It’s hard to imagine, but next month the iPhone will turn six years old. It ushered in the modern smartphone world. The improvements over the Palm Treo or Blackberry were so dramatic that they justify the word “revolutionary”. Today it is no exaggeration to say that all smartphones are iPhones.
Do you remember when customizing your cell phone meant buying an over-priced plastic faceplate from Nokia or Motorola? Now we customize our phones with inexpensive apps that address everything from obvious questions to the most esoteric problems. In this article, I’d like to share with you three apps that address esoteric problems unique to iPhone-using attorneys and other professionals.
The two major smartphone platforms, iOS and Android offer built-in support for Microsoft’s Exchange email platform, itself turning 20 years old this year. If your office uses Exchange, then your smartphone wirelessly sends and receives updates of your email, calendar, and contacts. Hopefully, you already have at least a passing familiarity with this functionality.
Until now, this Exchange functionality on iOS was limited to seeing your own calendar. It was impossible to see what, for example, your boss or colleague had scheduled unless you opened Outlook on your desktop or laptop. With Syncronicity ($2), you can connect to your firm’s Exchange server and view your colleagues’ calendars. When you’re away from the office, you can see what someone is doing, whether he is busy, or where he is, directly from this simple app. As Eight Bits, the app’s creator, says on its website, “ Simply enter your organization’s Exchange URL, add your calendars, and you’re up-to-date with the latest events.” The only limitation on Syncronicity’s functionality is that your firm must be running at least Exchange 2007 or newer.
Just like the airlines, all the major hotel chains offer apps from which you can find hotels near you, book rooms, and monitor your rewards points. What you can’t do with these apps is remember what room you or your fellow travelers are staying in. When I mention the app Rooms ($1) to others when we compare apps, the response is either “Why” or, “Yes, it’s perfect”, never in between. On the face of it, Rooms is a simple app with a simple purpose. You enter your hotel room number on a picture of a door, and that number is displayed as a notification badge on the iPhone’s home screen. That’s where the free version, Room (no “s”) stops. The pay app, Rooms, offers the ability to store not just your room number, but those of your traveling companions, an excellent asset when a group of you are attending a conference (such as ABA TECHSHOW), spread out throughout a hotel or multiple hotels. Rooms also tracks the occupants of various rooms, location and address of hotels, and can even map you back to your conference hotel after a night on the town.
The reason that reactions to Rooms varies between indifference and devotion is that some people see no reason to use a customized app for which the Notes app would function adequately. Others, myself included, believe in the principle of the right tool for the right job, and are happy that a developer invented this tool.
The third and final app in this round-up of esoteric problem solvers is DaysFrom ($1). DaysFrom is a basic app that takes a date you enter and gives a list of what future or past dates are a set number of days before or after the date you entered. For example, you could enter the date a complaint was filed and the program would tell you the day and date 28 days into the future, so you know the deadline for filing an answer. Another example would be to enter a prospective date for filing a complaint and ask the program to give you the date two years in the past to make sure the complaint is filed before a statute of limitations runs. DaysFrom is one of the simpler, more approachable programs in the date-calculation area. It doesn’t skip weekends or court holidays — you have to figure that yourself. Nor does it do a sequences of events (i.e. one calendar calculation building on the preceding answer) — check out Court Days Pro ($3) for those two features. DaysFrom also does not calculate the number of days between two dates you give it, but DateCalcPro ($2) can handle that task easily. If you combine all three of these tools, only $6 total, then your iPhone can answer any date or deadline question you might encounter.
If you’ve confronted these same esoteric annoyances that I have, hopefully these apps will prove as pleasing to you as they are to me. If you buy all the apps mentioned above, they will cost you a total of $9, an eminently affordable amount and well worth it to eliminate some petty annoyances from your busy life.