I have some iphone apps, and if I have few elements, I'm wondering what I should think about in terms of design when I'm deciding to use a dashboard ala http://mobile-patterns.com/dashboard-navigation vs a tableview http://www.freeimagehosting.net/uploads/c2036dee19.png. For instance, say I have an app where users view and select their breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for the day. How would I decide on whether to use a tableview vs a dashboard?
Personally, I really don't like dashboard-style navigation for apps (it's good for iOS's springboard though). I think there's always a better way to build your navigation and hierarchy.
A tableview might be a good approach, as might something else. Mike Rundle has written a solid article on most of the ways you can tackle it.
Displaying a list of available features of your iPhone application so the user can navigate through your app is a common practice. But given the variety of ways to display structured information in an iPhone app, which is the best way? What's the best way to present entry points to an app's main features? There is no best way but there are a variety of established patterns you can learn from.
The article is old, but the patterns still fit and the advice is great. Basically, it all depends on how many items you have and how your hierarchy needs to be structured.
Getting this right is really, really important. I strongly recommend mocking up a few different options and seeing which best fits your needs. If you're struggling to fit everything in, then there's a chance you may be trying to build an app that's too big for a mobile device.
There are some iOS Design guidelines that might interest you as they cover a lot of that. To answer your specific question:
Table for long lists because you can scroll fast. Dashboard for a small selection.
Thats how they are used in most apps.