The Prompt and why I can’t use OmniFocus

On this week’s “The Prompt” on the mighty 5by5 podcast network, Federico Viticci and Mike Hurley discussed using URL schemes to make and use advanced workflows in iOS. It’s a great discussion, but what really got me thinking was Ticci pointing out that while Apple talks a big game about this being the “post-PC” era, they don’t really give a lot of visibility to people who really use an iOS device as their primary, even sole, computer.

I’ve been running into the same mindset with OmniGroup, a developer who has been making OS/X apps since OS/X was NeXTstep. They make a GTD-oriented task management app, OmniFocus, that’s widely considered to be the bee’s knees by all the productivity gurus.

The problem, though, is that while the iOS versions of OmniFocus are priced as premium iOS apps (I’ve paid $20 for the 1.x verison for iPhone, another $20 for the 2.x version for iPhone and $40 for the iPad version), they are missing crucial features (namely, the ability to create saved searches, or “perspectives”, something the iOS version of Evernote has done perfectly well for years) that you only get if you also have the Mac version (which I believe costs $80).

This isn’t about money, or at least not directly. I don’t have a problem paying for a tool I get a lot of use out of. But it seems to me that, like Apple, OmniGroup talks a big game about iOS but doesn’t really mean it. They’ve been coding for OS/X so long, they just assume you use a Mac. And their iOS apps are crippled because of that assumption.

As it turns out, I don’t use a Mac. And I have no intention of buying one just to run OmniFocus. I’ve already spent $80 on OmniFocus and I’m staring down another $40 when the iOS 7 redesign for iPad comes out. And for my $120, I get a watered down solution that doesn’t really work as advertised. Hell, you have to have the iPad version just to do a proper GTD weekly review; the iPhone version lacks that feature. And neither allow you to create perspectives, meaning switching “head spaces” is an arduous process where you have to set your view settings all over again every time you move on to something else.

I’ve asked OmniGroup about this and generally gotten the brush-off. They have no intention of fixing this feature gap between the same product on different platforms, and they tend to seem baffled as to why I don’t just use the Mac version.

And for as much as OmniFocus does well, so much better than the competition, I think I have to accept that they don’t write software for me, or others like me. They make iOS software, but they don’t really understand post-PC computing. I don’t want a Mac. I want to use my iPhone, or iPad, whichever seems better for the job at hand, without compromises if I choose the smaller, more portable screen.

Are developers out there listening?

No Outlet Required

For years— and years— my life has been plagued by power outlets. Or, more specifically, the lack of them. Even for my AAA battery-based Hanspring Visor I carried a spare pair of NiMH batteries in my pocket, but once I transitioned to color Pocket PCs that had to be recharged over USB, I’ve spent the first second or two in every new room I entered looking for the power outlets just in case I needed to recharge. My laptop-toting friends have specific places they have to sit so that they’re in range of an outlet. We even tend towards places with crappy WiFi (talking to you, Panera) because outlets are easily accessible.

Well, no more. Not for me. Aside from overnight charging at home while I sleep, I’m cutting the cord.

In my pockets, I have:

  • iPhone 5S, silver, in a…
  • Mophie Juice Pack Helium, silver
  • Plantronics M55 Bluetooth earpiece

This is my bare minimum gear. As you’ll see below, the Helium augments the 5S just enough to get me through most days without plugging in.

If I’m expecting to be out longer than a quick errand or two, I’ve got my tiny backback (a CamelBak MULE with the water bladder pocket used for iPad storage) packed with:

  • iPad 2 (WiFi only, hence the need for the MiFi below)
  • Logitech K810 “Kate” keyboard (yes, I named my keyboard)
  • Kindle Paperwhite (also WiFi only)
  • Verizon Jetpack MiFi 5510L
  • Reserve Mophie Juice Pack Air for my iPhone 5S
  • Reserve Apple blue leather case for my iPhone 5S
  • Apple EarPods
  • Apple Dock Connector cable for charging the iPad
  • Amazon Kindle microUSB cable for charging literally everything else
  • Anker 18W 2-port Turbo USB AC adapter
  • Anker Astro3 12,000 mAh external battery charger

The iPhone 5S is my primary device, and it sits in the Mophie Helium by default. I let the battery run down, and then when I get the 20% warning I turn on the Helium and that charges it back up to somewhere in the 70s. Most days, it never gets back to 20%. If it does, I can switch to the Juice Pack Air in my bag, or just charge it from the Astro3. I’m taking the whole kit with me to MileHiCon here in Denver next weekend, where I expect to have the extra drain of really crappy cellular signal, keeping the radio searching constantly.

The real key to this is the massive 12 Amp/hour battery on the Astro3. That’s nearly eight times the capacity of my iPhone. I can charge every piece of gear I have at least twice over from the Astro3, and when/if I need to charge it, I can charge it and the iPad (or anything else) simultaneously from the Anker AC adapter in an emergency. So there’s really no need for me to even look around for AC outlets when I walk into somewhere new. It doesn’t matter. It’s effectively impossible for me to use more power than I’m carrying with me in a 24 hour period. No more plugging in gear just in case I find myself without power later. All battery, all the time. At least until the Astro3 gets down to about a quarter charge, at which point I’ll plug it in and let it charge back up while I sleep.

And ironically, since I no longer have any incentive to keep my devices “topped off” all the time, spending most of their time between 80% and 100% charged, their batteries should have longer lifetimes. Lithium batteries get their best overall longevity from being between 20 and 80 percent charged most of the time. This way they’ll wear down naturally over time rather than the quick burn of trying to stay constantly ready to be used but not actually used.