange icon and it seemed in those days that every other app icon was blue. I upgraded, of course, via in-app purchases to the “pro” version, but even still my iPhone home screen’s icon said “PCalc Lite” and I would get heckled every time I shared a screenshot. I didn’t mind, but nevertheless, James took pity on me.


  • Also, after nearly a decade of using Simplenote, I’m giving Bear a try. Bear is, without a doubt, far more polished and sophisticated than Simplenote. But it’s the — ahem — simplicity of Simplenote that has always been its charm.

    My two biggest quibbles with Bear are that: (a) it won’t let me remove the few lines of preview from the notes list (I’d prefer to see only the note title); and (b) the first line of a note doesn’t automatically get formatted as a title.


  • Just Press Record is my new go-to app for voice memos. There are times when, at the end of my workday or workweek, I still have loose ends floating around in my head. And it can be a tremendous help to simply speak them all out loud into a voice memo. Now, they’re captured and tomorrow I can listen to that memo and pick up right where I left off.

  • I’m using Things 3, of course. It is, by far, the most elegant of all the most popular task management apps.



    Early this year I switched from OmniFocus to Todoist. But never really felt comfortable with it. When Things 3 came out in May, I switched to it and have been using it ever since. There are a few little things that irk me, but that’s the way it is with every single task app out there. Most are great, but none are perfect.

    Moreover, I think it’s worth mentioning that Things 3 has been getting consistent updates since it shipped nearly 7 months ago. And many of those updates have been some of the most commonly requested features that I’ve seen, such as adding in the ability to have repeating to-dos within projects, keyboard shortcuts to iPad (basic, but still better than none at all), iOS drag and drop support.

    Things has been around for quite a while, and over the years Cultured Code has developed somewhat of a reputation for shipping awesome updates and then going silent and letting their product begin to stagnate.

    Hopefully the past 7 months is a look at Cultured Code’s new development cycle, and if so then that’s awesome.

* * *

Sidebar, so long as we’re talking about apps and Home screens…

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have some blank space at the top row of apps, not just the bottom rows?

I would certainly prefer to have fewer apps on my Home screen, but not at the expense of having those few apps be anchored way up at the top virtually unreachable by any mere mortal’s single hand. So, instead, I have more apps in order to keep a few of the most-used ones within one-handed reach.

iPhone X Home Screen (December 2017)

Thoughts on the iPhone 7

iPhone 7

It was 2:00 o’clock in the morning, and I was sitting up in bed, barely awake enough to keep refreshing the Apple Store app.

While I was somewhat concerned that the iPhone 7 might actually sell out in the middle of the night, in truth I was mostly awake at that hour because it’s tradition.

It wouldn’t be New iPhone Season without having to wait in a line of some sort, even if it’s a virtual one in the middle of the night.

One week later, my matte black iPhone 7 arrived. It sat at my house for a couple of days because my wife and I were in the hospital that weekend having our third son.

This is my 9th iPhone.

(I skipped the 3G because it was far uglier than the original and so I didn’t upgrade until the 3GS came out. And I have bought the newest iPhone every year since.)

Like many of you have probably done, I used to sell my previous model iPhones for more than it cost me to upgrade to the new one (thanks to my partial subsidies on my AT&T contract). Thus, I’d actually make a little bit of money each year — enough to “upgrade for free”, basically…

Then my wife got her first iPhone, and we started upgrading on a tick-tock schedule with AT&T. In even number years it was my contract’s turn to upgrade through subsidized pricing, and in odd number years it was her contract’s turn.

Whoever’s contract was due for the subsidized pricing would use that line to buy the newest iPhone. Then, I’d give her my “old” iPhone and I’d get the new one.

But that whole upgrade process changed last year with the advent of Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, et al.

AT&T (and Verizon, too, I think), are working hard to move away from subsidized upgrades and instead offering their “lease to own” options. AT&T calls theirs “AT&T Next”; Verizon calls it their Annual Upgrade Program.

With all of these programs you are effectively getting an interest-free loan to buy your iPhone over the course of 24 months. And then, if you want to upgrade every year the new iPhone comes out, you just trade in your current phone for the new one.

It’s the access over ownership model. And I think it makes sense for folks who simply want the latest iPhone each year. So I finally signed up, and for first time ever, my wife and I both upgraded. (Rose Gold 7 for her, matte black 7 for me.)

The iPhone 7 in Matte Black

First, let’s address the former elephant in the room: My former iPhone 6s Plus.

Last year I bought the gargantuan. The Hercules. The Titanic. The giant. The iPhone 6s Plus.

It took some time to get used to the massive device, but I did eventually acclimate. By far and away, what I loved most about the Plus was its larger screen and the better battery life.

Once it became natural for me to use both hands when dealing with the Plus, it stopped being quite so awkward a device and the advantages of the larger screen were pretty great.

However, as awesome as it was to have the larger screen, the better battery life, and the nicer camera… it just wasn’t worth the tradeoff for the unwieldy size. More often than not I found myself frustrated by my inability to wrangle the phone with one hand and just how clumsy I felt when trying to use it.

After a good year-long run with the iPhone 6s Plus, I’ve returned to the regular size iPhone. And I have no regrets.

There are, I believe, a few reasons it wasn’t too terrible of a “downgrade” to move from the 6s Plus to the “regular” 7.

Basically, the battery life of the iPhone 7 is improved enough that for my own day-to-day usage it’s just as good as it was on my iPhone 6s Plus.

According to Apple’s specs for the iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone 7, the former gets up to 12 hours of internet usage on LTE or Wi-Fi and the latter gets the same if not slightly better.

Secondly, my iPhone 7 now has in-body image stabilization just like my iPhone 6s Plus had. And since the camera optics in the iPhone 7 are improved over last year as well, I actually have a better camera.

So, in the end, the only thing I “gave up” was screen size. And that is exactly what I wanted to give up.

Needless to say, I’m glad I went back to the regular sized iPhone.

Additional Miscellany

  • The new home “button”. It took a few days, but I’ve gotten used to the new “button”. But it doesn’t feel like a button, really. It feels like the whole front of my iPhone is on a hinge, and I’m pressing the entire front bezel of the phone down.

    There is also this issue where you can’t press the button with gloves on…

    imyke tweet

    But, at the same time, if you had gloves on you couldn’t operate the home screen anyway. So what do gloves do other than turn on the screen? Well, with raise to wake and the side buttons — is there truly a loss of usability? There’s a loss of functionality, yes. But is there a loss of usability?

  • The Camera Bump: The iPhone camera bump is probably here to stay. At least for a few more years. Now that they’ve had it for 3 years in a row, it’s become “accepted”. Heck, in this year’s marketing material Apple is no longer trying to hide the bump, they are showcasing it front and center.

    The advantage of keeping the bump is that it gives the iPhone engineers so much more space to work with for improving camera optics and lenses. And, well, if the iPhone is anything it’s a camera.

  • Matte Black: Three cheers! I is so great to have a black phone instead of that Space Gray. I went with the Matte Black over Jet Black because I think the former looks better and because I knew it wouldn’t get fingerprints all over it.

    However, the extra grip you get on the glossy finish of the Jet Black is appealing. And while the matte black iPhone is a bit less slippery than 6 and 6s were, it’s still slippery-ish. Oh well.

  • Future Colors? With the process that creates the Jet Black iPhone, I wonder if Apple will introduce new colors in the future that have the same glossy, grippy finish as the Jet Black? Like a 5c-esque color lineup, but made of aluminum.

* * *

Year over year, the iPhone continues to be my favorite gadget of all time.

The best reasons to upgrade (in the author’s order of preference) are:

  1. New matte (and Jet) black colors
  2. Better camera (with IBIS for the “regular” size iPhone)
  3. Better battery life
  4. Stereo speakers that are also louder
  5. Water Resistance
Thoughts on the iPhone 7

Special B&B Throwback Episode: The iPhone 7 Event



My friend, Ben Brooks and I recorded an impromptu podcast episode to talk about yesterday’s iPhone 7 event. (Those of you who remember the B&B Podcast, you’ll like this.)

Topics we cover include our first impressions of the new Apple Watch, the iPhone 7, the shift toward carrier upgrade and payment plans based, buttons, and more.

If you’d like a direct download that you can toss into Overcast, you can grab the MP3 from the SoundCloud player above (by clicking the download icon). Or download the file directly here.

Special B&B Throwback Episode: The iPhone 7 Event

Apps and Workflows: iPhone (6s Plus) Edition

Shawn Blanc iPhone Home screen 2016-02-15

“Hercules”
Wallpaper via Unspalsh.



The First home screen is a peculiar spot. You want it populated only with the most frequently-used apps. But, what happens when there are but a few apps that you often?

My first Home screen has a few “classifications” of apps:

  • Those I use several times per day: Slack, Tweetbot, Weather Line, Fanastical, OmniFocus, Safari, Simplenote, Messages, and Music.
  • Those I use several times per week: Overcast, Day One, Google Maps, and Instapaper.
  • Those I use often enough that I like to know exactly where they are: such as VSCO, 1Password, Pcalc. I also a couple of folders with some miscellaneous apps related to work and life.

Just a little over two years ago, I wrote about all the iPhone apps I used at the time. Since then, things have changed quite a bit for me. Not only have I consolidated the amount of iOS apps I use now compared to then, but I’m also trying to use my iPhone less often.

Another big change (pun intended) is that I’m currently rocking the iPhone 6s Plus, which is just altogether a different device than the iPhones of yesteryear. As I’ll get to in a second, because the iPhone 6s Plus is a two-handed device, it lets me get away with having less apps on my first home screen. Since 95-percent of the time I’m using two hands, I don’t usually need to have the apps reachable by thumb when holding the device with just one hand.

If you’re wondering, I’m not nearly as thoughtful with my second, third, fourth, and fifth (!) Home screens. Those screens are basically no-man’s land. One of my email apps is over there; there are apps I’ve downloaded to try out that are now just floating around; some games; and other miscellany.

A Brief Aside About the iPhone 6s Plus

Last fall, I went big. I bought the iPhone 6s Plus, named it Hercules, and decided to give it a shot. It has definitely taken some time to get used to, but I think I’ve certainly acclimated.

The tipping point was when I no longer tried to treat the Plus as a one-handed device. For years and years my iPhone was something that could be used with one hand. The Plus? Not so much.

But, once it became natural for me to use both hands when dealing with the Plus, it stopped being an awkward device and the advantages of the larger phone — namely the larger screen and superior battery life — are absolutely wonderful.

With the battery life, I often forget just how spectacular it is. I can’t remember the last time my iPhone’s battery was in the red.

Another thing with the iPhone 6s Plus is that it somehow managed to take over the spot my iPad used to hold. It was such a sly move I never saw it coming. But somehow, over the course of a few months, I just stopped using my iPad for reading and note taking.

In part, I think it’s the speed. My 6s Plus is quite a bit faster than my 2nd generation iPad mini. But also, it’s that the iPhone is just big enough that it’s not worth bringing along and using another iOS device for the purposes of reading, researching, and note taking.

Perhaps I’ll get a new iPad when it eventually comes time to replace my 5-year-old MacBook Air, but I’m not sure. I’m pretty happy with my iMac in the office and my iPhone everywhere else. And, for when I’m on the road and need to work, my Mac Book Air still gets the job done.

That said, today’s article is all about the apps. So let’s dive in…

My iOS Apps and Workflows

This will almost certainly be far less nerdy than it sounds.

Today I mostly just want to share a bit about the iPhone apps I rely on the most, why I use them, and how they fit in to the day-to-day rhythm of my life.

Simplenote

We’ll start with Simplenote because if I had to pick just one single app to have on my phone this would be it.

There are many, many, many apps that allow you to create notes and sync them to your iPad and Mac. And most of those apps are far more feature-rich than Simplenote is. But I don’t mind.

I’ve never been let down by Simplenote’s speed, reliability, or search. It handles these features with flying colors and to me they are the most important features of all.

With Simplenote I have the ability to find any note I’m looking for within a matter of seconds, I’ve never lost a note, and I’ve never felt that I’m using the app wrong.

In a future post I’ll write more about my writing routine, what I do with all my bad ideas, and the like. But for now I’ll just say that Simplenote is pretty much at the heart of it all.

Messages

If I could have just two apps on my iPhone, the second would be Messages. Because I like to text with my friends and family. Who doesn’t?

Apple Music

First, a moment of silence for Rdio…

While Apple Music has a lot going for it, it is without its charms. But, nevertheless, I use it every day.

My home office is downstairs. And directly above it are hardwood floors and two toddler boys. Which means I wear headphones almost all morning.

The first thing I do when beginning my work day is to put on those headphones and hit play on the Monument Valley soundtrack and listen to that music for an hour or two while I write.

Fantastical

The best app there is for calendaring and remindering on iOS.

OmniFocus

I’ve been a hard and fast OmniFocus user for more than half-a-decade. Something I’ve always liked about the app is that it can be flexible to work the way you work best.

When I first began using OmniFocus I was managing an in-house design team. At any given time we had roughly 45 active projects. It was crazy. And OmniFocus helped me keep everything moving forward.

Nowadays, I have about 3 or 4 active projects at a time. I’m managing far less action items. And in both situations OmniFocus could be as powerful or as simple as I need it.

I should say, however, that I’m considering a move to Wunderlist. At the beginning of this year Blanc Media hired it’s first full-time employee, and so now I’m looking at getting a task management system that allows for group collaboration.

Safari

Probably my favorite 1st-party app on iOS (Trailers is a pretty stellar second) and, if you count in all the in-app browsers that use Safari, this is surely the app I use the most on my iPhone.

Tweetbot

For checking the Twitter, of course.

Weather Line

Every night before I go to bed, I set out my clothes for the next day. And so I’ll check what tomorrow’s weather is going to be so I can dress accordingly.

PCalc Lite

Yep. I can’t every post a picture of my iPhone Home screen without getting comments about how I use Pcalc Lite. Well, it’s not. I have the full version of PCalc via in-app purchase, but went with the “Lite” app because I prefer the looks of the orange icon over the blue one.

Slack

Who’s not using Slack these days? This is the app we use to communicate about and basically run Tools & Toys, The Sweet Setup, and The Focus Course.

Scanbot

This is the app I use to take photos of business expense receipts when I’m out and about. It does OCR on the receipt and uploads it to my “Receipts” folder in Dropbox.

1Password

Of course. Thanks to iCloud Keychain I don’t need to open up 1Password on my iPhone all that often, but it’s still a critical app.

Instapaper

While I still use Instapaper every day (to send things to it) I only read about a half-dozen articles in a week (if that).

Nearly all of my reading is with physical dead-tree books now a days. It started over a year ago when I ordered a whole slew of books off Amazon while researching for The Focus Course. It was far cheaper to order used books from Amazon than to by the Kindle versions. And then I just got hooked on how much easier and faster it was to read a paper book.

Speaking of reading, savvy readers may have noticed a lack of an RSS reader in my list. Since all the reading I do these days is with physical books, I haven’t check in on my RSS feeds in at least a year.

Overcast

This is the app I use for listening to podcasts whenever I’m in the car. Which, since I work from home, isn’t all that often.

Even though I’m subscribed to a few dozen podcasts, I only listen to about 1-2 episodes per week. And so I’m very particular about which episodes I listen to, choosing only the ones that look the most interesting or relevant to me.

Which is why my number one feature request for Overcast would be a custom playlist that works like a “listen later” queue. I’d love to be able to flag individual episodes and have them show up in a list and I could just work my way through that list.

Day One

Though I use Day One all the time, it’s not always from my iPhone. I also do a fair amount of my writing from the Mac. But what I love most about the iPhone version is how I can quickly snap a photo and create a new journal entry with that photo, add in a brief caption, and the location data is automatically placed. Between a picture, the geo-tagged location, and a brief explanation, it’s pretty easy to have a robust journal entry in a few seconds.

* * *

When I first started writing this article a few days ago, my home screen had one more row of apps than it does now. But the process of writing about the apps helped me realized that I had more apps than I wanted. So, thanks to a couple folders on the Home screen and the ability to search for an app from any Home screen, I’ve simplified things a bit.

As I wrote last week, the apps and workflows we use need an audit from time to time. For me, just the process of writing this article caused me to think again about if the apps that were on my Home screen were the apps I still wanted there.

Apps and Workflows: iPhone (6s Plus) Edition

Speaking of podcasts, this is an awesome tip / app suggestion from Bradley Chambers this week over on The Sweet Setup.

If you’re like me and you come across one-off audio files that you want to listen to, but wish you could (a) easily get them onto your phone without side-loading them or dealing with Dropbox’s audio player (which doesn’t remember listening state); and (b) take advantage of your favorite podcast player’s Smart Speed features then this is the service for you.

How to create a personal podcast feed using Dropbox and JustCast

The Apple Watch Apps I Use

Getting the Apple Watch, I didn’t know what to expect.

I’ve worn a watch for years. In part because I often want to know what time it is, but also because it’s one more “barrier” to keep me from pulling out my iPhone.

Do you ever do this? Do you pull your iPhone out of your pocket in order to check the time. But before you know it, you’ve already unlocked the thing and you’re half-way through your Twitter timeline before you realize what you’re doing? And then you don’t even remember what time it is (which was the whole reason you got your phone out in the first place)?

I used to (still often do, alas) do that all the time. And it drives me nuts. I want to be more intentional about when I’m going to mindlessly check twitter.

Earlier this spring, after having the Apple Watch for just a week, I wrote about how it was Just Smart Enough.

So, several months in with the Apple Watch. Do I still wear it? Is it still “just smart enough?” How do I use it? Has Apple Watch changed my life and will I ever be the same?

The short answer to those questions is that yes, I still wear my Watch every day, and I think it’s fantastic and convenient and helpful. But if I didn’t have it, I would still get by just fine.

The longer answer to those questions is below…

The Main Complications

The vast majority of how I use my watch is to tell time, check the current temperature, or set a timer.

In fact, being able to see the weather on my wrist at a glance is awesome. It sounds so simple, but, it’s the little things in life, you know?

The Apps I Don’t Use

I thought I’d start off by sharing the apps I don’t use.

The promise of being able to check email, calendars, and stocks, and to answer phone calls from your watch are cool. But for me, I don’t want the Watch to replace my iPhone. I want the Watch to help me stay connected in the ways that are important to me, and allow me to use my phone less frequently.

Some of the apps I don’t use include email, the phone, (tip) calculator, podcasts, the Camera, OmniFocus, and Twitter.

Of course, now that I’ve got the iPhone 6s Plus (a.k.a. the Airplane Wing), I may start putting my shopping list on my watch.

The Apps I Do Use

Aside from the timer and the weather apps/complications, these are the other apps I use on a regular basis:

  • Fitness + Activity: I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve gotten out of my running regimen. Ironically, building and launching The Focus Course, followed by a long vacation to Colorado, a trip to Atlanta, another to Dallas, and then the building and launching of a new product (announcement about that coming soon), has all accumulated into a wrench being thrown into my daily fitness routine.

  • Remote: The remote to our Apple TV just stopped working about one week before the new Apple TV was announced. Instead of replacing the remote, we’re waiting to replace the whole box. And in the meantime, the Remote app on my Apple Watch has gotten much more use.

  • Alarm: With “nightstand mode” in WatchOS 2.0, I started using the alarm on my Watch instead of my iPhone. And I discovered that the Watch’s alarm is night-and-day less obnoxious than the iPhone’s. So now I use the Watch alarm to wake in the morning instead.

  • Messages: Getting incoming text messages on the Watch is one of my favorite features. Not only does it serve as an additional reason not to get my phone out all the time, but it also means that I can leave my iPhone on the mantle in our kitchen and still be reachable via text / phone call.

    This is great for two reasons: (1) the iPhone 6s Plus isn’t as pocketable as my previous phones have been; and (2) it means my boys see me using my iPhone less frequently.

  • Slack: I also get notifications on my Watch for Slack messages. Since this is how the Blanc Media team communicates, it’s important for me to be reachable through private messages or mentions.

  • Music remote control: When using the iPhone to play music through a bluetooth speaker or to my bluetooth earbuds, the watch makes a very convenient remote control.

  • Apple Pay: Once you’ve used your Watch to pay for something, it’s hard to go back. So easy, so quick, so awesome.

* * *

After five months, the Watch gets far less “nerdy” usage than I originally thought it would get. And yet, at the same time, it has proven to be far more useful — and fun! — than I expected.

It’s an expensive little gadget, but I think it’s worth it. I’m excited to see what the future holds for the Watch.

The Apple Watch Apps I Use