Default Apps
(Part 2)

I recently shared my list of default apps, but I didn't provide much detail as to why I use the default apps (and services) that I use. On the chance that it might be helpful to someone out there, here is my logic behind why I use what I use.

Mail Server & Client

I have been a Gmail user since 2004. This was back when one had to have an invite to get a Gmail account, and I got mine from a guy in our local Linux user group. At the time, Gmail was light years ahead of Yahoo! Mail or Hotmail. For the most part, I have no issues with Gmail, and I guess I would consider it my primary email account. However, I also use iCloud, and to be honest, the service is growing on me. While I would like for Apple to up their free storage tier to match that of Google’s or Microsoft’s, I am currently no where near coming close to filling up my 5GB. (This is mainly due to not having iCloud backups (including for photos) turned on.)

I use the iOS Mail app because it is fast, and it allows one to view emails from different accounts in a unified inbox. The iOS Mail app renders most HTML emails well, and it allows one to format text beyond just bold and italics when composing emails. I'm also quite font of what I call the “multitasking” feature. It's not true multitasking, but that's the only word I can think of to describe it. For example, let's when one is composing an email, one needs to reference another email. All one needs to do is swipe down from the top of the email being composed, and that email is immediately dropped to the bottom, sort of closed, but not closed. This then allows one to access and open the other email that needed to be referenced. Then, all one has to do is tap on the closed-but-not-really-closed email at the bottom of the screen, and it will simply pop back open. In contrast, if one is using the Gmail app for iOS, one has to actually save the email as a draft and come back to it in the drafts folder later.

While the iOS Mail app does not do push notifications for personal Gmail accounts, this is by no means a deal breaker for me. The other positives of this app, such as the tight integration with iOS Reminders and Notes, more than make up for this. In reality, this is really the only fault I can find with this app. In my opinion, Apple has done a fabulous job with their iOS email client, and frankly, while I check my email accounts via the browser when using a laptop or desktop, if I ever went back to macOS, I would most definitely be using


I waffle between iOS Notes and Google Keep, but I always come back to iOS Notes. I prefer iOS Notes' user interface and integration with Siri. On the web, Notes works well enough, and I prefer Apple Notes' web UI to that of Keep’s.

Notes also has great formatting options that Keep on iOS does not have. Being able to make checklists within notes with text is also an advantage Notes has over Keep. (Although to be honest, I rarely use this feature.) Notes also has the ability to scan and mark up documents, whereby Keep’s ability to scan documents is limited.

In terms of writing long form content, I actually find myself using Google Docs with more frequency. In my opinion, Docs is an invaluable cross platform service that performs well no matter what device one is using. In fact, most of the posts for this site actually begin life in a Google Doc.


I have grown quite fond of iOS Reminders as of late. It's actually much more powerful than a lot of people give it credit for. Not only can one share tasks and task lists, you can also set location based reminders, as well as reminders that will pop an alert when messaging someone. Siri integration is also a key feature, since I set so many reminders on the go and in the car. Lastly, the ability to drag and email from iOS Mail into a new reminder is a feature that I use quite frequently.


I use the iOS Calendar app since it is a great sensible default. Sure, there are probably better calendar apps out there, but iOS Calendar is free and excels at everything I need a calendar to do.

Cloud File Storage

Using Google Drive is a pretty simple choice, since my wife and I pay for Google One. I have Drive integrated within the iOS file manager, but I also have the Google Drive app installed. I rarely use this app, since I mainly access my files on Drive from the iOS file manager or from directly within an app like Sheets.


I have been using Google Contacts since before I was an iPhone user. Syncing my Google contacts with the Contacts app on my iPhone just works, and I don’t really see a reason to change things at this point. I also keep my contacts backed up to iCloud just in case, but I generally keep the iCloud contacts turned off in iOS settings.


Even though Chrome is still the most popular browser, it seems like people love to hate it. However, I have been a Chrome user since it was released for Mac OS X in 2009, and I prefer Chrome’s "Chrome", for lack of a better word, both on iOS and desktop. Chrome on iOS, even thought it’s really just WebKit (Safari’s rendering engine) under the hood, just seems faster from a seat of the pants perspective than Safari in terms of page rendering and interacting with the UI elements.

Since I no longer use macOS, Chrome’s cross platform nature gives it the advantage in terms of bookmark, history and browser tab syncing. I also like that Chrome does not constantly pester me with those tiny pop ups at the top of web pages that also have an iOS app to install said app.

As a side note, I block ads on my iPhone using a DNS profile from AdGuard, which leverages their public DNS servers. This solution extends ad blocking to all apps/connectivity on the phone, including Chrome. Somebody really needs to come up with a good way that lets site owners monetize via tasteful ads without having those ads follow one across the web or allowing bad actors to abuse the ad infrastructure for nefarious purposes. Maybe Google’s solution is it? Maybe not?

On another side note, I have been seriously contemplating a move to Firefox as my default browser across all platforms. I went through a Firefox phase a while back, but it did not stick.

Spreadsheets & Presentations

You can’t beat the apps that are a part of Google Workspace. I already spoke about Docs, but Sheets and Slides are also great on iOS. They're cross platform. They're free, and their collaboration tools are second to none. Don't tell anyone, but I actually vastly prefer Google Sheets to Excel.

That said, I would be remiss if I did not give Apple Pages an honorable mention. It’s got some really cool features, such as being able to password protect a shared file.

Music & Podcasts

We have an Apple Music family plan, and I personally find Apple’s music service better than Amazon’s, YouTube Music, Spotify, and Pandora. I used to use Google Podcasts, since it worked well on Google's Nest speakers, and it had a great iOS app. However, due to Google's migration of podcasts into YouTube Music, I have fully switched to Apple’s podcasts app and service. I came also to the realization that I mainly listen to podcasts in the car, where iOS Podcasts works well via Car Play. In fact, it works better with Car Play than Google Podcasts ever did. Only Apple Music gets a spot on the home screen, since it is the most used from the phone itself.

A Few Miscellaneous Notes

I keep two folders on my home screen. My Productivity folder contains the iOS calculator app, Google Docs, Files, Github, Koder (my coding app of choice on iOS), iOS Notes, iOS Reminders, and Google Sheets. My Work folder contains Microsoft Outlook and Teams, since I have to use those apps for work. I mainly use these two folders as a way to maximize having all the apps that I most frequently use on my home screen while keeping my home screen clutter free, with only two widgets and two rows of apps.

I recently promoted the Roku app to my iPhone’s home screen. I find myself using this app more and more, as the Roku remotes that came with my TVs are becoming more and more worn out. The Google Home app, which used to be on my home screen until a few days ago, has actually been relegated to the app library for now. I find that I use it less and less these days.

I use Apple’s iOS Weather widget (and service). I like its design and think this app works great for my needs.

Settings stays on the home screen due to the frequency with which it's accessed. Note: In my opinion, while it's acceptable for settings to be on one's home screen, it should never be in one's dock. :-)

It should also be noted that I purposely keep any and all social media apps off my home screen. I used to have YouTube on there, and at one point I also had YouTube TV on there. I use these two apps more as “entertainment” rather than traditional “social media”, but they are also time sucks, just like TikTok, Instagram, or Threads. (I left the Bird app a long time ago when a certain person bought the company.)

I am giving the three app dock a try. My daughter uses the three app dock, and I think it looks really clean. Chrome goes on the dock, since I traditionally always keep my browser in my dock (desktop and mobile). It also makes sense to keep Messages and Phone there, since it is a phone after all.

Last, but certainly not least, I keep the YouVersion Bible app on my home screen. It’s a great app with many different and free translations, and it has a great daily devotion feature.

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