How Astrid App Convinced Me to Keep My iPhone

rbgt_11In the spring of 2010 I was crazy excited about my new iPad. My wife bought me a maxed out top-of-the-line iPad with cellular service and I was ready to change my life.

Every day for about three months I visited the app store to see the new offerings for my new tool. Back then the iPad app store was in its infancy, so a few minutes a day were enough to scope out the software that would optimize my mobile experience.


This was how I discovered Goodreader, a PDF reader and file manager. Goodreader allows me to carry all of my files with me to Bankruptcy Court without lugging heavy paper files. I mount my iPad as a separate drive using Goodreader’s wifi module so it’s easy to transfer files to and from my desktop computer. Goodreader also allows me to download/upload files directly to and from my cloud services, Dropbox and I can annotate files and share the results directly from the app. Goodreader has become my all-purpose document management PDF reader for the iPad.

800,000 apps later, it is simply not possible for me to visit the App Store daily to see what’s new, besides the apps that Apple thinks I should review, thanks to its “Featured” listing or its “genius” bot that finds apps for me based on the apps loaded onto my device. More importantly, having used the device (and its latest incarnations) for three years my use of the iPad has fully matured, and the greatest beneficiary of this is Goodreader.

As a Goodreader evangelist, I frequently encounter users who endorse their own favorite PDF reader/file management app. I’ve had no less than half a dozen thrown my way. I’m at the point where I won’t even take a look at any of them, because my Goodreader workflow has evolved sufficiently to maintain my productivity at a satisfactory level. I’m acutely aware that there are features of Goodreader that I probably don’t even know about, much less use. The app works, how can I justify learning the feature set of a whole new app?

Astrid’s Brief Moment

Even though I’m becoming a curmudgeon about learning new software, I visit every few days to keep abreast mainly of new tips, tricks and software for my Mac and iOS devices. I hate adding system enhancers to my Mac because I find they impact the computer’s performance (running a 2011 Mac mini) without adding enough efficiency to my workflow.  But I do like to know how to best use the apps that are already loaded onto my devices, and offers plenty of value, besides running down every Apple-related story on the web.

One item that caught my eye was a blog about how Astrid’s new iOS version could utilize Siri to add items. Astrid is a task manager that is very highly rated. I used to use Toodledo (shortened to Todo) but now rely entirely upon Apple’s built in Reminders app. Reminders works great with Siri and syncs across all of my devices through iCloud. It adds no bloat, comes pre-loaded with all the devices, allows me to add custom reminder lists (Reminders, Groceries, Practice, Today, etc.) and generally just works. Nevertheless, I downloaded Astrid to my iPhone.

I immediately found Astrid’s interface somewhat confusing. It prompted me to have Siri commands forwarded from Reminders to Astrid, and I accepted. It prompted me to import all of my entries from Reminders, and I did. It prompted me to mark the imported items from Reminders “complete” in Reminders so that I would not have double alerts, and I did. At that point, all of my data was changed in Reminders to being “complete” and exported to Astrid.

I started to panic.

I wasn’t yet familiar with the Astrid user interface. I was happy with Reminders. Like Goodreader, it meshed perfectly with my workflow. I didn’t need to add features. I didn’t need to learn a new way of utilizing an app. I could see that Astrid may add value, but I couldn’t see the ultimate value of devoting weeks to really understanding those new elements when I was already happy with what I had. I reversed my steps, restored the completed items back to Reminders and deleted Astrid from my iPhone.

That’s When I Realized I Would Never Switch to Android.

I’ve been tempted by the Android marketing machine. Google is a great company, and as my own web marketing has evolved I see that not only is Google impossible to avoid, they actually add tremendous value. Plus, Andy Inhatko recently switched from his iPhone to a Samsung Galaxy SIII. Inhatko is a longtime tech columnist who has always favored Apple products. His three-part series about his switch to an Android handset was starting to make me rethink my mobile strategy. If Android really was better, maybe I should move over to a more innovative product. It was almost immediately after having that thought that I tried and deleted Astrid.

After the Astrid debacle I realized that I could never move to Android. I’m deeply committed to Apple’s ecosystem. My contacts, calendar, phone, Siri, file system, email and devices are all tied to Apple. I know how to use my iPhone. It works for me. Apple will continue to add features on top of the existing software base, with the occasional innovation that will cause me to make some hard choices (like killing Quicken for Mac with Lion). The thought of having to spend months re-integrating an Android phone into my workflow finally killed whatever curiosity I may have had about switching smartphone teams.

Of course, this revelation is not without consequences. I’m concerne that I will avoid genuinely new and wonderful innovation simply because of a temporary drag on productivity. But isn’t that the balance we all have to weigh when faced with any new idea?

What’s your taste for change? How willing are you to interrupt your workflow to embrace a new idea? Please leave a comment to let me know.

Ronald Drescher is a long time Apple fanboy practicing bankruptcy and commercial litigation in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and Pennsylvania. He thinks he may be done with bar exams, but not new tech.