Category: iphone

Apr 27 2009

When Good Apps Go Bad

Not so long ago, I wrote a blog entry listing my favorite iPhone apps, one of which was called White Noise. I specifically mentioned that part of the reason I loved the app was because of how simple it was. Well, it’s not so simple anymore, and I can’t fathom why.

Original White Noise iPhone application

Original White Noise iPhone application

The White Noise application’s functionality – only functionality – is to play one track, looped, for a certain period of time.

The original design of the WhiteNoise application seemed to understand that, and made the app as easy as possible to use. As you can see in the screenshot, everything you need from the app is right on the main screen. You select a sound there, set the volume, set the timer, and off you go. The application also remembered previous settings and allowed me to select which sounds went on my main screen, which I liked. I opened the app and it would be good to go. It was, very literally, the perfect application. All it did was what it was supposed to.

New White Noise iPhone Application

New White Noise iPhone Application

This is the new White Noise application. For some reason, all functionality has been yanked off of the main screen and put behind various buttons. It’s not clear which button should be clicked for what (there’s no such thing as hover help on an iphone), nor is there any good reason to have such a blank, empty main screen. It’s a waste of valuable real estate.

Want to choose a noise? Go to the “catalog” button at the bottom of the screen to choose one. The app no longer remembers my settings, so I need to do this every night or else I’ll be listening to “Amazon Jungle.” Dunno about you, but that’s not relaxing to me. One click went to at least four.

Want to set a timer? It’s under the “Timer” screen, but the lack of a “save” button on that screen messed me up more than once. One click is now at least three, more if you’re as confused as I am.

What’s under the “Controls” button? It’s an app that plays a sound on a timer. What kind of controls does it need?? Oh, do I want to exit the app when the timer’s done. Well, hopefully I’m asleep, so I truly don’t care.

So unfortunately, here we have one of the best examples I have ever seen of overdesign. There is no reason all the functionality for this app can’t still be on the main screen, other than it’s not pretty. But who cares about pretty when all the app does is play a sound?

K.I.S.S. is a rule of product development that will never get old. Keep It Simple, Stupid. You don’t turn something that could be done in one click into three unless you’re adding something damn important to the process. The app doesn’t do anything more than it did the day I downloaded it: play a sound on a timer.

Developers, product managers, UX/AI folks – I recommend you all check out the application. There’s a huge lesson to be learned from it. Never detract from your core functionality. Hunting around menus just pisses off users. If you can keep everything on one screen, do it!!

Normal folks who just want a sound – I recommend you stay away from this one. It’s simply not usable anymore.

If anyone has another white noise app to recommend, I’d love to hear it. I’m definitely in the market for a new one now.

Apr 07 2009

Top 5, Well, 6 iPhone Apps I Cannot Live Without

I have written this post a number of times now, but never published it due to my own silliness. See, I’m always discovering new applications, that’s part of the fun of the iPhone, and I never really wanted to put my foot down and say “this is my top list.”

So, this is a list of the 5 iPhone apps I use most often, and can’t imagine my iPhone without them….as of right now.

1) White Noise – I’ve used this app every single night since I got it. It has a bunch of different “white noises” it plays, I think the one I use is technically called ‘brown noise,’ but I love it. I’ve used a white noise machine for years, but have always hated trying to wake up in the morning with the machine still going (and there are studies now saying that any noise – including white noise – effects sleep negatively). With the app, I can set a timer and it’ll turn itself off once I’m asleep. I also have chronic insomnia, so for me, anyway, it’s also useful to tell me if I’ve been awake in bed for far too long. If the noise turns off and I’m still awake, it’s time to get out of bed for half an hour (I think my wacky sleeping habits could probably be a post in and of itself, I know they’re weird).

2) Flashlight (link to itunes) – Really. All this does is make your iPhone light up like a flashlight. For me, it’s handy navigating my apartment in the dark so as to not wake up or step on the cats. If you’re uber l33t, you can find a version of Flashlight embedded within Tweetie. Which takes me to…

3) Tweetie – My favorite twitter client so far. There are many, and which one I like changes regularly, but as of right now, I prefer Tweetie. The fact that it has a flashlight is a silly cute thing too.

4) Evernote – I’ve always been one for simple note taking programs, my main requirement being that it needs to sync between my computer(s) and my phone without me plugging the iPhone into the computer (I rarely do that). I tried a bunch of apps, but Evernote is absolutely the best (toodledoo would be my #2). It does exactly what I want – lets me type something in as a note on my computer, then turn around and see it on my phone (or on another computer). It’s more powerful than that, it does audio, images, to do lists, but all I want are text notes. And it’s fully cross-platform, with apps for both Mac and PC. The PC app also contains a little screen clipper thing that works like Grab does on a mac, I likey.

5) Taxi Magic – this one probably isn’t all that helpful to everyone, but for me, I love. This uses GPS to find taxi companies near your location, and, if it can, will electronically order the cab for you. According to the cab drivers, the call shows up on their end just like a regular dispatch.

6) ZumoDrive – This was supposed to be a top 5 list, but had to include this. ZumoDrive lets you store files on a “z” drive (or just upload to their website), and access them from anywhere. Like Evernote, it is fully cross platform (Mac, PC, iPhone, Web), and syncs without any effort on my part. I use it for basic file storage, but one of the cooler things it will do is play mp3′s stored on ZumoDrive on your iphone…all streaming.

I’m still hunting for a great calendar app and a great poker or hearts game, but these apps have transformed my iPhone from being just a phone to being a real handheld computer. Applications are what the iPhone is all about. If you own an iPhone and haven’t played with any applications, you’re truly missing out.

Nov 08 2008

First post! Well, first iphone post…

I am currently sitting in a hair salon in west Hollywood, writing this on my new iPhone. I figured, what better way to get used to this keyboard than to write a blog entry. And ya know, it isn’t half bad. My salon has open wifi, so I have a nice, solid Internet connection.

I am using the wordpress iPhone app, which has been very simple to use so far. I am definately making tons of typos as I type, but autocorrect seems to be catching most of what I’m trying to say. I also find that I don’t need a tactile response from the keyboards as much as I thought did. My piano teacher would be horrified.

Gotta admit, I love this phone. Cuz it’s not just a phone it is truly a little mini computer, and the power of that is incredible.

It also helps to alleviate the extreme boredom that is waiting for hair color to set. I’m surevim downloading lots of useless apps, but it is wasting time.

So first iPhone impression – amazing, and I am much more in love with this thing than I expected to be. Go fig – and thanks, Steve!

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